Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

One Shields Avenue
Davis CA

Energy and the Environment 2017


  • Meeting Times | 3:10 - 5:00, Wednesdays, Winter 2017
  • Meeting Location | PES 2005, UC Davis Campus
  • CRN/Units | #4061, 2 Units
  • Subject/Course | ESM 198/SSC 298
  • Professor | Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez
  • Office Hours | 2:00 - 3:00, Wednesdays
  • Twitter Hashtag | #EnerEnviW17

Course Background 

Energy and the environment are inextricably linked. The need to mitigate climate change, safeguard energy security, and increase the sustainability of human activities is prompting a rapid and global transition from carbon-intensive fossil fuels to renewable energy. For all energy systems, the manner in which an energy system is constructed, operated, and decommissioned can yield both positive and negative impacts on the environment beyond those directly related to power (i.e., electricity or heat generation). For example, electricity from dedicated biomass can require over 58,406 hectares (1 hectare [ha] = ~2.3 acres) of land per terawatt-hour per year (ha/TWh/y-1), creating trade-offs for allocation of land for food production and conservation. The construction of utility-scale solar energy facilities (³1 megawatt [MW]) can impose physical and biological changes and have dramatic ecological effects both locally, and across the landscapes in which they are situated. In western North America, active or pending oil and gas leases exist on approximately 60 million hectares of publically owned land, impacting ecological connectivity and the flow of resources that humans and biota depend on. The optimization of the energy and Earth system is perhaps the greatest challenge of the 21st century, but one that academia, industry, government, non-governmental organizations, and students like you are poised to address. 

Course Goals

The primary goal of this course is to equip students with an introductory knowledge of energy systems and their interaction with the environment through readings, discussion, engagement, and design. Additionally, this course is strategically designed to develop critical thinking skills and increase student employability in the energy and environment sectors. Specifically, this course seeks to:

  • Expand knowledge of and the ability to scientifically compare energy systems and their unique impacts on the environment;
  •  Foster synthesis of the various sectors and stakeholders involved where energy and the environment interact and evaluate what skills are needed for employment in different roles;
  • Analyze the rapidly increasing literature on energy and the environment and determine critical methods that contribute towards energy-related technological progress, sustainability, and solutions;
  • Provide students opportunities to creatively design and lead classroom discussion of course material; and
  • Apply course learning to the development of a tangible online product (an information graphic) to further concretize and enhance student learning and the learning of the broader public.

Guest lecturers

Guest lecturers for the course feature some of the world's leading scientists and visionaries working at the interface of energy and the environment. Guest lecturers (from left to right) include: Ben Elkin (SunPower), Dr. Steven Grodskey (UC Davis), Madison K. Hoffacker (UC Davis), Katherine Mach (Stanford University, Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology), Daniel Sanchez (Net Zero, Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology), and Max Wei (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab).  Download their full biographies from the bar on the right or here


Greer Ryan, Center for Biological Diversity 

Greer Ryan is the Sustainability Research Associate at the Center for Biological Diversity and provides scientific and policy support to the Center’s Population and Sustainability team. She holds a bachelor’s in molecular environmental biology from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s in environmental science from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. In addition to interning with the Center in 2013 before she joined us on staff, she worked as a research assistant in several environmental science labs and as an intern at NRDC. 

Course Outcomes

At the end of this class:

  •  You will have an interdisciplinary understanding of energy systems and their relationships with various aspects of the environment, including biodiversity, policy, land, resources, food, water, sustainability, and humans across time;
  • You will have had the opportunity to engage and interact with leaders and visionaries from industry, academia, government, and NGOs working at the energy-environment nexus – not only generating disciplinary knowledge from their unique perspectives but also a first-hand understanding of individual pathways to successful careers;
  • You will have learned how to design and lead a class discussion and demonstrate that learning by leading your own discussion session; and
  • You will have created an information graphic (“infographic”) that combines data visualization with design to showcase and disseminate information from an article selected from the course readings in a manner that enhances its engagement and memorability to the broader public. The infographic will be shared online and awards for the best infographic, which if you win, can be included on your resume. Awards include: Student Science Communication Award – Student’s Choice, Expert’s Choice, and Internet’s Choice.

Course Materials 

  • Students are assigned primary literature, reports, and book chapters from the Weekly Agenda and Reading List (download list from the link on the right bar) to read before each class period (including the first day). 
  • There are no textbooks assigned for this course. 

Digital Assignments

  • One Discussion Leader Agenda from the Discussion Leaders (submit on Monday by midnight PST before your session), 10 points
  • One Infographic First Version, 8 points
  • One Infographic Final Version, 12 points
  • Late assignments lose 5% each 24 hours late


  • The plurality of points can be earned from simply arriving at class on time and from being prepared (i.e., have completed the reading assignments) for a lively lecture from energy and environmental leaders and a subsequent discussion.
  • Students will be rewarded for attendance and active participation.
  • Students who are late to class lose ½ point from their total attendance for that class session.
  • For a complete break-down of points per class meeting session, see the Grading Gantt Chart.

Grading will follow a standard scale where ≥90-100% = A, ≥80-89.9% = B, ≥70-79.9% = C, ≥60-69.9% = D, and <60% = F.  Chromatic variants (+ and –) may or may not be used, but if used, they will be applied to the student’s benefit.  Students should not assume that a curve will be applied to the course grading, but if one is applied, it will be a minor adjustment to the student’s benefit.     

Grade Breakdown:

Download the #EnerEnviW17 Course Gantt chart by clicking on the image above. Print and track your grade over time.

Download the #EnerEnviW17 Course Gantt chart by clicking on the image above. Print and track your grade over time.

  • Attendance - 22 Points
  • Readings - 40 Points
  • Discussion Leader Agenda - 10 Points
  • Discussion Leader Execution - 10 Points
  • Infographic (First Version) - 8 Points                    
  • Infographic (Final Version) - 12 Points
  • 100 Points Total




Additional Grading Details | Attendance comprises the bulk of points for this group study course. Missing class follows standard UCD policies including for religious holidays, official extracurricular activities, and medical reasons, and any make-up assignments are subject to the procedures and timing restrictions as outlined in the official UCD policy. If a make-up assignment is administered, it may be in a different format than typical student participation requirements in class. If there are known conflicts with class dates for a university-approved absence or medical release, please see the instructor early in the semester or at least 2 weeks before the expected absence.  Provide original, written documentation obtained from proper authorities (e.g., physician). If there is an emergency on the day of an exam (e.g., medical emergency, car accident), notify the instructor as soon as possible and provide original documentation on official letterhead (e.g., signed documentation by a physician or legal authority) justifying an absence. A make-up assignment may then be administered. Falsifying absences and documents will result in a zero for the attendance/assignment/etc and may trigger more severe academic misconduct as determined by the university.  Please be on time for all class periods out of respect for our esteemed guest lecturers. Be on time and these potential problems will be avoided. An unexcused absence will result in a loss of six points (6%).   


    Week by Week - Text.png

    Update 17 April 2018: The videos are up and live. Click on the box above. As stated, since we didn't have enough time for folks to be able to watch Dr. Sanchez's guest lecture, it is not required; however, if you do have time before class to watch it you are welcome to. 

    All material copyright 2017 by Rebecca R. Hernandez