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UC San Diego Extension Launches New Certificate in Sustainability and Behavior Change


One of this century’s most critical tasks is encouraging people to adopt new habits for the sake of the environment. UC San Diego Extension is proud to announce a new Specialized Certificate in Sustainability and Behavior Change, which will help create a new generation of experts who can build successful projects and programs that foster awareness and behavior change.

Students in the program will explore a range of topics that will help them understand why people behave in certain ways. Drawing on lessons from behavioral science, students will learn which methods are most effective in promoting behavior change, whether it’s using less air conditioning, biking to work instead of driving, or cutting back on lawn watering.

The four online courses required to complete the certificate are Conservation Psychology; Behavior Change Strategies for Sustainability; Community Engagement; and a Behavior Change Capstone Project.

“There are so many professionals – whether they work in business or government or the non-profit sector – who recognize the importance of environmental protection and sustainability,” said Dr. Wesley Schultz, who will oversee the new program.

Schultz added: “This course is really about giving people the tools and the background to create and implement effective conservation and sustainability programs.”

Lisa McDonald, a wildlife conservation specialist at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada, used the lessons she learned in the UC San Diego Extension program to start a cell phone recycling program at the zoo. The aim of the program was two-fold. The first goal was to protect gorillas in the wild by limiting the demand for coltan, a mineral used in cell phones that often is mined near gorilla populations in Africa. Second, the program looked to reduce the number of cell phones in landfills to prevent the phones’ chemicals from seeping into the earth and groundwater.

The program was such a success that the Calgary Zoo has incorporated it as part of its larger conservation efforts.

"I'm incredibly excited that my coursework helped us take the right steps to making this happen,” McDonald said. "It's really changed how I view my work."

Those who can benefit from obtaining this certificate include:

  • Professionals who manage environmental programs and campaigns.

  • Government employees working on environmental protection projects or programs.

  • Employees and educators at informal education institutions, including zoos and aquariums.

  • Community volunteers and activists interested in working to promote community engagement and sustainability.

  • Business professionals interested in understanding consumer behavior and promoting corporate behavior change.


  • Conservation Psychology: Co-taught by Dr. Kayla Cranston, postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University, and Dr. Wesley Schultz, professor of psychology and dean of Graduate Studies and Research at California State University San Marcos.

  • Behavior Change Strategies for Sustainability: Jennifer Tabanico, owner of Action Research, a consulting firm that specializes in changing behavior for the public good by applying marketing and social science research to outreach programs that promote clean, healthy and sustainable communities. Her firm works with clients all over the world and has offices in New York and Oceanside, Calif.

  • Community Engagement: Dr. James Danoff-Burg, a research scientist at California State University San Marcos and researcher at New Knowledge Organization in New York City. Danoff-Burg helps cultural, educational, research, health, environmental and media organizations expand programs in ways that increase social knowledge, pro-environmental action and ecological harmony. Danoff-Burg is dedicated to finding creative science-based conservation and education solutions for nonprofits, zoos, aquariums and other organizations committed to improving and safeguarding our world.

For more information, call UC San Diego Extension at 858-534-9351 or go to