Jul 18, 2024  
2024-2025, 2nd ed. General Catalog 
2024-2025, 2nd ed. General Catalog

Geography, Environment and Planning

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Department Office
(707) 664-2306

For faculty information, please see Faculty  or the GEP faculty web page. 

The Geography, Environment, and Planning (GEP) Department offers a dynamic learning environment that integrates curricula from across social and natural science disciplines to address environmental and social issues facing humanity.  This unique blend of interdisciplinary material provides students with the skills needed to tackle complex issues, applying a range of techniques and quantitative and qualitative analytical frameworks. Our faculty members are dedicated educators and active scholars who undertake primary research addressing diverse subjects in environmental systems, environmental policy and management, and geospatial and data science. GEP majors are afforded exciting training and research opportunities.

The GEP mission is to educate the next generation of scholars, professionals and citizens so that they are prepared to meet the environmental and social-justice challenges of an evolving world. 

The department offers the following degrees:

  • BA in Environmental Studies, Geography, and Planning
  • BS Environmental Science, Geography, and Management
  • Minor in Geography and Environment

These degree options prepare students for careers in environmental, geospatial and planning professions, with an emphasis in:

  • Understanding societal conflict and collaboration around human-environment issues
  • Building societal resilience in relation to changing environmental systems
  • Applying geospatial and quantitative analyses to solve complex environmental and societal problems
  • Planning rural and urban spaces to support sustainable and socially-just communities

The curriculum is designed to strengthen students’ writing, critical thinking, and oral presentation skills, which are important for any successful career. The degrees also encourage students to take on internships and engage in other practical experiences that help prepare for the working world.

Careers in Geography, Environment, and Planning

Each area of focus within the Geography, Environment, and Planning curriculum provides students with strong interdisciplinary backgrounds in the social and natural sciences, planning, and energy management. This combination of breadth and in-depth instruction allows students to develop the intellectual foundations, skills, and flexibility needed to deal with the specific environmental and social issues of today and the future. Through the interdisciplinary nature of the degree programs and their focal areas, GEP graduates become prepared for careers in both the public and private sectors that include environmental management and restoration, city and regional planning, education and environmental outreach, and residential and commercial energy fields. Graduates from the department often pursue advanced degree programs in a variety of fields, such as geography, resource management, conservation and restoration science, planning, environmental law, geospatial analysis, and education.

Admission Requirements

When applying to Sonoma State University and declaring a major, a student may declare a BA in Environmental Studies, Geography and Planning or a BS in Environmental Science, Geography, and Management.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Students seeking financial aid to assist them in their studies should contact the financial aid office. Several scholarships are provided specifically for GEP students through the University scholarship program. Please refer to the Scholarships section of this catalog.

Department Resources

Geospatial Technology Instructional Laboratory (GIS Lab)

The Geography, Environment, and Planning Department has a well-equipped computer laboratory that supports advanced instruction in geographic information systems (GIS), image processing, digital cartography, and data analysis in laboratory and field courses. The GIS Lab includes 24 workstations, ArcGIS Desktop, ERDAS Imagine, Adobe Illustrator, and open-source software.

The Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Analysis (CIGA)

The mission of the Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Analysis (CIGA) is to enable and promote the application of geospatial technology to social and environmental problems through research, education, and community service. The Center seeks interdisciplinary collaboration among campus and external researchers, students, and other organizations in projects that involve geographic information and spatial analysis at local to global scales. To accomplish these goals, the Center provides computer software and data resources; Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing expertise and consulting services; educational courses; and community outreach. Courses in the Department of Geography, Environment and Planning provide a solid foundation in geospatial science and technology. Students are given a unique opportunity to broaden and refine their education by working on real-world problems in geospatial research projects and service contracts.

The Center has a well-equipped research computer lab for GIS analysis, image processing, and web-based map applications. Example projects conducted by CIGA include: modeling bird species diversity with soundscape analysis and satellite data; mapping California natural vegetation and land use with airborne hyperspectral images; forest biomass and fire fuels estimation with lidar sensors and unmanned aerial systems (drones); and, analyzing the impact of the global economy on natural and human systems at multiple spatial scales in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Climate Research Center (CRC)

The Climate Research Center conducts research on climate science phenomena (e.g. hurricanes, droughts, wildfires and floods) with a special focus on their connections with climate variability, climate change and human activities. The CRC promotes the application of statistical methods and geographic information systems (GIS) to address climate science problems. The CRC aims to collaborate in multidisciplinary climate research with members of the SSU community, organizations or individuals in the Sonoma area and with researchers globally. The CRC houses state-of-the-art computers and cutting-edge software. Students working in the CRC can experience climate science in action and will gain essential data analysis skills.

The Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC)

The Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC) is a research and community service center sponsored by the Sonoma State’s Department of Geography, Environment, and Planning.

The CSC’s predecessor institution, the Institute for Community Planning Assistance, was established in 1984 to meet the needs of public agencies seeking planning studies, community surveys, public outreach efforts, and other projects suited to the skills and interests of students and faculty. ICPA also offered training programs to local governments on a variety of planning topics.

In 2009, the Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC) emerged as a program of ICPA, utilizing faculty, students, and CSC staff to support a range of state, regional, and local sustainability efforts.

In 2013, ICPA was officially renamed the Center for Sustainable Communities. Its activities are focused on an array of sustainability topics, such as:

  • Local and regional government approaches to reducing green house gas emissions and adapting to climate change.
  • Land use planning and public health, including general plan documents.
  • Integrating water resources and land use planning

The CSC works with a mix of government agencies to develop sustainability policy documents, implementation programs, and provides training on sustainability topics for local governments and other organizations.

Sonoma Quaternary Laboratory (SQUAL)

The Sonoma Quaternary Laboratory specializes in reconstructing ecological, climate and landscape change caused by environmental and climate forces as well as human impacts over the past several thousand years. These paleoenvironmental reconstructions provide an important context for evaluating current and future environmental and climate change. The SQUAL houses state-of-the-art equipment for dendroecology, micro- and macro-botanical analysis, as well as other sedimentary analyses. Students working in SQUAL have the opportunity to gain unique field and laboratory research skills.

The Environmental Technology Center (ETC)

A model for sustainable building techniques and technologies, this center includes energy and water-efficient landscaping, “smart building” control technologies, environmentally-sensitive materials, passive solar heating and cooling, and more. It serves as a training facility for building professionals and teachers and as an educational and research site.

The Classroom Garden

The garden adjacent to the Environmental Technology Center teaches SSU students and members of the public about sustainable landscape practices and how these contribute to biodiversity and environmental health. Through internships, volunteering, and classroom experiences, students gain a sense of place, community, purpose, and an enriched academic experience.

The SSU Botanical and Kenneth M. Stocking Native Plant Garden

A showcase of diverse California plant communities and a quiet place for education and relaxation. Located near the campus lakes, the garden includes a guided trail through woodland, marsh, and riparian ecosystems.

SSU Preserves

Managed by the Center for Environmental Inquiry (CEI), SSU features three valuable off-campus learning environments. The GEP Dept. visits these preserves for field trips as well as for student research opportunities. The Fairfield Osborn Preserve is 450-acre field station atop Sonoma Mountain that provides environmental education programs and opportunities for scientific research. The Preserve is a fifteen-minute drive from campus. The 40-acre Los Guillicos Preserve is 1.6 miles south of Mount Hood in the foothills of the Mayacamas below Sugarloaf Ridge, and 2.5 miles from Kenwood California. Galbreath Wildlands Preserve is a 3,670 acre preserve nestled in the Coast Range of northern California. The mission of the preserves is to promote environmental education and research, as well as the effective stewardship of this diverse landscape.


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