Earth system science seeks to integrate various fields of academic study to understand the Earth as a system. It considers interaction between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere (geosphere), biosphere, and heliosphere.
In 1996, the American Geophysical Union, in cooperation with the Keck Geology Consortium and with support from five divisions within the National Science Foundation, convened a workshop "to define common educational goals among all disciplines in the Earth sciences." In its report, participants noted that, "The fields that make up the Earth and space sciences are currently undergoing a major advancement that promotes understanding the Earth as a number of interrelated systems." Recognizing the rise of this systems approach, the workshop report recommended that an Earth system science curriculum be developed with support from the National Science Foundation.