(9 Credits)

Courses in this area train students to analyze and model scientific data to understand current and future environments and their interactions with human systems. By learning analysis and modeling, students are better able to inform sustainability policy, management, and decision-making.

SUSC PS5010 Climate Science for Decision Makers: Modeling, Analysis, and Applications

Instructors: Dr. Michael Previdi and Dr. Yutian Wu


Both human and natural systems are growing more vulnerable to climate variability (e.g., the anomalous weather induced by the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, or the increase in hurricanes that occurs when ocean currents warm the Atlantic) and to human-induced climate change, which manifests itself primarily through increases in temperature, precipitation intensity, and sea level, but which can potentially affect all aspects of the global climate. This course will prepare you to estimate climate hazards in your field thereby accelerating the design and implementation of climate-smart, sustainable practices. Climate models are the primary tool for predicting global and regional climate variations, for assessing climate-related risks, and for guiding adaption to climate variability and change. Thus, a basic understanding of the strengths and limitations of such tools is necessary to decision makers and professionals in technical fields.

This course will provide a foundation in the dynamics of the physical climate system that underpin climate models and a full survey of what aspects of the climate system are well observed and understood and where quantitative uncertainties remain. Students will gain a fundamental understanding of the modeling design choices and approximations that distinguish Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-class climate models from weather forecasting models and that create a diversity of state-of-the-art climate models and climate projections.

This course will provide an overview of the ways in which climate model output and observations can be merged into statistical models to support applications such as seasonal and decadal projections of climate extremes, global and regional climate impacts, and decision-making. Students will develop the skills to visualize, analyze, validate, and interpret climate model output, calculate impact-relevant indices such as duration of heat waves, severity of droughts, or probability of inundation, and the strategies to characterize strengths and uncertainties in projections of future climate change using ensembles of climate models and different emission scenarios.

SUSC PS5080 Monitoring and Analysis of Marine and Estuary Systems

Instructor: Dr. Braddock Linsley


From a global perspective, many of the Earth’s most important environments and resources for global sustainability are located in marine and estuarine areas. These areas are also difficult to monitor for logistical and political reasons. A few examples include 1.) oceanic environments were incompletely understood processes regulate the exchange of heat, water and carbon dioxide gas with the atmosphere, 2.) the relationship between nutrients and primary production and fisheries in open ocean, estuarine and coral reef environments and climatic phenomenon such as El Nino South Oscillation (ENSO), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).This class will explore the marine environment from a modern process perspective and evaluate what is known about interannual and decadal-scale variability of these environments, with respect to oceanic circulation, the flux of heat, gases and dust from the atmosphere and sediment from rivers. Throughout the class, we will explore marine and estuarine processes by studying regional and local responses to broader scale climatic forcing.

SUSC PS5050 Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Sustainability Science

Instructor: Dr. Frank Nitsche


Many environmental and sustainability science issues have a spatial, location-based component. Increasingly available spatial data allow location-specific analysis and solutions to problems and understanding issues. As result, analyzing and identifying successful and sustainable solutions for these issues often requires the use of spatial analysis and tools. This course introduces common spatial data types and fundamental methods to organize, visualize and analyze those data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Through a combination of lectures and practical computer activities the students will learn and practice fundamental GIS and spatial analysis methods using typical sustainable science case studies and scenarios.

A key objective of this course is to provide students with essential GIS skills that will aid them in their professional career and to offer an overview of current GIS applications. In the first part, the course will cover basic spatial data types and GIS concepts. The students will apply those techniques by analyzing potential impacts of storms on New York City as part of a guided case study. A mid-term report describing this case study and the results is required. In the second part, building on the basic concepts introduced in the first part, students will be asked to identify a sustainable science question of their choice that they would like to address as a final project. Together with the instructor they will be developing a strategy of analyzing and presenting related spatial data. While the students are working on their projects additional GIS method and spatial analysis concepts will be covered in class. At the end of the course Students will briefly present their final project and submit a paper describing their project

SUSC PS5060 Statistics, Data Analysis and Coding for Sustainability Science

Instructors: Dr. James Davis and Dr. Michael Previdi


This course provides an overview of essential mathematical concepts, an introduction to new concepts in statistics and data analysis, and provides computer coding skills that will prepare students for coursework in the Master of Science in Sustainability Science program as well as to succeed in a career having a sustainability science component.  In addition to an overview of essential mathematical concepts, the skills gained in this course include statistics, and coding applied to data analysis in the Sustainability Sciences. Many of these skills are broadly applicable to science-related professions, and will be useful to those having careers involving interaction with scientists, managing projects utilizing scientific analysis, and developing science-based policy.


Students enrolled in this course will learn through lectures, class discussion, and hands-on exercises that address the following topics: Review of mathematical concepts in calculus, trigonometry, and linear algebra; Mathematical concepts related to working on a spherical coordinate system (such as that for the Earth); Probability and statistics, including use of probability density functions to calculate expectations, hypothesis testing, and the concept of experimental uncertainty; Concepts in data analysis, including linear least squares, time-series analysis, parameter uncertainties, and analysis of fit; Computer coding skills, including precision of variables, arrays and data structures, input/output, flow control, and subroutines, and coding tools to produce basic X-Y plots as well as images of data fields on a global map.



Notice on Campus Visits

In light of the evolving Covid-19 situation and the University’s guidelines for on-campus activity, Columbia University SPS Admissions has suspended all in-person campus visits for the Fall 2020 semester. We invite prospective students to drop by our virtual walk-in hours with general admissions questions.


Weekly virtual walk-in hours 

Tuesdays (10:00 AM to 12:00 PM EDT)

Thursdays (12:00 PM to 2:00 PM EDT)


Admissions Counselors can connect you directly to students, alumni, faculty, and facilitate virtual class visits. You can also register for an information session. Our virtual events allow you to interact with our admissions staff and learn more about the Columbia SPS community.  If you have any questions, please contact our office at or 212-854-9666. 


If you would like to receive more information about the M.S. in Sustainability Management program, please contact Samantha Ostrowski, Associate Director, at

Campus Visits, Graduate School Fairs & Company Presentations

We are eager to host you on the Columbia University campus or to meet you at one of our information sessions.


Our program offers a part-time option for working professionals. If your company would like to host an information session, please contact us. For more information about the graduate school fairs that we attend throughout the United States, please contact Chandler Precht, Program Manager at


Program Contacts

Samantha Ostrowski

Associate Director

Mariví Perdomo Caba

Senior Program Manager


Office of Admissions
School of Professional Studies
203 Lewisohn Hall




Fall 2021: May 15, 2021

Spring 2022: November 1, 2021


For more information about the HBCU Fellowship,

please visit this website or contact

If you would like to receive more information about the M.S. in Sustainability Science program, please submit your contact information below.

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