We train you to speak for the environment.
We understand the importance of compelling science stories— a science or management solution is only as effective as your ability to communicate it.
Environmental professionals need to engage a wider public now more than ever; the Strategic Environmental Communication & Media program provides you the skills to bring science and management solutions into practice through coursework, workshops, and an academic focus.
The strength of the program lies within its innovative coursework, a blend of theory and practice. Our training will help you to create compelling narratives, reach strategically selected audiences, work comfortably within a variety of media formats, and assess your message impact. You will also acquire indispensable verbal and written communication skills and learn media tools such as video production, social media, grassroots organizing, or writing.
We offer over a dozen courses in science and environmental communication theory, skill building, and applied client work. Most all courses are open to current MESMs and PhDs; all courses are open to students pursing the Communication academic focus.
Strategic Environmental Communication*
Social Media for the Environment
Environmental Communication Practicum*
Survey Design & Environmental Public Opinion
Writing Skills for Environmental Professionals
Environmental Media Production*
Equity & the Environment
Comm for Civic Engagement & Grassroots Organizing
Data Visualization and Communication**
* only open to students in the Communication Focus
** requires instructor's permission
See below for full course descriptions.
Academic Focus: Strategic Environmental Communication & Media (SECM)
We offer a dedicated academic focus in Strategic Environmental Communication & Media (SECM) for students who are serious about honing their skills and using communication and media as a vehicle for environmental change. Graduates of the SECM program have enhanced career opportunities and have been placed everywhere from communication consulting firms to community outreach management positions to jobs as organizational spokespeople and strategists.
To complete the Communication academic focus, students are required to enroll in ESM 440: Strategic Environmental Communication in spring of their first year, ESM 449: Environmental Communication Practicum in spring of their second year, and to take a minimum of 4-units of electives (or two electives or more).
Students must apply to the Communication Focus, with 20-25 students accepted each year. Applications become available each winter. For questions regarding application to the Communication focus, please contact the Communication Program Director, Dr. Lisa Leombruni ().
Workshops in Science Communication
Each year we offer new workshops in everything from research storytelling to how to write literature reviews, to political communication, to "the art of the pitch." See below for recent workshops; see Events page for upcoming workshops.
Uncertainty in Science
An exploration of what "scientific uncertainty" means and how to communicate "uncertain science."
In collaboration with the Mellichamp Academic Initiative in Sustainability.
How to design communication strategies to promote engagement with the political process.
With Sean Hastings of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Jenna Driscoll from the Santa Barbara Channel Keeper, and staff from the office of Assemblymember Monique Limon.
How to translate your research for non-expert audiences and distribute it through the right channels.
With Tim Owens, former NPR correspondent (Washington, DC) and digital content producer.
Full Course Descriptions
Communication Core Courses: (8 units, required for focus)
ESM 440 Strategic Environmental Communication (4 units) Lisa Leombruni
Students begin their training with a deep dive into communication, persuasion, and decision-making science to understand how their audiences will process environmental messages. Students study the elements of compelling storytelling and practice adapting their message to diverse audiences. By mastering the art of good storytelling, students are well-equipped to specialize in any communication approach.
*Enrollment in ESM 440 requires an application and approval by the instructor.
ESM 449 Environmental Communication Practicum (4 units) Lisa Leombruni
Training effective environmental communicators requires the opportunity to practice working in an applied setting, something the focus has built into its framework. In this capstone course, students apply their knowledge and communication skills to develop and implement their own communication campaign for an environmental organization.
*Enrollment in ESM 449 requires approval by the instructor.
Communication Electives: (Minimum 4 units and 2 electives required to complete focus)
ESM 269 Survey Design and Environmental Public Opinion (2 units) Heather Hodges
For a communication campaign to be successful, one must first determine what type of message would be most compelling to a target audience. This course provides an essential toolkit for this audience research and impact evaluation. Students analyze the elements of successful survey design and implement these strategies in a survey they create themselves.
ESM 283 Environmental Negotiation (4 units) Staff
Due to the polarized nature of many environmental topics today, environmental leaders are continuously confronted by conflicting viewpoints and priorities. To help prepare students for this reality, this course trains them how to work with different stakeholders to reach mutually agreeable decisions.
ESM 430 Social Media for the Environment (1 unit) Lindsey Jurca & Matt King
In this hands-on workshop, students will learn best practices for increasing reach and effectiveness of messaging through targeted social media outreach. The workshop also covers how to identify target audiences and determine the best platforms to reach them with authentic, relevant messaging.
ESM 437 Writing Skills for Environmental Professionals (2 units) Lisa Leombruni
Effective communicators understand that strong writing skills and a well-structured argument are necessary to generate any form of compelling media or outreach. This course helps students become more comfortable with the writing process, giving them confidence in the power of their writing.
ESM 438 Presentation Skills for Environmental Professionals (4 units) Staff (currently not offered)
Students become adept presenters across a wide range of scenarios including project defenses, research conferences, and job interviews. After this course, students will have the skills and confidence to speak effectively in public.
EDS 240 Data Visualization and Communication (4 units) MEDS staff
Good environmental messaging often relies on facts and figures, but these tools are only effective if properly visualized. In this course, students gain exposure to different datasets and practice interpreting and presenting them for different audiences. This course is a part of the Master of Environmental Data Science program.
*Enrollment in EDS 240 requires approval by the instructor.
ESM 441 Environmental Media Production (2 units) Michael Hanrahan
With the growing popularity of video, the Communication focus provides students the opportunity to learn video production skills. Students learn the fundamentals of video production, including cinematography, lighting, sound, and editing. To gain confidence in media production, students work together to develop short, compelling videos on an environmental topic of their choice.
ESM 442 Communication for Civic Engagement & Grassroots Organizing (2 units) Heather Hodges
This is an exciting opportunity for students to gain practical exposure to a wide range of civic engagement surrounding the environment. Building upon lectures covering theoretical skills, students meet and learn from local environmental leaders across a broad spectrum of organizations.
ESM 296 Equity & the Environment (2 units) Lisa Leombruni
This seminar-style course will provide an overview and foundational understanding of environmental justice. We will start by examining different attempts to define “environmental justice” and review a brief history of approaches to understanding and applying environmental justice. We will also consider how communication and outreach can support environmental justice outcomes.