Environmental Studies Courses

Environmental Studies focuses on the study of nature, the interactions between people and nature, and the efforts of people to protect nature. We offer a wide variety of courses that can prepare you for a broad range of careers both in the environmental field and also in the many other fields that are connected to environmental studies.


This class will provide you with an introduction to the science of aquaculture: historically known as fish farming. Although we will be spending the majority of time talking about fishes, aquaculture also includes the farming of invertebrates, as well as plants. During the semester, we will be discussing all aspects of aquaculture including economics, diseases, nutritional requirements, and rearing techniques for various aquatic species.

Prerequisite: Any BIO, ECOL, EOS, or CHEM course, or consent of instructor.

An introduction to species diversity, natural history, and ecological and evolutionary relationships of fishes. Emphasis on form and function, ecology, behavior, sensory modes, fishery management, global crises in fisheries, and marine protected areas. Laboratories include identification of major groups of fishes, methodology and experimental approaches to the study of fishes.

Terrestrial plants have been present on this planet for 440 million years and play a critical role as the basis of the terrestrial food chain. This course introduces students to the diversity of plant life and how plants have evolved and adapted to their respective environments. Topics include plant structure and growth, species interaction, community ecology, and succession.

Prerequisite: Any BIO, ECOL, EOS, or CHEM course, or consent of instructor.

This course examines the problem of maintaining biological diversity in a human dominated world within the aquatic ecosystems. Emphasis is on the biological concepts involved in population biology, genetics and community ecology, and their use in conservation and management of biodiversity. We will investigate the impacts of human-induced climate change, pollution, introduction of exotic species, over fishing, and endangered species conservation.

Prerequisite: Any BIO, ECOL, EOS, or CHEM course, or consent of instructor.

This course is designed to provide students with perspective on the impacts of exotic species, those organisms that are not native to a geographical area, primarily within Southern California but will also cover major invasions in the USA. The ecological, genetic, and evolutionary impacts of the invasions will be explored. Additionally, the management and control of exotic species will be discussed.

Prerequisite: Any BIO, ECOL, EOS, or CHEM course, or consent of instructor.

Students learn experimental design, data collection, analysis, synthesis, and interpretation of data derived from field sampling and experiments in ecological studies. The class also covers data collection for impact assessment and environmental monitoring.

Environmental Management, Policy and Urban Planning

This course covers the fundamentals of environmental planning and practice, including water supply, air quality, waste treatment, recycling, the protection of farmland, open spaces, wetlands and sensitive coastal habitats as well as best practices in transportation, energy, urban planning and design. How does land use planning work? Who plans? Why, when and how are environmental impact assessments and environmental reviews performed and by whom? How do public authorities, planners, developers, and concerned citizens negotiate intricate land use conflicts, especially in the case of major new infrastructures such as rail corridors, freeways, (air)port expansions or larger, master planned communities?

This interdisciplinary policy course examines the prevention and management of threats to human health caused by interacting environmental conditions and social forces. Major topics covered include air and water pollution control, toxic substances control, climate change and environmental health, disease control, pandemics, public health emergency management, and public health leadership. This course covers public and environmental health policies at the community, national, and international levels.

More than half of the world’s 7 billion people live in cities. Urban societies need to find ways to reduce their negative environmental impacts on the Earth’s ecosystem. This course focuses on the analysis of urban development patterns in North America and Europe. Students will learn how to create and plan for human settlements that are less carbon-intensive, more ecologically responsible, and more socially sound. Via a variety of case studies, students will be introduced to sustainability concepts such as ecological urbanism, green building certification (LEED), smart growth, transit-oriented development, and suburban retrofitting.

Between 2000 and 2030, the urban populations of the developing regions in the Global South will double from 2 to 4 billion people, accounting for the vast majority of urban growth on this planet. Taking a comparative view of urbanization and development, this course focuses on a select number of mega-cities in the Global South where millions of urban dwellers lack adequate shelter and access to clean water, sanitation, and other basic infrastructure. What are the causes and environmental consequences of rapid urbanization and urban expansion in cities as diverse as Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, Lagos, Mumbai, or Chongqing? What strategies, programs and policies exist that can steer future urban development in a more environmentally sustainable direction?

This course examines the role of environmental movements in the development of policies for environmental protection and on the role of nongovernmental organizations in environmental politics and policy more generally.

Environmental policies are social actions designed to protect the environment. This course examines the processes and consequences of policies for environmental protection. This course also examines the roles of leadership, laws, and organizations in environmental protection.

Environmental law plays a critical role in the practice of environmental protection. This course provides a general introduction to environmental laws and legal processes at the national and international levels.

This course focuses on case studies of the development and management of policies for environmental protection. These case studies allow a detailed examination of the practical challenges facing environmental managers and leaders today, and an examination of the possibilities for new approaches to environmental management and policy in the future.

This course examines the processes and consequences of policies for environmental protection in an international and comparative context. The course focuses on the role of institutional processes, government organizations, and nongovernmental organizations in environmental politics and policy across the world.


A full and deep understanding of our complex relationships with the natural environment also requires sophisticated and advanced knowledge of the different and specific ways in which our human settlements evolved over the course of history. This course provides a critical introduction to the interdisciplinary world of urban planning. Most of the cities, towns or neighborhoods we encounter did not simply “happen”–they were formally founded and planned by someone. Many of the world’s most famous cities were carefully laid out in relationship to their natural surroundings. And even haphazardly placed self-built homes still require access to public infrastructures and social institutions such water, sewer and power lines, roads, schools or hospitals. We will start off learning about the history and theory of planning as it was and is practiced in the United States but we will then soon expand our perspective to look at urban planning and built environment issues through a global lens.

  • Which cities were or are global leaders in the world of city building and urban design?
  • What are the most important issues and topics for planning practitioners right now?
  • What do planners do when they “plan”?
  • How do we justify planning?
  • How do we define the public interest the profession purports to serve?
  • What are the key conflicts and ethical dilemmas?
  • How does the global threat of climate change and sea level rise change the way we plan and manage cities?

Earth and Ocean Systems

Although humans can obtain the air and (to a lesser extent) the water they need freely, we must work to provide our bodies with food. Before the industrial era, hunting, gathering, and farming were the primary human activities. Technology and industrialization have greatly reduced the human labor required to produce food, and farming has become the specialized occupation of the few. However, in the process, modern industrialized agriculture has developed into a system with many impacts, such as water pollution, greenhouse gas production, and the health consequences of highly processed diets. These impacts of industrialized agriculture are unsustainable as population increases, water resources become scarce, and global warming makes the intensive use of fossil fuels undesirable. In this course, we will examine what a more sustainable mode of food production might look like through class work as well as hands-on work in the Soka Instructional Garden.

The struggle to manage water resources has shaped societies in the past and continues to do so today. Human use of water for drinking, sanitation, and agriculture is controlled by natural processes, by engineering, and by the institutions that manage water for the benefit of societies. In this course students will study how these processes control the availability and quality of water. Students will explore water resources in the local area through field visits to both natural and engineered sites and will learn to apply some of the techniques of water resource managers.

The Earth’s climate is changing because human activity is increasing the levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. You will learn what causes climate change, as well as its present and future effects on both the earth and society. You will also learn about the responses society and individuals can make to prevent and adapt to climate change. In the laboratory portion of this class, you will learn how to plan and perform a scientific experiment measuring greenhouse gases.


This course provides students with an introduction to geographic concepts and perspectives from both physical and human geography while exploring the five major regions along the Pacific Rim: North America, Central and South America, Australia and Oceania, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. Topics covered include the physical environment, environmental issues, human patterns over time, economic and political issues, and sociocultural issues.

Physical geography is the science of the physical environment on Earth. This includes fundamental principles, processes, and perspectives from three major subject areas: (1) atmosphere and weather, (2) biogeography, and (3) geology and landforms. In this field- and laboratory-based course, students will gain knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of our planet.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a computer system for storing, managing, and displaying (mapping) the locations and attributes of spatial features. These features can come from any discipline and could represent any human or physical information. Due to its versatility, GIS is used in a wide range of applications such as resource management, city planning, transportation, business, and crime hot spot analysis. This course introduces students to this powerful software through lectures in GIScience and computer labs with ArcGIS.

Prerequisite: GEOG 350 or similar course.

This advanced course provides further instruction in Geographic Information Science and ArcGIS applications. It is geared towards making students more familiar with the geospatial career field through interaction with GIS employers, GIS professionals, and a conference attendance (when possible). Course topics include more in-depth vector and raster data analysis, terrain mapping, viewshed and watershed analysis, spatial interpolation, modeling, and some Python programming.

Prerequisite: Any BIO, ECOL, EOS, or CHEM course, or consent of instructor.

Biogeography is the science of the distribution of plants and animals and the patterns and processes responsible for these distributions. This course introduces students to the discipline of biogeography and its major topics such as island biogeography, speciation and extinction, diversification, and conservation from a more geographical perspective emphasizing large scale patterns through space and time.

Cross-Listed Environmental Studies

Same as PHIL 170.

This course considers the role ethics and philosophy play in how the individual relates to their human and natural environment. The central themes of the course are the relationship between human centered and nature centered views of the universe and the individual’s responsibility for the care of the universe. Philosophies considered include but are not limited to Anthropocentrism, Confucianism, Taoism, Aristotelianism, Humanism, Transcendentalism, American Indian, EcoFeminism, and Deep Ecology.

Same as MUSICHIST 215.

This course will examine embedded views of the relationship between humans and their environments in the context and function of music in different times and cultures. Music is both commonly a means of the most profound communication between humans and nature, and embodies cultural understanding and expression of the relationship, of humans place in nature. Readings will include examination of music cultures, the expressed views and philosophies of the people in those music cultures, and studies of the ecological systems and ecological impacts of human actions where those people live.

Same as LIT 230.

From Heraclitus on, the concept of nature has proven to be unique in its ability to expand imagination, stimulate thought, and articulate disagreement. This class will place major texts in the traditions of natural philosophy, pastoral, and cultural critique alongside contemporary interventions, including arguments for the ecology without nature. Our goal is to rethink nature in response to the technological mastery of all life made possible by the advancement of science. The texts to be studied include Aristotle, Pliny the Elder, Lucretius, Virgil, Rousseau, Diderot, Thoreau, Darwin, Dennett, and Will Self.

Prerequisite: ECON 100 or INTS 100. Same as ECON 360.

This upper-division course combines theory and policy surveys to study environmental issues from an economist’s perspective. Major topics include theoretical and applied modeling of the economy-environment relationship, causes and consequences of market failure affecting environmental services, the design and evaluation of environmental policy instruments, and the political economy of environmental policy. Students will learn to identify the economic components of an environmental issue, analyze the impacts of human economic activity on the environment, and present and discuss the pros and cons of various environmental policies.

Course Rotation

Students should consult this course rotation as a tool for long-term academic planning. This course rotation is subject to change without prior notice.


ECOL 330 Fish Biology (Anthony Mazeroll)
ECOL 402 Aquatic Conservation (Anthony Mazeroll)
EMP 320 Environmental Planning and Practice (Deike Peters)
EMP 380 Environmental Law (George Busenberg)
ENVST 230 Thinking Through Nature (Oleg Gelikman)
ENVST 360 Environmental Economics (Diya Mazumder)
EOS 402 Climate Change (Robert Hamersley)
GEOG 350 Intro to GIS (Adjunct)

ECOL 444 Ecological Methods (Anthony Mazeroll)
EMP 330 Sustainable Cities (Deike Peters)
EMP 350 Environmental Policy (George Busenberg)
GEOG 350 Intro to GIS (Joseph )
GEOG 400 Advanced GIS (Monika Calef)


ECOL 211 Sustainable Aquaculture (Anthony Mazeroll)
ENVST Environmental Ethics (Robert Allinson)
EMP 335 Cities and the Environment in the Global South (Deike Peters)
EMP 410 International and Comparative Environmental Policy (George Busenberg)
ENVST 215 Music and Ecology (Michael Golden)
GEOG 110 Regional Geography (Monika Calef)
GEOG 350 Intro to GIS (Adjunct)
GEOG 400 Advanced GIS (Monica Calef)

ECOL 330 Fish Biology (Anthony Mazeroll)
EMP 340 Environmental Movements (Deike Peters)
EMP 380 Environmental Law (George Busenberg)
GEOG 250 Physical Geography (Monika Calef)
GEOG 350 Introduction to GIS (Joseph Diminutto)
GEOG 400 Advanced GIS (Monika Calef)