From ESSC to EESI
The vision for the Earth System Science Center (ESSC), the precursor of EESI, began in the early 1980s through a strategic planning process that involved Penn State Central Administration, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. The goal was to bring together faculty in the departments of Geosciences, Meteorology, Geography, and Energy, Environmental, and Mineral Economics in research activities focused on the search for links between the Earth’s physical processes and past and future global change.
Eric Barron became the ESSC director in 1985. The Center coordinated and conducted extensive research related to the global water cycle, the biogeochemical cycles, Earth system history, and human impacts on the Earth system. In 1999, with the addition of the Center for Integrated Regional Assessment (CIRA) and the Center for Environmental Chemistry and Geochemistry (CECG), the EMS Environment Institute (EMS EI) was formed. The mission of EMS EI was to enhance the visibility of College environmental research and educational programs and to create opportunities for collaborative research in these areas. Additional research centers were added to the Institute to reflect the primary research areas represented by the Institute's core faculty associates.
The Institute and its centers reflect the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ long and accomplished history of Earth sciences and environmental research. The computing and outreach components were incorporated at the time of the Institute's founding so that all elements needed for a successful, effective research organization would be present for the benefit of faculty and students affiliated with the Institute. In 2004, the EMS Environment Institute was renamed the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.