Geography & Earth Science

William Selby at the Golden Gate BridgeThis web site was designed to serve my students, colleagues and others interested in an introduction to Geography, Earth, Atmospheric, and Environmental Science. You will find some information about me and example syllabi that illustrate the general nature of my courses. You may also look through a list of interesting Internet resources for current satellite, map and other data sets. You might notice some of these sites are outdated since I am retiring in 2015 after more than 30 years teaching at SMC. Still, they offer a glimpse of what was a wonderful career here and I will continue to follow a path toward new learning opportunities and adventure in this amazing world.          

In addition to my classes, we recently unveiled a major update and 3rd edition of Rediscovering the Golden State: California Geography. It is published by John Wiley and Sons at . We are also developing a supporting web page without rivals: Visualizing California: Finding a Sense of Place and Purpose in the Golden State at .

Each year, dozens of our students majoring in geography and environmental studies transfer to and then eventually graduate from top universities and many become employed in those or related fields. In addition to a variety of our regular geography courses, our program includes GIS courses and past field learning opportunities that are summarized below. 

In Fall 2014 we surveyed coastal processes that are shaping landscapes from Malibu to Pt. Mugu, hiked into Zuma Canyon and checked on the progress at the NPS restoration site where we years before helped replant native habitats. Additional thanks to all who helped make our one-day magic bus trip through L.A.'s cultural landscapes another successful learning experience. We are especially more than grateful to our friends at Whitewater Preserve for accommodating such a large group for our big weekend in the desert where we explored colorful rock formations and learned about some of the resilient plants that survive there. Their weekend of wildlife workshops were especially informative while several bighorn sheep put on a show on the cliff above our campsite.              

Last Spring 2014 we completed another one-day cultural tour of L.A.. We also planted hundreds of natives at the Malibu Lagoon restoration site before exploring into Malibu Canyon and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Visitor Center. Our big weekend learning experience was at Wind Wolves Preserve (Wildlands Conservancy). There, we helped the Conservancy eradicate those non-native invasive weeds that are crowding out the natives and we used The Willows as our base camp to explore the natural history of mysterious San Emigdio Canyon and the surrounding mountains.    

Fall 2013, we spent a full weekend at the UC Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab near Convict Lake where we studied the geology and geologic history, weather and climate, hydrology, plants and animals, and discovered other natural history lessons displayed throughout the Sierra Nevada and Basin and Range. We also went into the field for two one-day trips to explore local physical and human geography landscapes that included the Malibu coast and Santa Monica Mountains and our Cultural L.A. trip.        

Spring 2013, our students joined Life Sciences for our weekend at Morro Bay and the Central Coast, studying the marine biology, geology, weather and climate, and plants and animals that included elephant seals, sea otter, the exceptional geology and tide pools of Montana de Oro and other natural history of the region. Our one-day trips included the famous Vasquez Rocks formation and Devil's Punchbowl and our traditional cultural trip through L.A.'s diverse neighborhoods.       

Our big event for the Fall 2012 semester was a long weekend using Kings Canyon National Park as our base camp. We explored and studied the glacial topography, waterfalls, weather and climate, plant communities (including the largest trees on earth), and some human history of the Sierra Nevada. Our day-long hike into the wilderness and to Mist Falls and our encounter with an acorn-grazing and beehive-hunting black bear ranked high among our many memorable learning adventures. Our one-day trips included the natural history of the Santa Monica Mountains and our cultures of L.A. trip. During Spring 2012, we explored and studied the natural history of Morro Bay and the Central Coast for one weekend. There was a total of nearly 100 students that included Life Science, marine biology professors Ed Tarvyd and Garen Baghdasarian and other faculty and staff that included birders such as Roger Cobb and company. We also explored the natural history of the Santa Monica Mountains at the top of Castro Crest above Solstice Canyon. Our traditional one-day Eat Your Way Through L.A. tour introduced our students to more than 11 different cultural neighborhoods that help make L.A. the most diverse city in the world. We also continued into the 10th year of our Environmental and Urban Issues Lectures Series.          

Fall 2011 kept our geography faculty and students busy within our wide variety of courses on campus. Our field experiences included an amazing weekend in the San Jacinto Mountains and surrounding desert. We experienced temperature variations of more than 60 degrees as we learned about the natural and human history of the Peninsular Ranges, including a long hike into the mountain wilderness to Suicide Rock, and many informative stops on our road trip that included 1000 Palms Oasis on the San Andreas Fault in the baking Coachella Valley. We also spent a weekend helping the National Park Service with their bee surveys in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Spring 2011 Explorations and Learning Opportunities
Besides our regular geography courses, we always offer some exceptional field learning opportunities for our students. In spring 2011 we used four Saturdays to demonstrate the diversity of southern California landscapes and learning opportunities within a one-day radius. These included one coastal, one mountain, one desert and one urban trip, each within one Saturday. In addition to our geography and environmental studies courses, students have been invited to participate in some special learning projects and field trips that have included cultural L.A., and in various national parks with the National Park Service (thank you Susan Teel). Our students also produced two excellent films documenting our discoveries. Click Geog 35 above for my most recent field course.

Fall 2010
In addition to our variety of regular geography classroom and laboratory learning experiences, our Fall 2010 field experiences included a survey of the Santa Monica Mountains' highest peak (Sandstone Peak), and a trip over the San Gabriel Mountains to Vasquez Rocks and Devil's Punchbowl. We also joined our friends and colleagues in Life Sciences to Morro Bay and our Central Coast to learn about coastal processes and marine biology. I was also lucky to lead other activities that included another successful Eat Your Way Through L.A. Cultural Field Trip for faculty, staff and students and another session for the Topanga Docents.

In summer 2010, two of my most rewarding travel adventures kept me in the USA, but offered very different learning opportunities. After exploring some Sierra Nevada high country wilderness, I jumped into the excitement of New York City and State, including visits across Long Island and to Niagara Falls. Shorter trips to coastal, mountain, and desert locations within California included my first Padres game in downtown San Diego's PetCo Park.

During the spring 2010, our students learned within our traditional classroom and laboratory settings, but we also studied in the Santa Monica Mountains and worked with the National Park Service at Joshua Tree National Park. In 2009, we were in the Yucatan studying geography and anthropology with 32 students during the winter. I was fortunate to work on my research projects during spring. Summer 2009 began with a memorable learning experience with my colleagues in Turkey, followed by continued research in California that included separate trips to the Sierra Nevada and northeastern parts of the state. In addition to my regular geography courses during the 2009 fall semester, we returned to Channel Islands National Park with Susan Teel and the National Park Service at the UC Research Station to study rare birds and other island ecology that make Santa Cruz Island unique. We also returned to our field work in the Santa Monica Mountains.

For more summaries of past field experiences, click here... (Read More).