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Dr. Yiwen Chiu
Associate Professor

1 Grand Ave., Cal Poly
NRES 180-504
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
TEL: 805-756-2972
yichiu at

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Courses Related to Quantitative Sustainability


Quantitative analysis and communication are two specific skills we emphasize in QuantSus. Here you can find courses offered in Cal Poly aiming to enabling students these skills which will gradually build their competencies to engage in quantitative sustainability projects. You may visit Cal Poly SUSCAT (Sustainability Catalog) to find out other courses related to sustainability but not specifically addressing quantitative methods.

NR 314 Environmental LCA

Instructor: Dr. Yiwen Chiu

Originally was listed as NR 311 "Environmental Measurements and Interpretation" in the 2015-2017 Catalog, and revised in 2017 as NR 314 "Environmental Life-cycle Analysis" in order to better reflect the goal and scope of addressing life-cycle analysis  (LCA) in this course. 


This course aims to help students develop the quantitative skills to assess and interpret environmental impacts by adopting systematic and life-cycle thinking. The lecture will cover the concept and framework of life-cycle analysis (LCA), whereas the lab will allow students to gain hand-on experience to use LCA modeling tools. This course will enable students to quantitatively assess how anthropogenic activities can affect environmental sustainability. The course is divided into different phases addressing the ISO-14040 procedure to conduct LCA. Writing methods, proper citation, research ethics, and presentation skills are also highlighted in the course. Students are requested to conduct group projects by selecting an environmental topic interesting them. Each group will give a presentation sharing their findings. 


Ten weeks of lectures and labs, in which students will learn the concept of LCA aligning with computational tools to perform quantitative assessment. Students will carry out two primary group activities, including leading a discussion section to analyze a LCA case and present a group project. These activities will help students gain a better understanding on how to conduct a LCA project and communicate the results. Students will be evaluated based on their individual exam scores and the quality of their group projects.


Former students who successfully excelled in NR 314 were offered various opportunities to participate in on-campus research and internship programs. QuantSus has offered more than 12+ paid positions in two years allowing students to hone their LCA skills learned from NR 314 (NR 311). We will continue this pathway to fulfill Cal Poly's "learn-by-doing" motto. 

NR 218 Applications in GIS

Instructor: Multiple sessions available


This course aims to understand the principles of GIS and the core skills that can be applied to support various course work (i.e. senior projects and thesis projects). These commonly used GIS skills are also essential in many job positions requiring spatial analysis techniques. In general, class starts with a lecture followed by “hands on” activities. We will use ArcGIS Desktop, the most popular GIS program, made by Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). Although we will not be able to cover all the tools available in ArcGIS, the fundamental skills taught in this course will enable students to explore and learn additional skills confidently in the future as needed.


This can vary by different instructors. Overall, this is a 3-unit course consists of one session of lecture, and one lab activities. Each student can have access to one desktop to learn GIS concepts, techniques, and geospatial processes. Students are required to deliver a group project at the end of a quarter.

NR 418 Applied GIS

Instructor: Multiple sessions available


This is project-oriented course aims to comprehensively apply spatial analysis techniques you learned in (or equivalent to) NR 218 Applications in GIS. Students are expected to carry out self-defined group projects with specific goals and scopes to benefit particular groups of audiences or clients. As each group might select very different projects requiring various sets of geoprocessing tools, this course also emphasizes on a self-learning process. Students should make efforts, individually or as a team, to explore different geoprocessing tools or functionality required to conduct a selected project. This is to simulate real-world scenarios a student will experience if holding a GIS-related position. In general, each week’s lecture starts with a one-hour section introducing advanced spatial analysis skills and concepts. Students will then have four hours to practice on using new geoprocessing tools and work on their projects. The instructor will also assist each group to make reasonable progress each week on their projects. Although the assigned in-class exercise section will ensure students to spend adequate time to work on their projects as a group, students must expect spending additional time to study/practice/meet for this course after school. There will be one midterm and one final exam to test student’s ability in solving GIS problems. At the end of this quarter, each group will present their project and deliver a written report. In this course, students will be evaluated based on their work ethics, knowledge on spatial analysis, and project quality.


Students spend most of time to carry out their group projects to reflect the core value emphasizing "self-taught" and "self-learning" process. Instructors may introduce several advanced geoprocessing skills to support students' project. However, students learn intensively through the processes of discovering research questions, exploring feasible methods, compiling/reformatting data, managing project timeline, and engaging in teamwork.


Santa Rosa Creek Flood Inundation Map

Hydraulic Fracturing in Arkansas

Effects of Drought on Ecosystem Health in The Lake Almanor Area

Scott's Creek Erosion Prediction

Identifying Suitable Habitats for the California Red-Legged Frog

Estimated Solar Energy Potential of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Monterey Heights Fire Hazard Map

Correlation Between Human Movement and Animal Extinct Rates

Climate Change in Affecting Bark Beetles Outbreak in California

NR 445 Systems Thinking

Instructor: Dr. Yiwen Chiu

The full title of this course is "Systems thinking in environmental management" which was first offered in 2019 Winter as a typical 3+1 course (3-unit lecture and 1-unit lab). Due to the pandemic in early 2020, Dr. Yiwen Chiu decided to convert this course to an online course by adopting a format of so-called "Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)" or "virtual exchange (VE)." The first pioneer NR 445 in VE format will be launched in Fall 2020, with the Natioanl Chi-Nan University (NCNU) at Taiwan. For detailed information, please visit NR 445ve webpage. 

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Last update: Aug 7th, 2017 6:51 PM

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