Melissa Thaw, a doctoral student at the University of California, Merced, is studying how water moves through the soil and where trees and shrubs are taking up water in the Sierra National Forest. She is focusing on the transition zone between rainfall and snow, which will be pushed higher into the mountains as the climate warms. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

Building Understanding of the Critical Zone

Our lives depend upon what happens in the Critical Zone. All life on land depends upon what happens in the Critical Zone. Yet, what happens in the Critical Zone is not broadly understood. Indeed, most people have never heard of the Critical Zone or of Critical Zone Science. We aim to change that. Building broad understanding of Critical Zone processes for the public, and for both scientists and future scientists are the primary goals of our Critical Zone education and outreach programs.

Training Interdisciplinary CZ Scientists

Through research and education opportunities associated with each CZO, cross-CZO scientific endeavors, and annual meetings, we engage young scientists in Critical Zone science, developing a new cadre of future CZO leadership. The necessity of understanding Critical Zone processes globally was recognized early in the development of CZOs, and through international partnerships, U.S. graduate students have benefited their home CZOs as well as their personal career pursuits through travel to European labs and field sites to engage in collaborative learning and research.

Sharing with the Public

The CZOs offer a great opportunity for the Earth sciences community to explain to the public how hypotheses are tested and experiments are conducted, as well as to share exciting scientific results and their societal relevance.

E/O Contacts

Don Duggan-Haas
Place-based Earth Science Education, Teacher Professional Development, & Curriculum Development

Robert Ross
Earth system science education, educator professional development; paleontology, paleoceanography

Tim White
CZO National Office Coordinator

Alexandra Moore
Science education, with emphasis on undergraduate geoscience programs

CZO Virtual Institute

The CZO Virtual Institute is part of NSF's Science Across Virtual Institutes (SAVI). It aims to develop workshops, support graduate and post-doctoral research primarily on cross-CZO, common measurement-based projects, and further the development of web-based collaboration tools on The project has implemented CZO workshops, a summer interns program and an international scholars program to promote collaboration in and out of the network towards common measurement-based CZ science.

National Blogs

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Education/Outreach News


Biogeochemistry of the Critical Zone Book Volume: Now Accepting Abstracts

20 Mar 2018 (National) - As part of the Advances in Critical Zone Science Book Series (Edited by Steve Banwart, published by Springer-Nature) we are pleased to announce the...


Summer Course on Critical Zone and Ecosystem Dynamics in Italy

19 Mar 2018 (National) - The 9-day-long summer course, Critical Zone and Ecosystem Dynamics, is intended for doctoral students, post-docs and researchers.


CZNews: Winter 2018

23 Jan 2018 (National) - The Winter 2018 edition of the quarterly CZO National Office Newsletter "CZNews."


Contribute to Springer-Nature Book Series: Advances in Critical Zone Science

01 Jan 2018 (National) - An invitation for edited and authored volumes for a new Springer-Nature book series: Advances in Critical Zone Science


Undergraduate course curriculum, “Introduction to Critical Zone Science,” available free online

01 Jan 2018 (National, Boulder, Calhoun, Catalina-Jemez, Christina, Eel, IML, Luquillo, Reynolds, Shale Hills, Sierra) - A 15-week semester-long upper-level undergraduate course curriculum entitled “Introduction to Critical Zone Science” is now available free online.

Water Resources Extension Educators tour the CZO

19 Apr 2018 (Shale Hills) - Water Resources Extension Educators visited Penn State for three days for the Penn State Extension Annual Conference.  During their visit to...

Collaborators use Cole Farm to demonstrate geophysical techniques to undergraduate students

14 Apr 2018 (Shale Hills) - Students enrolled in near surface geophysics classes at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (10 students), Dickinson College (14 students), Rutgers...

Researcher Spotlight: Russell Callahan

11 Apr 2018 (Sierra) - Meet the people behind the research! Russell uses a combination of geophysics and regolith geochemistry to understand landscape evolution.

TeenShale 2017-2018 cohort complete the field season with a “mock” spill experiment

11 Apr 2018 (Shale Hills) - New this year, the TeenShale Network participants teamed with members of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to observe the...

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Education/Outreach Events

SSHCZO All-Hands

117 EES Building and the CZO field sites.

(Shale Hills)

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National CZO Twitter Feed