Field Courses

The Environmental Studies Department offers various courses around the world to enhance the students' understanding of environmental topics through field experiences. The following courses are typically offerred to students during the summer or Maymester periods. More information about the programs described below can be found by viewing the photo albums to the left and reading about student experiences under the "People" tab.


Spring 2015 Catalina Semester

For the Spring 2015 semester there will be a USC Environmental Studies Catalina Sustainability Block Semester at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center. The Block semester will give students the opportunity to take four courses during the semester and focus on one class at a time for three and a half weeks each. Classes to be offered include ENST310: Sustainable Fisheries Management, ENST370: Marine and Coastal Environmental Policy, BISC352L:Conservation Genetics, ENST499L: Environmental Toxicogenomics in Marine Environments.

If you have any questions or want additional details, you are welcome to stop by the ENST office or email Professor David Ginsburg at


ENST 480 in Guam and Palau: Integrated Ecosystem Management in Micronesia

The purpose of this experience is to introduce students to laboratory and field skills and ecosystem management tools used to investigate complex environmental problems in Micronesia.  Specific course goals include investigating important environmental issues such as ecologically sustainable development, fisheries management, protected-area planning and assessment, and human health issues.  We will review these topics in terms of their application to local issues within the Los Angeles region and to some of the most remote (and biologically diverse) areas of the world such as island ecosystems located in the Indo-West Pacific (i.e., Guam and Palau).  In each location, students will address a suite of historical, cultural, and scientific topics (e.g., environmental effects of warfare, anthropological history, ecosystem management), as well as perform direct observations of biological, physical, and chemical conditions on land as well as in the water.  Overall, students will be provided with an opportunity to work and learn in an interdisciplinary environment, and to gain a better understanding of the complexities of implementing ecosystem management strategies in a real landscape.

ENST298AL: Introduction to Scientific Diving is a 2-credit corequisite to be taken the spring semester prior to the trip. In this course students receive extensive academic preparation in the physics, physiology, safety, and methodology for in-water scientific diving, practicing both on campus and Catalina Island.

To learn more about the program, email Professor David Ginsburg at


ENST 485 in Belize: The Role of the Environment in the Collapse of Human Societies: The Ancient Mayan Civilization

As the human population nears 7 billion, environmental degradation has become a widespread problem.  At the same time, anthropogenic global warming is expected to result in major climate and environmental change across the Earth.  What effect will these changes have on human societies?  Will they adapt to these changes or collapse?  One way to address these questions is to study the effect of environmental change on past human societies; this course will do that through problem-based learning that focuses on the collapse of the ancient Maya civilization, which is often thought to have been due to such degradation and change in climate.

To learn more about the program, email Professor Lisa Collins at



ENST 320a on Catalina Island: Water and Soil Sustainability

ENST 320a In the Field is a special section of the Water and Soil Sustainability course (currently taught on the University Park Campus), and one of several courses included in the Summer 2015 Problems Without Passports program.  ENST 320a In the Field will be conducted on the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center with enhanced research, lab and field studies.  Additionally, human population growth will be examined as we examine the requirements for maintaining an ecologically sustainable balance among island residents, visitors, and the environment itself.  Students will explore this issue by visiting the city of Avalon on Catalina, the largest population center on any of the Channel Islands, and speaking with community leaders and resource managers in the waste, power, and water fields.

To learn more about the course, email Professor Lisa Collins at

Environmental Studies Program: Guam and Palau 2012 Gallery

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Environmental Studies Program: Belize 2012 Gallery

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Environmental Studies Program: Catalina Island

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  • Dr. Karla Heidelberg
  • Director
  • Environmental Studies Program
  • Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Social Sciences Building (SOS) B15
  • 3502Trousdale Parkway
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0036