PhD in Sustainability Science

The PhD in Sustainability Science aims to cultivate a sustainable and equitable future by offering a state-of-the-art education that integrates rigorous scientific practice with an understanding of the unique linkages between humans and the environment.

Watch: PhD in Sustainability Science Information Session - November 1, 2022

Degree Requirements

Students in the SSCI program will complete the following components to earn their degree:

  • Core and elective course work (2 terms)
  • Comprehensive examination (1 term)
  • Research proposal development (1 term)
  • Dissertation writing (7 terms)
  • Submission and defence of dissertation (1 term)

For information about specific course requirements and degree structuring, visit the Brock University Graduate Calendar.

The PhD in Sustainability Science is designed to be completed in 4 years (12 terms). Students who complete these requirements will earn the designation of Doctor of Philosophy.


Each year the ESRC offers graduate level courses to students in the SSCI program, and students in other graduate programs at Brock. Please note that not all elective courses are offered every year. For a full list of current graduate course offerings, visit the Brock Graduate Registration Guide.

SSCI 7P01 – Research Apprenticeship in Sustainability Science
Advanced training in sustainability science research. Apprentice with a mentor on a research project to further theoretical development, methodological approaches, analytical sophistication, and/or communication skills.

SSCI 7P02 – Engaging with Community in Sustainability Science
Experiential education with community in sustainability science via embedded problem-based learning or internship.
Note: Course taught in conjunction with SSAS 5P03 (Problem Solving in the Environment)

SSCI 7P03 – Transdisciplinary Tutorial and Seminar in Sustainability Science
Students engage in transdisciplinary collaboration to probe the boundaries of sustainability science scholarship by facilitating discussions on complex sustainability issues, presenting their research, and participating in scholarly exchanges about state-of-the-art research, policy and practice.
Note: Course taught in conjunction with SSAS 5P04 (Transdisciplinary Seminar)

SSCI 7P80 – Directed Study
Specialized study in sustainability science on an individual basis, under the direction of a faculty member, to examine a significant topic in a student’s area of concentration.

SSCI 7V80-7V89 – Selected Topics in Sustainability Science
A topic in sustainability science and society that will vary by instructor.

PhD students may also register for any of our Master’s level electives.

SSCI 7P91 – Comprehensive Examination
Comprehensive examination as set by the Supervisory Committee, in consultation with the Graduate Program Director/Graduate Program Sub-Committee.
Note: This course will be evaluated as Credit/No-Credit

SSCI 7F90 – PhD Dissertation
An in-depth research undertaking involving the preparation, public defence, and examination of a dissertation which makes a unique contribution to knowledge and demonstrates capacity for independent research, integration of knowledge, and understanding of sustainability science.

Student Life

The City of St. Catharines — home to Brock University — is situated in the heart of the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada.

With a population of approximately 130,000, St. Catharines is a friendly, mid-sized community that is within easy reach of major cities such as Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York. The local community offers a wealth of entertainment, recreational and cultural activities. St. Catharines provides Brock students with all the advantages of a prosperous urban centre located in a safe, inviting and affordable community.

Niagara has a strong public and private sector transportation infrastructure which includes bus and rail links to Toronto and Buffalo. Busing within the region includes links from the campus to surrounding communities, and a St. Catharines bus pass is included with each student’s registration package. On-campus parking is available with the purchase of a parking pass. Two international airports and two regional airports are within an hour’s drive.

This all comes together to make St. Catharines a wonderful and affordable place to live, work and study!

Applications for the Fall 2024 intake of the SSCI program are now open! The application deadline is January 13, 2024. 

How to Apply

Ensure you meet our minimum admission requirements

  • Successful completion of a Masters-level degree (or equivalent) in environmental sciences, environmental studies, or a related field from an accredited university with an average of at least 80%.
  • Successful completion of SSAS 5P01 (Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society) and SSAS 5P02 (Methods in Environmental Inquiry), or their equivalent, is also required. Applicants without these courses may take them during their initial year of study.
  • Agreement of a core program faculty member to supervise your research.
  • For students who must provide proof of English Language Proficiency, a minimum TOEFL iBT score of 80 (with no subtest below 19) or equivalent is required.

Please note that this program is competitive – meeting the mandatory requirements does not guarantee admission. Only applicants who are selected for interviews will be contacted.

Prepare all of the required application materials that will be considered by the SSCI Graduate Program Committee

1. Written Statement of Intent

Your written statement of intent must be written in English. This should be a formal essay (with cited references in text) that describes your motivation to enrol in the program, plans for your independent research and/or how this program will advance your professional and academic aspirations.

2. Curriculum Vitae

This document should include your education, employment, teaching and research activities/experience, publications (if any), and awards and/or scholarships.

3. List of Supervisors

In your OUAC application, you will be required to indicate a faculty member who has agreed to supervise your research in principle.

4. Three academic References

References should be from qualified academic scholars attesting to, and documenting, your potential for doctoral level study/research. For more information on reference requirements and procedures, click here.


Please note that if you have an undergraduate and/or graduate degree from Brock University you do not need to send in your transcripts. Transcripts from all other post-secondary institutions are required.


For more information about English Proficiency requirements, click here.

Submit your application!

Complete and submit the online application.

When you have submitted the application, you will be prompted to pay the non-refundable application fee. You must pay the fee for each program to which you are applying. The application fee for the PhD in Sustainability Science program is $110 CAD. The fee is payable to the Ontario University Application Centre and can be paid by VISA or Mastercard.

Once you have submitted and paid for your application, one to two business days are required for Brock to receive your application from the Ontario Universities Application Centre.

The Graduate Programs in the ESRC, including the Sustainability Science and Society Masters Program and the Sustainability Science PhD Program are governed by a Graduate Program Committee, administered by a Graduate Program Director, and supported by a Coordinator. For detailed information about the governance of the ESRC graduate programs, including Rules of Procedure, visit our Graduate Programs Governance Webpage.