Courses & Schedules

In this class students learn how to effectively communicate information about environmental issues through audio-visual presentation. The class will focus on researching, designing, and delivering presentations generally. Then, through the frame of four environmental injustice (such as climate change, deforestation, agribusiness, urban environments and environmental injustice), students will research and design positioned and more objective individual and group presentations. Grade only. Satisfies GE Area A1 (Oral Communication).

This course presents a broad survey of how the earth works. It focuses on the processes within, and the relationships between, the four global sub-systems: the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. The course examines how physical, chemical, and biological functions create local, regional, and global climate and landscape patterns. It also explores the links between human activities and changes in climate, vegetation patterns, and landform processes. Satisfies GE Area B1 (Physical Science).

Introduction to physical earth processes through laboratory and field exercises.  Lab includes observations, hands-on experiments, data collection and practical exercises involving weather, climate, soils, running water, landforms, and vegetation. Includes map fundamentals and interpretation. Satisfies GE Area B3 (Laboratory Activity).

The course introduces students to a spatial perspective of cultural, economic, political, demographic, and environmental processes. We review the deep historical origins of many social processes and examine how they continue to influence our contemporary experience. We also study how these processes change as they move across geographic space and encounter other cultures and places. Satisfies GE Area D2 (World History and Civilization).

This course explores 4-5 world regions from a holistic perspective, examining their economic, political, demographic, cultural, and environmental landscapes with considerable historic depth. The course also considers how each region fits within a larger global political and economic system, and how their roles have changed, particularly with globalization.

The course brings an historical perspective to critical analyses of changing relationships between civilizations and their environments. Following an introduction to Earth's environmental systems, course critiques several modes of understanding specific environmental problems caused by development. Course concludes with extended study of one globally important human-environment-development nexus.Meets GE Area E.

Regular weekly departmental lecture series. Outside professional speakers and GEP alumni and faculty report on topics and opportunities relating to careers in Geography, Environment, and Planning. Grade only.

Lectures and workshop designed to enhance students' confidence in analytical problem solving. Essential techniques emphasizing environmental applications: translating knowledge into abstract and mathematical models, numerical estimates, basic geometry and trigonometry, dimensional analysis, unit conversions, interpreting statistical data, and graphic display of information. Conceptual introduction to calculus, differential equations, and complex numbers. Prerequisites: Completion or concurrent enrollment in GE Area B4 (Math/Quantitative Reasoning).

Selected regions of the world form the basis of study. Economic development, political problems, man-land relationships, and global issues are covered. The course uses geographical methodologies and concepts and is interdisciplinary in its observations of world regions. Satisfies GE Area D5 (Contemporary International Perspectives).

Explores Southwest Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia from a holistic perspective. Considers many factors that can help shape a region, including economic development histories, political transformations, geopolitical challenges, social conditions (e.g. demography, urbanization, migration), resource endowments (e.g. oil and water) and environmental challenges (e.g. climate change). Satisfies GE Area Upper Division D (Social Sciences). Prerequisites: Completion of GE Golden Four (A1, A2, A3, B4) with a C- or better and completion of lower division D coursework and at least 45 units. Teaching Mode: Face to Face & Hybrid.

This seminar covers topics essential for professional preparation in the fields of geography and environmental studies. Topics include discussions with guest speakers on career options in governmental, private, and non-profit settings; writing highly effective resumes, CVs, and cover letters; and techniques for successful interviewing. The course will also cover preparation for future training in professional and academic fields. Grade only.

Lecture, 1 hour. Presentations by visiting researchers, departmental, and university faculty on current research and contemporary issues in Geography, Environmental Science and Planning. May be repeated for credit. Grade only.

Students learn about professional research, presentation, and discourse, and attend research presentations at a professional conference. Conference and travel may include professionally led field trips. The course requires an additional fee. Course may be repeated for credit. Up to 2 units of GEP 312 in total may be counted towards the major.

Field experience is provided in a variety of topical areas. The course titles and contents will vary and may be repeated for credit. Please see the current Schedule of Classes for the particular topic offered. A fee will be charged for this course. Up to 2 units of GEP 313 in total may be counted toward the major

Field Experience outside the United States (2-3). Cultural and physical studies of people and laces through travel, observation and interaction, and oral and written analysis. Destinations include Central and south American countries. Course contents and locations will vary; may be repeated for credit. Check with instructor regarding destination and cost. Offered during Intersession or Summer Session.

Open only to advanced students who have been invited by a faculty member to serve as a research assistant in their lab. Students earn 1 unit of credit for every 45 hours of work. Credit / No Credit only. May be repeated for credit up to a maximum of 4 units. Prerequisites: consent of instructor.

Students in the internship program will be given the opportunity to gain practical experience in their area of study by working in a variety of county and city agencies and organizations in the Sonoma State University service area. Credit is given for three hours per unit work per week as arranged with the internship coordinator. May be repeated once for credit.

This course provides a broad introduction to the design and management of agroecosystems. Students explore the theory and practice of agroecology and how it's principles address social and environmental problems in the global food system. Students are introduced to agroecological production methods, including soil management, water systems, biodiversity development, integrated pest management, flower production and urban gardening methods, and applications of these methods in a student garden. Approximately half of this course is classroom-based instruction while the other half is hands-on garden-based work. Credit / No Credit only. May be repeated for credit up to a maximum of 4 units.

This field and lab course focuses on the applied aspects of plant propagation and the appropriate placement of native plants in landscape and restoration settings in California. Topics include native plants and plant communities, techniques for selecting, collecting and replicating plants for production, and restoration site preparation and maintenance. Additional topics may include ethnobotany, career opportunities, restoration principals, botany, plant disease and sanitation, invasive plant removal, wildcrafting, guest speakers and fieldtrips. Credit / No Credit only. May be repeated for credit up to a maximum of 4 units.

In this course we dig deep into the field of geopolitics, the struggle for control over territory, transportation corridors, and natural resources. We analyze the origin of the discipline, its historical development, and key contemporary issues, including the Iraq War, the U.S. missile defense shield and the expansion of NATO, the promotion of democracy as a security strategy, Iranian nuclear ambitions, and Chinese military expansion. We will also examine the upsurge of nationalism since the end of the Cold War, and examine ethno-national rebellion from multiple perspectives, including the failure of nation-building, the failure of economic development, and competition over scarce natural resources.

This class explores the use and management of natural resources. Each year, it focuses on a different set of renewable and non-renewable resources, such as water, oil, diamonds, rangeland, and others. It addresses topics such as distribution, scarcity, substitution, access and use-rights, resource cartels, regulation, and sustainability. It also looks at how these issues are changing under globalization and the rise of transnational corporations.

This course briefly reviews climate change mechanisms and models. It then turns to its main topics: attempts and failures to mitigate greenhouse gas production, specific predicted challenges, and current and future attempts to adapt to the environmental and social impacts related to changing climates. The course compliments GEP 356.

This course explores the development of agriculture from its origins to its modern forms. It discusses the historical development and current structure of five agricultural systems: small and large corporate farms in the development of the world, as well as traditional peasant production systems, plantations, and green revolution forms in the developing world. It then considers issues such as world hunger, food aid, global commodity trade, and the affect of biotechnology in both the developed and developing world.

Students explore various historical and contemporary processes that have created Africa's diverse and complex geography. The course begins with a historical survey of the continent, starting with its great civilizations and continuing through its experiences through colonialism, independence, the cold war, and globalization. This section of the class examines how these major events have played out throughout the different regions of Africa, south of the Sahara. The class then turns directly to thematic issues that are central to a human-geographic perspective of the continent: population, rural/urban dynamics, education and health issues, and human-environment interactions including agricultural systems and conservation issues. Finally, with a deeper understanding of the region, the course addresses present-day political hot spots of post-cold war Africa, and the critical development problems plaguing the continent.

Environmental history offers an earth's-eye view of the past, by addressing the many ways in which humans have interacted with the natural environment over time. How has the environment shaped the course of human history, and how have human actions and attitudes shaped the environment? And how does studying past environments help us understand our present-day challenges? All too often, historians study the human past without considering nature; similarly, all too often, scientists study nature without considering human history. We will explore the value of integrating these different perspectives, and argue that a historical perspective is absolutely crucial if one hopes to understand contemporary environmental issues.

A survey of great American environmental books, including H. D. Thoreau's Walden, John Muir's Mountains of California, and works by other environmental authors. The course considers the natural, political, cultural, and historical environment of the writers. Prerequisites: Junior- or senior-level standing.

This course focuses on the relationship between land use planning and environmental and natural resources concerns, using property and landscape as our primary lenses. We will consider how ideas regarding resource management, open space, biodiversity, "sustainability", etc., are reflected in land use planning processes and practices. The course will examine broad planning and regulatory tools, such as Environmental Impact Statements, regional planning, and resource management planning, and more specific applications such as Habitat Conservation Plans and open space planning. Prerequisite: Class open to Juniors, Seniors, and Graduate Students only.

This class starts with the idea that institutions of government are not a fixed inheritance but choices that are constantly being revised. The goal of the course is to sort out that assertion while providing a basic introduction to both American political institutions and major environmental issues. We will look at choices shaping the structure of governance and tools of environmental policy. Where are we heading in terms of democratic decision-making, responsibility, and accountability? How does the realm of international policy dovetail with national-level governance?

Review of environmental law and regulation in the United States generally and California in particular. Overview of federal and California legal systems with emphasis on their role in environmental protection. Evolution of environmental law in the United States, including property rights and environmental justice.

Use of and interactions with natural resources have transformed the American West over time, and greatly affected the western environment as we know it today. This seminar takes a historical look at the settlement, development, and management of the western landscape, both in terms of natural resources (timber, water, grazing, parks etc.) but also in terms of cultural settlement and use - and considers landscape as a tool for understanding the cultural/social/political history of a place. Students can expect to do some serious reading, writing, and thinking about how and why the West has become such a distinctive natural and cultural landscape. Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students only or consent of instructor. Cross-listed as HIST 467.

This course explores major concepts of ecology and examines current environmental issues in light of these concepts. Topics include: relationship between organisms and the physical environment, community-level ecological processes, the structure and function of ecosystems and their distribution on the planet, evolutionary processes, and population ecology. Environmental issues include loss of biodiversity, global climate change, invasive species, and others. Development of speaking and writing skills is a significant element of the course. Field trip required. Prerequisite: GEP 201 and GEP 280 or consent of instructor.

This course provides hands-on experience with field sampling techniques commonly used in biophysical data collection and spatial inquiry. Course topics include sample design, field measurements, statistical data analysis, report writing, and the use of field equipment. Field work will be conducted mainly in the Fairfield Osborn Preserve and surrounding area. Data collected from vegetation sampling, soil descriptions, microclimate measurements, and geomorphologic observations will be used to interpret the natural and anthropogenic landscape. Throughout the course, students will work with Global Positioning System (GPS) units to accurately locate their field samples on the Earth, allowing for subsequent spatial analysis.  Prerequisite: GEP 201 and GEP 280, or consent of instructor.

This course provides hands-on experience with laboratory analysis techniques commonly used in physical geography. Topics include stratigraphic and laboratory analyses, report writing, and data presentation. Data collected from soil and sediment profiles and tree rings will be used to interpret environmental conditions. Students will follow laboratory methods, protocols, and use analytical equipment.  Prerequisites: GEP 201, 280 junior, senior or graduate standing, or consent of instructor.

Lecture, 3 hours; laboratory, 3 hours. Explores the relationships between surface processes such as weathering, mass movements, running water, wind, waves, and glacial ice, and the landforms these processes create. The course looks at geomorphic systems and the role of tectonics and climate in changing the balance of these systems. Actual research projects are presented to demonstrate geomorphic approaches to environmental questions. Students are exposed to research methods in the field and lab. Field trips and field reports, use of maps, and hands-on labs are included. A fee will be charged for this course.

This course focuses on geologic and atmospheric processes that result in natural hazards (e.g. hurricanes and earthquakes) and anthropogenic-caused climate change. It covers hazard monitoring, predication, risk assessment, and mitigation. The course examines the intersection between natural hazards and human society and the magnification of hazards to disasters and catastrophes. Grade only. Satisfies GE Area Upper Division B (Science/Quantitative Reasoning).

An introduction to soil science emphasizing applications to agronomy, archaeology, botany, ecology, engineering, geography, geology, land use planning, hazardous materials management, and water quality. Technical exercises emphasize low-cost scientific analytical equipment.

This course focuses on the flow of water between Earth's atmosphere, surface and the root zone of the soil, with a focus on the watershed unit. The hydrologic processes affecting surface and groundwater resources in a watershed, including precipitation, evapotranspiration, infiltration, and runoff will be examined in lectures and labs.

This course explores the Earth's atmosphere across place and time. It exposes students to the role of radiation, temperature, humidity, evaporation, cloudiness, precipitation, and surface factors (topography, exposure, and altitude) in different world climates. It examines earth-sun relationships, the hydrologic cycle, short-term weather events and long-term climate variability and change. Grade only. Satisfies GE Area Upper Division B (Science/Quantitative Reasoning).
Prerequisites: Completion of GE Golden Four (A1, A2, A3, B4) with a C- or better and completion of B1, B2 and at least 45 units.

An overview of land use planning and associated concerns, such as environmental protection, transportation, open space preservation, housing, economic development, urban design, and public finance. Consideration of the evolving forms and functions of cities, towns, and rural areas and society's attitudes toward development, environmental concerns, and the appropriate role of government in regulating land use. Course addresses general plans, zoning, growth management, environmental impact assessment, and the local political process relating to planning. Current trends in planning and sustainable community development.

The theory and practice of environmental impact assessment ("EIA"). The role of EIA and impact mitigation in policy development and implementation. The practice of preparing environmental review documents as mandated by state and federal law. The relationship between environmental review and comprehensive planning.

This course focuses on the relationship between land use planning and environmental and natural resources concerns, using property and landscape as our primary lenses. We will consider how ideas regarding resource management, open space, biodiversity, "sustainability", etc., are reflected in land use planning processes and practices.  The course will examine broad planning and regulatory tools, such as EISs, regional planning, and resource management planning, and more specific applications such as Habitat Conservation Plans and open space planning.  Prerequisite: Class open to Juniors, Seniors, and Graduate Students only.

Theory, methods, and tools related to the systematic analysis of city, regional, and rural transportation problems. The focus is on fundamental land use and transportation interrelationships. Transportation as an integrated system composed of automobiles, public transit, bicycles, and pedestrian travel modes. Transportation impact assessment. Congestion management, energy conservation, sustainability, and environmental impact considerations.

Exploration of the physical and visual form of urban communities. The appearance and aesthetic qualities of public open spaces and their constituent elements. Meaning of "sense of place." The effects of public policy on urban form. Urban design as one of the twin traditions of urban planning. Prerequisites: Junior- or senior-level standing; Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning (GEP 360) is recommended.

This course examines the evolution of cities as local and global political, economic and social centers. It explore the forces that drove urban growth and change in the 20th century, with a focus on how these forces shape contemporary issues such as inequality, cultural change, and segregation.

Distribution of demographic and social groups across American urban, suburban, and rural areas, including historical and continuing patterns of segregation. Investigation of the roles of individual private decisions and government policy. Differences in societal experiences between socio-spatial groups. Satisfies GE Area Upper Division D (Social Sciences). Prerequisites: Completion of GE Golden Four (A1, A2, A3, B4) with a C- or better and completion of lower division D coursework and at least 45 units.




A lecture/discussion course designed to assist students in understanding energy as a fundamental measure of organization, structure, and transformation in society. Principal topics include: energy history; thermodynamics; energy resources and conversion technologies; global issues and trends; environmental impacts; energy economics, institutions, and politics. Elementary quantitative analysis.

How do we create and evaluate effective ways to reach our combined environmental, energy, climate, and social goals? You will construct cause and effect chains and learn how financial, thermal, and electrical models can estimate and evaluate the efficacy of policies. We'll use case studies from the SSU and Sonoma County climate plans. Prerequisites: GEP 280.

Applications laboratory addressing state-of-the-art computer programs in this field. Focus on simulation-and-design programs utilized in residential and commercial building compliance. Student projects and presentations. Prerequisites: GEP 280. Co-requisites: GEP 374A.

How do we bring energy to the places we need it with minimal impact to the environment? You will learn about energy generation, distribution, and coordination. Topics include solar photovoltaics, electricity markets, energy land use and environmental impacts, microgrids, and battery storage. Prerequisites: GEP 374A and GEP 374B.

Environmental remote sensing uses imagery from satellite and airborne sensors to map properties of the Earth over broad spatial scales. This course develops an understanding of physical principles behind remote sensing, explores a range of sensors, spatial scales, and locations, and uses image processing techniques for extracting useful environmental information.

Lecture, 2 hours; laboratory, 3 hours. Map and graphic methods in geography: history, design, theory, and construction. Topics include selection of map projections, use of scales, generalization, data input and processing, color, visualization of spatial data, and map production. Emphasis is placed on effective communication through graphic design. Covers the increasing role of geographic information systems (GIS) in cartography. Also examines the collection of geographic data, such as with global positioning systems (GPS). Exercises guide students through increasingly complex methods of data collection and cartographic construction. Laboratory fee may be charged; see current Schedule of Classes.

Geographic information system (GIS) technologies provide researchers and policy-makers with a powerful analytical framework for making decisions and predictions. As with any technology, the appropriate use of GIS depends greatly on the knowledge and skills of the user. This course addresses the scientific and technical aspects of working with geographical data, so that GIS users understand the general principles, opportunities, and pitfalls of recording, collecting, storing, retrieving, analyzing, and presenting spatial information. Both fundamental concepts and "hands on" experience with state-of-the-art software are incorporated through readings, lecture discussion, and laboratory assignments. The first half of the course focuses on the "nuts and bolts" of how a GIS works, while the second half concentrates on methods for spatial analysis and modeling.

Environmental issues typically involve a range of physical, ecological and socio-economic factors with complex interactions that span multiple spatial and temporal scales. Computer-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are particularly well-suited for describing, analyzing and modeling environmental problems and datasets, and the technology is widely used for local- to global-scale research, impact assessment, conservation planning and natural resource management. This course investigates a range of environmental problems through the unique perspective afforded by geospatial data analysis within a GIS. Lectures introduce the ecological, scientific and societal issues associated with major environmental issues of our time, such as land-use change, biodiversity loss, and global carbon emissions. These issues are then quantitatively analyzed with real-world spatial datasets using GIS-based methods and tools in coordinated laboratory exercises. In the process, students extend and strengthen GIS skills and concepts acquired through GEP 387.

Intensive study of selected topics related to geography, environment, and/or planning. Topics vary from semester to semester. May be repeated for credit up to a maximum of 8 units.

A single subject or set of related subjects not ordinarily covered by the GEP Department. Offerings will vary depending on visiting faculty, experimental courses, and educational needs. May be repeated for credit once for a total of 8 units.

This course critically analyzes the practices and ideas that underlie economic development and the resultant degradation of environments. The class attends to ways that specific people and places have either resisted environmental impoverishment, or alternatively worked together to create different, environmentally and socially sustainable paths to empowerment and well-being.

This capstone course focuses on the ideas and theories behind environmental restoration work and asks some critical questions about the field: where did the idea of restoration come from?  What are the goals of environmental restorations, and how do you know if a project is meeting those goals?  What do we mean by the terms "wilderness", "native", "diversity", and so forth?  Do environmental mitigation projects really work?  We will also look at several specific case studies through the semester.  Prerequisite: Seniors and Graduate students only, consent of instructor.

Lecture and field course introducing major concepts and practical aspects of restoration ecology. Topics include: setting restoration goals, understanding ecological principles that guide restoration, using science to inform restoration, and planning, implementation, and measuring the success of restoration projects. Also examines the social, biological, and political forces that shape the design and outcome of restoration projects. Practical techniques covered include: invasive species removal, planting native species, conducting monitoring of biological systems, and the process of grant writing. Topics are addressed in diverse local systems, with a variety of community partners in the restoration field. Grade only. Prerequisites: GEP 340 or BIOL 131 or consent of instructor.

Conservation Biology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the loss, maintenance and restoration of biological diversity in the face of profound environmental change. This course will cover principles of ecology, population biology and genetics, biogeography, ethics, and economics as applied to biodiversity conservation. Topics covered include climate change, species invasions, prioritization of protected areas, ecosystem restoration, and assessing economic and ethical tradeoffs. At least one field trip may be required. Grade only. Prerequisites: GEP 340 or BIOL 131 and Junior/Senior standing. Co-requisites: GEP 340 or BIOL 131.

An advanced course focusing on evidence of past climate change and predicted future change. Research methods used to reconstruct past climates are explored. Climate dynamics and the response of the environment will be examined. Prerequisites: GEP 201 or GEOL 102 or consent of instructor,  and juniors, seniors and graduate students only.

Techniques of professional planning practice. Collection, organization, and presentation of information and data used in planning. Preparation of staff reports and components of long-range plans. Current trends, issues, and debates facing practitioners. Prerequisites: GEP 360 or can be taken concurrently, junior- or senior-level standing

What are the most promising energy strategies to meet human needs with the least effect on the environment? You'll use mathematical models to estimate the energy use, cost, and carbon emissions for insulated buildings, heating and cooling, electric motors, and refrigeration. We'll use analytical and numerical methods for estimation and measurement. Grade only. Prerequisites: GEP 374a and GEP 374b.

This course will introduce students to environmental data (Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earths surface). Students will learn how to access, pre-process and analyze data using different statistical methods and geographic information systems (GIS). The course will also examine research questions that can be answered using these types of data and analyses. Lecture/Lab. Grade only. Prerequisites: GEP 201, GEP 280 and GEP 387, or consent of instructor. Course requires a basic competency with Microsoft operating system and Office applications.

This course provides greater depth in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Through lab exercises, students build GIS databases, perform geospatial analyses, and create maps. Students conduct an independent research project on a topic of their choice, gather the appropriate spatial data, conduct GIS analyses, and present their results. Prerequisite: GEP 387.

This is the first semester of an intensive, year-long project in which students conduct original research and/or produce a professional product. During Fall semester, students formulate a research project and develop the research skills needed to conduct that project. Students choose an appropriate section in consultation with an advisor. This course is offered in the Fall only.

A continuation of GEP 490, in the Spring semester students conduct their work, produce their final product, and present their results. Students continue the same section that they completed in GEP 490. This course is offered in Spring Only.

Independent study designed in consultation with an instructor. Requires prior approval of GEP faculty member and department chair. Course may be repeated for credit for up to 8 units.

Advanced research and writing. Students work under close supervision of faculty members. Subject matter variable. May be repeated for credit.