GIS and Sustainability Science Minor

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The GIS and Sustainability Science Minor offered by the USC Spatial Sciences Institute provides an interdisciplinary foundation for individuals to address environmental sustainability, among the most pressing challenges of our time. Combine the GIS and Sustainability Science minor with any major to leverage your professional and academic impact in many fields.

The Minor in GIS and Sustainability Science will especially complement majors in Biological Sciences, Building Science, Business, Civil Engineering, Economics, Earth Sciences, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Studies, GeoDesign, Global Health, International Relations, Political Science, Public Policy, Real Estate Development, and Urban Studies and Planning.

Megan Wong
Julie Ho
Nicholas Foster


Successful professionals must have a command of geographic information sciences (GIS) and geospatial technologies in the social, economic, and political contexts of sustainable development to provide useful guidance on transitions to sustainability, support adaptive management in specific places, and enhance the ability of society to collaborate for sustainability. This geospatial information is key to linking human and natural systems to understand how humans create stress on ecosystems. With this understanding, we can make informed decisions about how to alleviate environmental stress or restore damaged ecosystems.

In this minor, students receive a foundation in spatial sciences concepts as applied to environmental contexts and develop an understanding of cartographic principles, spatial data acquisition and analysis, and techniques of programming and customization to produce unique geospatial solutions. In the capstone course, students explore their specific interests in greater depth as they design a geospatial technology project that contributes to one or more sustainable development goals at various scales and in locations around the globe.


The Minor in GIS and Sustainability Science requires 20 units.

Lower Division Course: Choose between SSCI 165Lgw: Sustainability Science in the City (GE Categories C and G) OR SSCI 265Lg: The Water Planet (GE Category E)

The influence of sustainability science on public policy and vice versa in the context of social/ethical theories, analytical methods and solutions.
An exploration of earth’s water, ranging from water properties, chemistry, and pollution, to groundwater dynamics, watershed processes, and oceanic-atmospheric circulation. Implications for past and future societies.


Core Courses:

Role of maps and spatial reasoning in the production and use of geographic information for representing and analyzing human and environmental activities and events.
The various ways in which geography can be used to acquire, represent, organize, analyze, model and visualize information. Laboratories are organized around ArcGIS software suite. Prerequisite: SSCI 301L.
Fundamentals of spatial modeling and remote sensing and how to use GIS customization and programming to streamline complex spatial analysis and modeling workflows. Prerequisites: SSCI 301  and SSCI 382.


Capstone Course:

Principles and techniques for leveraging geospatial technologies and information in support of sustainability, with emphasis on coupling human and natural systems for global sustainable development.


In this minor, students have the opportunity to:

  • identify and analyze the issues involved in organizing, planning, implementing, and monitoring geospatial technology projects in support of sustainability science;
  • perform stakeholder analysis to uncover and appreciate the social and political context of using geospatial technology for sustainable development; and
  • perform implementation, decision-support, financial, and risk analysis to build the case for and ensure the success of using geospatial technology for sustainable development; and
  • design a geospatial technology project that contributes to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs).


Whether in the studio, the lab, or the field, you can conduct research with world-class faculty from the Spatial Sciences Institute and its faculty affiliates from across the university. Spatial Sciences Institute students have presented their research at national and international conferences and symposia, and have won awards for their scholarships.

One of the prestigious awards that USC Spatial students have received is the 2018 USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy first place award for their project which developed geospatial applications to promote residential stormwater capture for residents in the City of Los Angeles. Read more about how this project and other ways in which USC Spatial students are contributing to a more sustainable environment with the power of GIS and geospatial methods and technologies.


GIS and Sustainability Science minors will be able to showcase their work from their courses, including their capstone course, to prospective employers and graduate programs.

The demand for GIS and geospatial professionals continues to rise. Geospatial jobs are currently available and growing in every industry and discipline in consulting firms, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and private-sector companies. Students combining this minor with their major would be prepared for graduate studies in geographic information science, sustainability management, environmental sciences, and other related disciplines.

For more information, email Monica Pan, academic advisor, at