Contact Information

Contact Information
Sciences and Mathematics
Randy Lehr
Associate Dean
Ishtar Thomas-Lane (Interim)
Division Office
V 211, Rocklin Campus


The Environmental Studies and Sustainability program at Sierra College provides students with the opportunity to meet the requirements to transfer to four-year colleges in the environmental fields including Environmental Studies and Environmental Science. The program provides students with a common interdisciplinary base with which to address issues of environmental health, sustainability and global stewardship. Students will have the opportunity to apply principles from a range of fields including the physical and life sciences, social sciences and philosophy, as well as technical skills utilized in ecosystem assessment and the expanding field of solar energy.


Kristine D. Gilbert

Professor, Environmental Studies and Sustainability

B.A., University of California, Davis
M.S., California State University, Chico


Environmental Studies and Sustainability

AS Degree

Successful completion of the Environmental Studies and Sustainability curriculum will prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges or universities. The major has been designed to meet lower-division requirements for Environmental Studies and Environmental Science majors at transfer institutions. In all cases, students should consult with a counselor for more information on university admission and transfer requirements. Students must fulfill the following major requirements with grades of “C” or better, complete a minimum of 60 degree-applicable semester units (12 of which must be completed at Sierra College) with a grade point average of at least 2.0 and complete one of the following three general education patterns:

Required Courses
BIOL 0001General Biology4
BIOL 0002Botany4.5
BIOL 0003General Zoology4.5
CHEM 0001AGeneral Chemistry I5-6
or CHEM 0003A
CHEM 0003B
General Chemistry I - Part 1
and General Chemistry I - Part 2
ESCI 0001Physical Geology3
or GEOG 0001 Physical Geography
ESS 0001The Environment and the Human Impact3
Select 4-6 units from the following:4-6
Food, Society and the Environment
Introduction to Soil Science
Cultural Anthropology
Global Problems
Field Methods in Ecology
Natural History, Ecology and Conservation (also ESS 0014)
Local Ecosystems of Placer County 1
Local Ecosystems of Nevada County 1
Vernal Pools and the California Prairie 1
Biology of Waterfowl and Marsh Birds 1
Ecology of the Sierran Conifer Forest 1
Weekend Field Paleontology and Ancient Environments (also ESCI 0016G) 1
Ecology of the Mendocino Coast 1
Biology of Mono Lake and the Great Basin 1
Ecology of Point Reyes National Seashore 1
Foothill Ecology of the Sierra Nevada 1
Aquatic and Riparian Environments of California Waterways 1
Marine Mammals and Birds 1
Ecology of the Modoc Plateau 1
Ecology of the High Sierra and White Mountain 1
Death Valley and Desert Ecosystems 1
Ecology of Mid-Western North America 1
Canyon Lands of the Southwest 1
Coastal Habitats of Northern California 1
Coastal Habitats of Central California 1
Deserts of Southern California 1
Biology/Ecology of the Klamath and the Southern Cascade 1
Ecology of Selected Wilderness Ecosystems 1
Ecology of the American River 1
Ecology of the Sutter Buttes 1
Wildflower Identification
Wildland Trees and Shrubs (Dendrology)
Principles of Macroeconomics
Principles of Microeconomics
Physical Geology Laboratory
Introduction to Earth Science
Sierra Nevada and Western Basin and Range Provinces 1
Great Valley and Coast Range Provinces 1
Great Valley, Coast Ranges, and Sutter Buttes 1
Western Sierra Nevada and the Mother Lode 1
Major Rock Units of the Northern Sierra 1
Weekend Field Geology - Point Reyes 1
Weekend Field Geology 1
Introduction to Environmental Science Laboratory
The Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada Field Trip
Energy, Environment, and Climate (also ESCI 0007)
California Water
Conservation of Natural Resources
Environmental Regulations
Physical Geography
Physical Geography Laboratory
Cultural Geography
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Beginning Arc GIS
Intermediate Arc GIS
Elementary Statistics
Introduction to Environmental Ethics
Environmental Psychology
Total Units28-31


Understanding course descriptions

ESS 0001. The Environment and the Human Impact

Units: 3
Formerly known as INT 1
Advisory: Eligibility for ENGL 1A
Hours: 54 lecture
A theoretical and practical study of the natural world and how it is influenced by human activity. To understand current environmental problems, we need to understand the physical, biological and chemical processes on Earth as well as human impacts including population growth, land use, resource extraction, technology, pollution, economics and ethics. Solutions including conservation biology, habitat restoration, and sustainable development will be addressed. This course will analyze the scientific basis of major environmental issues and evaluate potential solutions, ultimately considering the sustainability of human activities on a local, regional and global level. (CSU, UC)

ESS 0001L. Introduction to Environmental Science Laboratory

Unit: 1
Prerequisite: Completion with grade of "C" or better or concurrent enrollment in ESS 1
Hours: 54 laboratory
Hands-on, inquiry-based learning in topics associated with environmental science. Laboratory and field studies including applications of physical science principles, ecological studies, and exposure to sustainability issues related to human society. Promotes critical thinking, problem solving, scientific and environmental literacy. May include field trip(s) during or in lieu of lab time. (CSU, UC)

ESS 0006. The Sierra Nevada

Units: 3
Formerly known as INT 6
Advisory: Eligibility for ENGL 1A
Hours: 54 lecture
Integrated study of the Sierra Nevada including its physical attributes, geological characteristics, origin and development, flora and fauna, water resources, historical and economic significance, and influences on literature, art, and culture. Includes contemporary environmental, economic, and management issues in the Sierra. (CSU, UC)

ESS 0006F. Sierra Nevada Field Trip

Units: 0.5-1
Prerequisite: Completion with grade of "C" or better or concurrent enrollment in ESS 6
Hours: 18 lecture per unit
Field lecture course designed to be taken concurrently with ESS 6. A field study of selected sites in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion, comparing their biological inventory, ecological relationships, physical environments, and sensitivity to human interactions and activities. Moderate hiking and/or camping may be involved. (CSU)

ESS 0007. Energy, Environment, and Climate

Units: 3
Also known as ESCI 7
Advisory: Eligibility for ENGL 1A
Hours: 54 lecture
Analysis of the nature of energy and the environmental impact of its societal use in the context of Earth's record of changing climate. Explores current global climate change due to post-1750 greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for mitigation and adaptation to changing climate predictions, emphasizing future alternative energy sources. Designed for students majoring in areas related to the environmental sciences and/or those interested in developing a substantiated understanding of the role played by citizens in ensuring a healthy environment for future generations. (CSU, UC)

ESS 0008. California Water

Units: 4
Hours: 108 (54 lecture, 54 laboratory)
Interdisciplinary examination of California water ecosystems, infrastructure, uses, and impacts. Students will learn about: hydrology; aquatic ecosystems including rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, and marine environments; water infrastructure including dams, levees, aqueducts, and wastewater treatment facilities; groundwater recharge, withdrawal, use and impacts; the role of water in agricultural, urban, environmental and political systems; water quality; water storage and transfers; water policy; and conflicts arising from water scarcity. May include field trips during or in lieu of lab time. Students may be required to provide their own transportation. (CSU, UC)

ESS 0010. Conservation of Natural Resources

Units: 3
Formerly known as AGRI 190 and NATR 10
Advisory: Eligibility for ENGL 1A
Hours: 54 lecture
Use and protection of natural resources, including soil, water, forest, mineral, plant, and animal life. Ecological principles, history of the conservation movement, modern problems in resource use, and the citizen's role in conservation. (CSU, UC)

ESS 0013. Environmental Regulations

Unit: 1
Formerly known as BIOL 13A
Advisory: Completion of BIOL/ESS 14, ESS 1 or ESS 10 with grade of "C" or better
Hours: 18 lecture
Survey of major California environmental regulations and relevant federal regulations. Designed using case study analyses to explore environmental laws applicable to water, land and air resources. (CSU)

ESS 0014. Natural History, Ecology and Conservation

Units: 4
Also known as BIOL 14
Advisory: Eligibility for ENGL 1A
Hours: 108 (54 lecture, 54 laboratory)
Introduction to the study of biology and ecology of organisms and ecosystems of the world, with an emphasis on California. Special focus on significance of functioning ecosystems and human influence on biological environment. (CSU, UC)

ESS 0028. Independent Study

Units: 1-3
Designed for students interested in furthering their knowledge at an independent study level in an area where no specific curriculum offering is currently available. Independent study might include, but is not limited to, research papers, special subject area projects, and research projects. See Independent Study page in catalog. (CSU, UC-with unit limitation)

ESS 0095. Internship in Environmental Studies and Sustainability

Units: 0.5-4
Designed for advanced students to work in an area related to their educational or occupational goal. Provides new on-the-job technical training under the direction of a worksite supervisor, allowing students to expand knowledge and skills in the chosen field. Mandatory orientation session and faculty approval to determine eligibility. One unit of credit is equal to each 60 hours of non-paid work, or each 75 hours of paid work. Students may earn up to a total of 16 units in internship courses. (CSU-with unit limitation)

Program Student Learning Outcomes (PSLOs)

  • Identify and describe the essential components of earth's natural environment - its physical, biological, energy-related, and ecological elements.
  • Describe and analyze core environmental problems, their causes and consequences, and practical solutions.
  • Apply the conservation of matter and energy to environmental systems.
  • Investigate the role of governmental policy, citizen involvement, and/or ethics/values/morals in influencing human interaction with the environment.
  • Evaluate and apply principles of sustainability to human activity on earth.