Environmental Studies: Sustainability and Your World

Earn a Certificate of Completion.

Are you passionate about the environment and want to better understand the major challenges facing our planet? Enroll in USC’s Pre-College Online certificate course, “Environmental Studies: Sustainability and Your World.” By thinking more critically about protecting the Earth’s biodiversity, this course provides a strong foundation for pursuing a future in conservation, activism, and the science of climate change.

June 3, 2024
June 17, 2024
July 1, 2024
July 15, 2024
July 29, 2024
August 5, 2024
August 19, 2024
September 2, 2024
September 16, 2024
September 30, 2024
October 14, 2024
October 28, 2024
November 11, 2024
November 25, 2024
December 9, 2024
December 23, 2024

Combined coursework of recorded lectures, readings, and assignments is approximately 20-25 -hours to be completed at the student’s own pace. Students are expected to complete the course in two to four weeks.

Students must be at least 14 years old or older and enrolled in a high school or secondary program.

Recent high school graduates, students taking a gap year or time off from college and are older than 18 can request an exemption to apply by emailing precollegeonline@usc.edu and include a short paragraph (no more than 200 words) stating your interest and how this program will add value to your academic or career plans.

$1990 USD
$35 application fee


From habitat loss to the overexploitation of natural resources to coastal pollution, environmental issues are extremely complex and multifaceted. This course provides a strong foundation for understanding the major challenges our planet faces today, so that you’ll be better equipped to think critically about these issues and participate in potential solutions.

The interdisciplinary nature of this course shines a light on the different paths of study and career options for students who are passionate about the environment. You will learn from USC professors as well as scientists and professionals who are conducting cutting-edge research and working to conserve the biodiversity of our planet.

You’ll examine case studies on harnessing new sources of renewable energy, advancements in aquaculture, and other examples of innovations currently shaping the field of conservation. You’ll also earn a certificate of completion that can set you apart when applying for college as you prepare for your future studies.

By gaining a deeper understanding of the science of climate change, this course will inspire you to apply your interests and passions for the environment to have a positive impact on our world.

Featured Topics

  • Population and Community Ecology
  • Conservation and Biodiversity
  • Food and the Future
  • Natural Resources and Renewable Energy
  • Coastal Pollution

Learning Outcomes
This introduction to environmental ecology examines climate issues, the future of conservation work, and how to make informed decisions to protect our natural world. Upon completing the course, students will gain a system-level understanding of:

  • How individual organisms interact to form bigger ecosystems
  • How conservation biology addresses declining biodiversity and threats to endangered organisms and habitat loss
  • Population growth and the human footprint on ecosystems
  • Threats to natural resources and the future of renewable energy sources
  • The significance of coastal pollution and human impact on water systems

Format and Course Length
The course consists of recorded lectures, examinations of scientific research and case studies, industry connections, and activities. Each topic focuses on fundamental issues impacting the Earth’s biodiversity and how scientists today are addressing these challenges. Students will analyze current trends in sustainability through related activities.

Combined coursework of recorded lectures, readings, and assignments is approximately 20-25 -hours to be completed at the student’s own pace. Students are expected to complete the course in two to four weeks.


David Ginsburg
David Ginsburg Professor of Environmental Studies
USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

David Ginsburg is a Professor (Teaching) of Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California and a Research Associate in Invertebrate Zoology (Echinoderms) at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Ginsburg oversees undergraduate research training activities across a range of university and externally funded (ARPA-E, NSF) initiatives. He holds a Ph.D. in Marine Environmental Biology (USC) and M.S. in Chemical Ecology (U of Guam). Ginsburg has experience working in a variety of marine environments ranging from tropical coral reefs and temperate kelp forests to polar benthic habitats. Prior to joining the faculty at USC, Ginsburg was a postdoctoral researcher in UCLA’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a Sea Grant Knauss Fellow with NOAA. His teaching is focused on environmental science, which includes hands-on learning and research experiences in the classroom and field. His awards include the USC Provost’s Prize for Teaching with Technology and the Steven B. Sample Mentoring and Teaching Award.


Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis. Applicants who submit a completed application can expect an admission decision within 3 – 5 business days.

  • Include basic contact information from you and your parent(s) or guardian.
  • Tell us why you want to take the course and a little about yourself through a short-answer essay.
  • Share a piece of writing, video or social media content that reveals something about yourself (optional).
  • Submit the $35 application fee.
  • Students must be at least 14 years old or older and enrolled in a high school or secondary program.


In addition to the requirements listed above, international applicants are expected to be proficient in English. International students who successfully complete an online course will receive a digital Certificate of Completion and by request a USC Pre-College Program transcript at no additional cost.


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Monday, June 3, 2024Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Monday, June 17, 2024Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Monday, July 1, 2024Wednesday, June 26, 2024
Monday, July 15, 2024Wednesday, July 10, 2024
Monday, July 29, 2024Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Monday, August 5, 2024Wednesday, July 31, 2024
Monday, August 19, 2024Wednesday, August 14, 2024
Monday, September 2, 2024Wednesday, August 28, 2024
Monday, September 16, 2024Wednesday, September 11, 2024
Monday, September 30, 2024Wednesday, September 25, 2024
Monday, October 14, 2024Wednesday, October 9, 2024
Monday, October 28, 2024Wednesday, October 23, 2024
Monday, November 11, 2024Wednesday, November 6, 2024
Monday, November 25, 2024Wednesday, November 20, 2024
Monday, December 9, 2024Wednesday, December 4, 2024
Monday, December 23, 2024Wednesday, December 18, 2024


Application fees are nonrefundable. All course cancellations requests must be made in writing to precollegeonline@usc.edu. Any tuition paid to the university will be refunded, not including fees, if requested no more than three (3) days past the course start date. Requests to drop the course more than three (3) days after the start date will not be eligible for a refund.

The university will not refund tuition for Pre-College Online Exploration courses for students who are removed from the program due to a violation of our Letter of Understanding for Online Participation and our Student Code of Conduct.