For Professionals and Educators

For Professionals and Educators

The outreach effort at the Earth Institute recognizes and serves the needs of teachers in our communities. Our programs are uniquely designed to assist science teachers, offering new methodologies in science teaching, up-to-the-minute coursework and hands-on training at our research facilities. In addition to providing stimulating programs for teachers, the Earth Institute also seeks to enhance the education of professionals who are engaged in, or who seek, careers in Earth and environment-related fields. The Earth Institute is continually developing its professional studies courses and encourages you to return to this site often to check for information on new offerings.

Custom Designed Executive Education:

The Earth Institute also offers custom-designed executive education programs for organizations seeking sustainability training. Programs have been developed for the World Economic Forum and ICF International, among others. For more information please email Alison Miller, deputy executive director, at

Programs for Professionals:

Certificate Program in Conservation & Environmental Sustainability

EICES offers a comprehensive certificate program for the working professional who is looking to expand his or her knowledge of conservation biology without enrolling in a graduate program. Courses meet evenings during the year.

Summer Ecosystem Experiences for Undergraduates

The Summer Ecosystem Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U) program provides undergraduate students of all majors with a global understanding of ecology and environmental sustainability. The SEE-U program gives you the opportunity to participate in a combination of lectures and labs, while conducting environmental fieldwork in unique natural settings around the world.

International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society

The IRI works to accelerate the ability of societies worldwide to cope with climate fluctuations, providing on-site and off-site training courses to forecast users. Queries may be directed to .

Programs for Educators:


Bring cutting-edge research into your classroom: The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) has created a unique science, math and technology learning resource for K-12 students, teachers and administrators. On-site teacher training, workshops by LDEO scientists and an innovative Web-based component help teachers develop K-12 activities that relate directly to "real world” problems and questions.

Science Teachers Enhance the Future (STEF)

The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in collaboration with St. Thomas Aquinas College's teacher education program, offers a summer workshop to gather and train teacher-mentors in earth science. Workshops take place at St. Thomas Aquinas College. For more information, email Dr. Pearl Solomon at .

Science Teacher Environmental Education Program

The Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) offers a new and innovative 5-week program in biodiversity in the lower Hudson River Valley for science teachers. A hands-on course designed for K-12 teachers.


Learning can be fun and teaching made much easier with the help of CD-ROMS and other interactive educational tools produced by scientists at Columbia University and its partner institutions. Some of these resources are available to download, free of charge. Browse our listings and check back for new arrivals.

The Digital Library for Earth Systems Education (DLESE)

Visit Site

DLESE is a national effort to identify, develop, evaluate, and disseminate excellent resources for teaching and learning about the Earth and environment. Three branches of this distributed effort are based at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Education Strategies: Teaching Earth Systems Science:

Many research scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University prepare popular science articles to educate the general public about their recent publications. These can be found at:
Online Learning modules

Interactive coursework modules from astronomy to meteorology are available for teaching. Download, free of charge.

The American Museum of Natural History has invited GISS to contribute to the development of a CD-ROM title to teach middle school students about the greenhouse effect. This educational product is being prepared by Tom Snyder Productions.

The International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society

IRI is a scientific institute that works to accelerate the ability of societies worldwide to cope with climate fluctuations.

The downloadable software tools currently available can be found here.

The IRI also offers learning products and tools in modular formats that allow for tailored packaging of relevant information around targeted problems or sectors.

Archived IRI publications are available to the general public as well.

Metropolitan East Coasts Climate Change Assessment Education at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)

Software, data, and lesson plans that enable students and teachers to explore the potential impacts of climate change on the metropolitan east coast region using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). DownloadDownloads, free of charge.

Healthy Home, Healthy Child

The Center for Children's Environmental Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health seeks to increase community awareness of environmental hazards to children. Healthy Home, Healthy Child, offers valuable information that can be found here.

Science Teachers Enhance the Future (STEF)

The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), in collaboration with St. Thomas Aquinas College's teacher education program, offers the Earth2Class workshops to gather and train teacher-mentors in earth science. Workshops take place at LDEO and may be eligible for partial support and graduate credit from St. Thomas Aquinas College.

For more information, email Dr. Robert Searson at

E-Seminars & eBriefings

E-Seminars are state-of-the-art learning experiences developed at Columbia University by distinguished faculty members working closely with Digital Knowledge Venture's instructional technology staff. Three to five hours in length, these in-depth multimedia e-seminars are free to Columbia students, faculty, and staff.

If you are not a member of the Columbia staff, faculty, or student body, but are interested in reviewing the e-seminar library, please register for a free trial subscription at Columbia Educational Resources Online.

eBriefings are produced by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), and through a special arrangement, non-NYAS-member visitors to the Earth Institute website are invited to "listen in" on NYAS proceedings by exploring multimedia presentations of NYAS conferences, symposia, and meetings.

Read highlights of the talks, or drill deeper to complete reports, audio/slide presentations, and background resources.


Graduate Global Classroom 

The graduate-level global classroom: “Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development Practice” provides students with a general introduction to the cross-disciplinary knowledge and skills required of a development practitioner.  Offered simultaneously at universities around the world, students have the opportunity to learn from expert practitioners by viewing on-demand lectures available from the course website and participating in “live” weekly discussions.  Course topics are grounded in a practical, cross-disciplinary approach that focus on the inter-relationships between the core issues including poverty, health, nutrition, economics, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, climate change, ethics and community participation.  Both conceptual and practical management issues are stressed throughout each course topic. State-of-the-art web-based technologies are used to enable the sharing of lectures across countries and the facilitation of global discussion and collaboration among students at participating universities. Columbia’s Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) supports the interactive, web-based components of the course including the development of electronic learning resources and the lecture videos
First offered in January 2008 with participation of approximately 240 students from 11 universities and one development organization, the course includes live discussions with some of the world’s best known development experts, including Helene Gayle (President and CEO of CARE), Freddie Kwesiga (Coordinator, African Water Facility, African Development Bank), Lee Yee Cheong (President, ASEAN Academy of Engineering and Technology), RK Pachauri (Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Jim Yong Kim (Co-founder, Partners in Health), among others. 

Jeffrey Sachs and John McArthur serve as lead faculty for the course, which will be offered each fall semester through the School of International and Public Affairs.

Dinosaurs and the History of Life

E-Seminar 1, Prelude to the Dinosaurs

E-Seminar 2, The Triassic and the Origin of Dinosaurs

Taught by Paul E. Olsen

Paul E. OlsenDinosaurs dominated Earth for 160 million years, beginning 245 million years ago. They are fierce and fascinating animals, celebrities of our natural-history museums, and have much to teach us about our own world. Paul E. Olsen, professor of geological sciences at Columbia University, takes us on a journey through time and evolution to explore the dinosaurs and ancient Earth. With Olsen's guidance, we learn what dinosaurs can teach us about earth sciences, time, the history of life, and our own place in history. The world of the dinosaurs is a natural experiment for predicting our future, and their descendants are still with us.


Darwin, Mendel, and the Diversity of Life

Taught by Donald J. Melnick

Donald J. MelnickThe reclusive monk Gregor Mendel harvested from his garden of pea plants a system of quantifying and predicting heredity in an organism. His contemporary Charles Darwin traveled the world by ship, assembling from his observations and specimens an understanding of how the environment shapes inherited traits. In the 150 years since the time of Darwin and Mendel, biologists have built on their discoveries a detailed understanding of how the enormous diversity of species we see on Earth came to be and how species change and are changed by their environments. In this lecture, Donald J. Melnick, Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation and a professor in Columbia's departments of anthropology and biological sciences, explores the genius of these two scientists, from their influences and experiences to how their perspectives and methods shape modern science.


How Your Brain Works—Or Not!

Taught by Darcy B. Kelley

Darcy B. KelleyA typical human brain is about six and half inches long and four inches tall. Into this organ are packed something like a hundred billion nerve cells. The way that these neurons connect to each other and how they behave when they are active and not active determines pretty much everything about human behavior: how we see the world, how we move, how we think, whether we are hungry, happy, or sad. Our brains even determine the most subtle aspects of our personality, such as exuberance, timidity, optimism, or pessimism. How your brain works, and some of the ways in which it might not be working so well, are the subjects of this lecture by Darcy Kelley, Professor of Biological Sciences. Professor Kelley has recently been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor—Columbia's first—and will receive a million-dollar grant for an initiative to involve undergraduates in cutting-edge scientific research.


Brain to Brain: Animal Communication—E-Seminar 1, Scents and Sensibility

Taught by Darcy B. Kelley

BrainHave you ever wondered how animals of the same species find each other, how they understand one another, or how animal brains make sense of all the noises, smells, and other signals they encounter? Darcy B. Kelley, Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, leads us into the world of the brain to explore how it generates and processes the varied signals used in the fascinating world of animal communication.

In this e–seminar, the first in a series of four, Professor Kelley gives a tour of brain anatomy and shows how nerve cells communicate with each other. She then explores how the fascinating signals of pheromones are used and sensed in the animal kingdom, and whether there is any likelihood that we, too, are lured to one another by odors we can't "smell." Kelley elucidates these concepts using up–to–date research information and state–of–the–art animation, imagery, text, and reading materials.


Earth's Variable Climate

Taught by Joe Ortiz

Joe OrtizWhat forces drive climate change? The objective of this e-seminar will be to provide class participants with an introduction to some of the factors (both natural and human-induced) that drive climate change on a variety of time scales. In the first section of the e-seminar, Dr. Ortiz will discuss processes that drive climate change on time scales ranging from the seasonal cycle to variations in Earth's orbital geometry. In the second section, a study of the Monsoon system serves as an example of how some of these climatic-forcing functions interact. On seasonal time scales, Monsoon circulation systems in Africa, India, and Asia are driven by the thermal contrast between land and sea. Likewise, during times in the geologic past when orbital parameters maximized seasonal contrast, enhanced Monsoon systems existed. This effect has been successfully simulated with global climate models (GCMs) and observed using geologic data such as lake level records. During the final section of the e-seminar, Dr. Ortiz will provide students with the context needed to help class participants begin an exploration of the issue of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change as they read through a recent article by a world expert on the subject, Dr. James Hansen of NASA GISS.

Material presented on the class website includes numerous links to climate-related web materials and thought-provoking "challenge questions" related to climate materials presented during the workshop.


Environmental Sustainability: Perspectives on the World

Taught by: Marc Levy

Marc LevyProfessor Mark Levy leads an exploration of the many facets of environmental sustainability, taught in conference-style format with the perspectives of nine Columbia University faculty members associated with the Center International Earth Science Information Network.


How Predictable Are Natural Disasters?

Taught by: Art Lerner-Lam

Art Lerner-LamEarthquakes, volcanoes and other natural hazards have the potential to significantly affect human lives and society. In this e-seminar, Dr. Art Lerner-Lam (pictured left) will focus on types of natural hazards and their impact on human societies, as well as the impact of human society on the Earth. The first section of the e-seminar will consider the definitions of natural hazards and natural disasters, characterize types of natural hazards, and examine the direct and indirect impacts of natural disasters on human society. In the second section, Dr. Lerner-Lam examines the differences between hazard, a process with potential human impacts, and risk, the product of hazard and accumulated human assets. The final section will focus on the science of predicting hazards and risks. The e-seminar will also ask the question of whether natural hazards can be predicted and will examine the two types of study, empirical and model-based, by which such predictions are made.


Medical Ecology: Environmental Disturbance and Disease

E-Seminar 1: Normal Environment: How Things Got This Way

E-Seminar 2: Normal Environment: The Way Things Are Now

E-Seminar 3: Normal Environment: Stratospheric Problems

E-Seminar 4:Atmosphere: Problems at Ground Level

E-Seminar 5: Water: It's Not Just H2O

E-Seminar 6: Waterborne Infections

E-Seminar 7: Food: Land Use and Health Risks

Taught by: Dickson Despommier

Dickson DespommierIn an age characterized by a rapidly changing environment, in which emerging and re-emerging diseases continue to confront us, how can we predict the next major threats to human health? Are we, in fact, aiding the spread of disease by destroying the barriers that keep us from it? In his seven e-seminars on Medical Ecology: Environmental Disturbance and Disease, Columbia Professor of Public Health and Microbiology Dickson Despommier illuminates the connections between the disruption of ecosystems and eruptions of human disease. In this first of the e-seminar series, Normal Environment: How Things Got This Way, Despommier explains the interconnectedness of life on earth by exploring the evolution of life itself, and the cycles of nutrients that link us to all the other life on the planet.

Minimal prior knowledge of science is required for this course, including basic concepts of atoms, molecules, and cells.


eBriefings from the New York Academy of Sciences

State of the Planet 2006 Conference

sop 2006The question posed by the Earth Institute's fourth biennial State of the Planet conference, "Is sustainable development feasible?," evidently resonated forcefully among the burgeoning communities concerned with sustainable development issues: it drew more than 1300 people to Columbia University in March 2006 for a two-day, international, marathon event that featured twenty-four speakers, four of them keynoters, and five panel discussions. The speakers, experts at the top of their fields, came not only to contribute to but to learn from the proceedings. No one person could command the breadth of knowledge that was pooled.

Speaker list includes Jeffrey D. Sachs, Mark Malloch Brown, Peter Singer, Abbey Joseph Cohen, Sir Partha DasGupta, Nicholas D. Kristof, Rajendra K. Pachauri, and many more.


Africa's Green Revolution: An Update on the UN MIllennium Program

green revolution graphicOn September 14, 2005, investigators with a wealth of expertise in diverse disciplines gathered at the New York Academy of Sciences for an update on the UN Millennium Project. This project, led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs at the the Earth Institute, was established in 2002 to create a global plan whereby the UN MDGs could be reached by 2015. The Millennium Project coordinates work at the local, national, and international levels, focusing on science and technology to improve the lives and environment of millions of Africans. "It can be done," said Pedro Sanchez, who organized the event, invoking a phrase that would be echoed many times throughout the evening.

Pedro Sanchez, Co-Chair, Hunger Task Force, Millennium Project; Director, Tropical Agriculture Program, The Earth Institute, Columbia University
Glen L. Denning, Associate Director, Tropical Agriculture Program, The Earth Institute
Charity Ngilu, Ministry of Health, Republic of Kenya
Cheryl Palm, Director, The Millennium Villages Project, The Earth Institute


The Slow-Motion Tsunami: How Climate Change Could Change the World

Climate Change GraphicTwo of the world's leading climate scientists lend urgency to the story of climate change, which has been described as a "modern" problem — complicated, involving the entire world, tangled up with difficult issues such as poverty, economic development, and population growth.

Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)


Why Worry? The Threat of Abrupt Climate Change

Climate GraphicFrom the cover stories of popular science magazines to the content of popular Hollywood movies, the possibility of abrupt, catastrophic climate change has stirred the public imagination. But how real is the threat? At NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Gavin A. Schmidt and Ronald L. Miller are attempting to answer that question by creating climate models, testing them against evidence from historical climate records, and then using the models in an effort to predict the climate of the future.


Turning Choices into Success: Women in Science

Women & Science graphicStep into a university microbiology lab and you are likely to see plenty of female faces. The head of the laboratory, however, is five times more likely to be male than female. Top-echelon female scientists are still the exception rather than the norm, while the majority of women swell the lower ranks of science.

This meeting included presentations from Robin Bell, director of the Earth Institute's ADVANCE Program; Vita C. Rabinowitz, chair of the department of psychology at Hunter College; Tasha N. Sims, co-founder and chair of Future Science Educators; and Barbara Gerolimatos, director of scientific affairs for the Pfizer Women's Health/Depo-Provera Team.


Lackner Comments on Hydrogen Proposal

Klaus LacknerKlaus S. Lackner, the Ewing Worzel Professor of Physics in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, the Earth Institute, Columbia University, responds to the proposals of Amory B. Lovins, cofounder and CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). After agreeing that "things will have to change, business as usual will not work," owing mainly to the need to curb carbon dioxide emissions, Lackner raises a number of issues that he believes proponents of the hydrogen economy should consider.


Malaria in Africa : Why the Stakes Could Not Be Higher

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University

MosquitosEarth Institute Director Jeffrey D. Sachs says that, when he began advising African governments a decade ago, he knew little about malaria. But "malaria was ever present, and it became a bit of an obsession for me, because it's hard to think about economic development in Africa without thinking about how to control malaria." During this lecture, Sachs addresses the complexity behind this disease that claims 1 million lives a year.


Ending Hunger in Africa The UN Millennium Goals

Pedro SanchezIn a talk that ranges from global strategies to the literally down-to-earth matter of soils, Pedro Sanchez, Director of Tropical Agriculture at the Earth Institute, delivers a comprehensive account of factors that converge on combating hunger in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to the eBriefings listed above, the NYAS' Environmental Sciences Channel lists many additional eBriefings and upcoming events on climate change and other critical topics.