Accelerated Introduction to GIS

This course serves as an introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It is designed to provide students with basic concepts, principles and applications of GIS and their use in the decision-making process pertaining to natural resource management. Students will perform practical exercises using ESRI's ArcGIS software, the industry standard in GIS applications.

Air Quality Assessment and Management

Air Quality Assessment and Management introduces the principles of air quality engineering and science. Topics include: health and welfare effects of air pollution, ecosystem and materials damage, water acidification, visibility degradation, and climate change. We will examine air quality conditions and trends in the U.S. and abroad, sources of air pollutants and efforts to control them, air quality assessment methods and their limitations, case studies, and laws and regulations that provide the impetus for air quality management

Applied Ecology

Basic principles of environmental science relating to ecosystems, biodiversity, issues of populations and exponential growth, and energy recycling.

California Ecosystems

This course explores the diversity of ecosystems found throughout California through the study of plant ecology and wildlife found in these ecosystems. Students will be introduced to main concepts and current research in plant ecology throughout several of California’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This course will highlight human impacts on California’s ecosystems, their management, and current state of restoration through field trips throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Also, we will examine current plant ecology research topics, including: biodiversity, exotic species invasions, restoration, vegetation mapping, and climate change.

Climate Change: Global Processes Ecological Perspectives

This Climate Change course focuses on the natural processes and anthropogenic activities that are key forces in initiating and determining changes in Earth’s environment on regional and global scales. Lectures will provide 1) an overview of Earth’s dynamic environmental history relative to the biosphere, including methods used to reconstruct past climates and detect current trends; 2) descriptions of global processes and anthropogenic influences that affect climate; 3) discussions of apparent and potential impacts of climate change on organisms and ecosystems; and 4) perspectives on future predictions and modeling efforts.

Climate Change Mitigation

Recognizing that human activity is altering the earth’s climate, this course focuses on climate change mitigation options for changing human activities and reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses to avert negative climate change impacts. Working seminar-style, we examine efforts to develop and implement climate policies at multiple levels: international agreements, regional policies, and US national and state policies (especially California). We also discuss non-governmental and private sectors efforts on climate change mitigation. We examine major sources of greenhouse gas emissions and ways of reducing them, ranging from automobile fuel economy standards to carbon caps and trading mechanisms.


The required Ecology course for first-year MSEM students focuses on principles of ecology and their application to management. Topics include species distributions, population growth and ecology, community interactions (competition, predation, etc.), ecosystem dynamics and energy flows, and landscape ecology. A component of the course will focus on synthesizing and critiquing scientific literature.

Energy Auditing

The course in Energy Auditing examines ways to identify energy use and opportunities for energy conservation in the built environment. After exploring the various approaches that have been used historically and are currently in place for conducting energy audits of residential and commercial buildings, we will discuss the fundamentals that are common to all auditing practices. We will spend time discussing the differences in Zero Net Energy, Passive House, Building Performance and a range of rating systems in place today. We will compare the strategies for reducing energy use in new buildings to those utilized in auditing existing buildings. The USF Energy Auditing course provides preparation for pursuing external training and certification.

Environmental Chemistry

The required course in Environmental Chemistry serves as an introduction to major topics in the chemistry of the environment and the role of environmental chemistry in environmental management. Major topics will include the chemistry of photochemical smog, aquatic systems, water quality parameters, distribution and behavior of chemical species in the environment, microbiological processes, and aspects of toxic organic substances. The application of fundamental chemical principles will be emphasized, including: molecular structure, intermolecular interactions, reaction mechanisms, kinetics, equilibrium, solubility, acid-base chemistry, and oxidation-reduction reactions.

Environmental Economics

Principles of economics applied to environmental management. This course introduces the fundamental elements of environmental economics as they relate to environmental management. Economic criteria for setting environmental goals and evaluating policies, such as cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis, are introduced. Market methods for managing externalities, such as taxes and tradable permits, are examined. Non-market valuation techniques such as contingent valuation, hedonic pricing, and the travel cost method will be covered.

Environmental Engineering I - Pollutant Fate and Transport in Surface Water and Air

Essentials of environmental engineering synthesized for the non-engineer. Principles of pollutant transport in surface water and the atmosphere. Students will use simple models to estimate changes in surface water pollution concentrations resulting from operational changes at discharge sources. For indoor and outdoor air, students will model pollution concentrations and the influence of ventilation patterns, stack height, meteorology and atmospheric stability.

Environmental Engineering II - Contaminant Transport in Groundwater

Environmental Engineering II builds upon the concepts of Env. Engineering I: Contaminant Transport in Surface Water and Air (ENVS 654). The course adds an understanding of groundwater issues and a basic understanding of computer modeling. The course emphasizes quantitative analysis, exploring hydro-geologic factors affecting pollutant transport including heterogeneity, anisotropy, soil type, and geological setting. Students will learn fundamental pollution control and capture techniques for groundwater pollution, and will gain appreciation of handling uncertainty in analysis.

Environmental Law

State and federal laws dealing with impacts on the environment and human health. Includes legal theory and case applications.

Environmental Ethics

This course examines topics in contemporary environmental ethics.  Students are asked to think critically about ethical issues facing the global environmental community. We begin by reviewing ethical reasoning and traditional perspectives about morality and the environment. We then explore cross-disciplinary models of thought such as economics, game theory, and evolutionary psychology by applying them to environmental dilemmas such as global warming, valuing non-human species and biodiversity.

Environmental Policy and Politics

Public issues and political bodies that fashion and implement environmental public policy.

Environmental Risk Assessment

A variety of examples of environmental and health risk analysis from regions and locations in California, the U.S. and throughout the world.

Environmental Risk Management

Application of risk analysis, data for risk management and decision making and problem solving by environmental process management.

Environmental Toxicology

Fundamentals of toxicology - includes sampling and measurement of toxicants and examination of properties of toxic substances and their disposition and metabolism.

Field Survey Management

This course teaches applied skills for managing field projects and staff, conducting fieldwork and collecting data, or using data collected “in the field” for analysis and resource management. The focus of the course will be on natural resources studies, such as wildlife and vegetation, however the skills will have broader applicability. There is an art and a science to collecting and managing field data in a way that assures high quality is efficient, scientifically valid, legally defensible, and useful in the long term. Assuring that data is obtained properly from fieldwork is critical, because that information is the basis for later analysis, management decisions, and resource protection.

Green Building

The Green Building course will introduce participants to the principles and practice of green building and sustainable design, construction and operation of the built environment. Course topics include: Passive and Zero-Energy Design, Site and Land Use, Water Resources, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and other sustainable building design topics. The course may include field visits, guest lectures by practitioners, and group study for the LEED AP exam. (Pursuit of the LEED AP exam is optional and external to the USF Green Building course.)

Management of Chemical and Hazardous Materials

Practical aspects of hazardous material and waste management in industry and society, and resource recovery of hazardous waste streams.

Marine Resources

The Marine Resource course will explore the major issues facing our oceans. We will cover the basic principles of oceanography (e.g., ocean circulation, primary production, chemical constituents) to build a foundation for understanding anthropogenic impacts on the biogeochemistry of the oceans. Then, we will look at how anthropogenic activities and global warming may impact the oceans, particularly the carbon cycle. We will review the literature on how ocean acidification may affect organisms (including coral reefs). We will examine the problem of overfishing and the effects of aquaculture. Our discussions of these topics will review current management strategies and potential alternatives.

Master's Project

The Master’s Project is the required capstone research project for MSEM. Students critically evaluate and integrate available knowledge on an environmental management issue of their choosing. Students present their research findings and management recommendations in a written report and a conference-style presentation. (Sample Master's projects can be viewed and downloaded through the USF Scholarship Repository at

Remote Sensing and GIS Resource Assessment

Overview of mechanisms for incorporating resource assessment data into resource management decisions.

Research Methods

Research Methods will introduce you to the nature and conduct of research in an environmental science and management context. You will learn the important processes of formulating a research question, developing a testable hypothesis, and justifying the proposed research based on a critical analysis of relevant peer-reviewed literature. You will also gain understanding of multiple research methods, qualitative and quantitative, the peer review and response process as it works in scientific context, as well as ethical considerations in research. This course will also facilitate your undertaking of the Master’s Project.

Resource Economics

This course examines the fundamental elements of natural resource economics as they relate to resource depletion, degradation, conservation management, policy evaluation, sustainability, and the economy. Topics covered include efficiency and sustainability, discounting, benefit cost analysis, resource valuation, non-renewable resource economics, water resource economics, energy economics, and land economics.

Restoration Ecology

Overview of concepts and practices in restoration ecology. Emphasis on application of ecological principles in restoration design, implementation and monitoring.

Sustainable Design

The Architecture & Community Design curriculum at USF is structured on four primary pillars of student learning: Architectural History & Theory, Architectural Design, Community Design Outreach, and Architectural Engineering & Construction. This course on Sustainable Design is intended to feed into these four pillars of learning, and to gain a basic understanding of the design principals in the rapidly changing world of the 21st Century. This knowledge is of vital importance to the wide array of design issues concerning the built environment, from resource use & recycling, energy efficiency & conservation, aesthetic & functional concerns, and urban & regional planning.

Urban Adaptation to Climate Change

This course explores climate change impacts on urban systems and the emerging response strategies that cities should pursue in order to adapt to a changing climate. Students will gain understanding of existing and projected climate impacts, including: heat waves, storm events, shifting water cycles, air quality degradation, fire, shifts in ecological cycles, with special attention to sea-level rise. Utilizing a systems view of city functions - water, energy built environment, transport, economy, ecosystems - we will explore systematic climate change impacts including implications for land decisions, as well as social equity and public health. 

Water Quality Assessment and Management

Water quality criteria and standards, water and wastewater technology and principles of design and operation.

Wetland Delineation

The main objective of this course is to provide participants with a comprehensive, hands-on introduction to delineation of jurisdictional wetlands in California. Major course topics will include: identification and characterization of 3 wetland parameters in the field; practice delineating tidal, diked, seasonal, and riparian wetlands in the field; and national, state and regional wetland policy and regulatory relevant to delineation of wetlands in California.

Wetland Ecology

A comprehensive overview of wetland ecosystems. Includes an overview of physical and biological components of wetlands (hydrology, soils, wetland plants and animals), a survey of wetland types from around the world, and a review of wetland management policies with a focus on wetland delineation issues and wetland restoration.