Research Opportunities

As a Polytechnic Institution, Cal Poly is actively involved in both discipline specific and interdisciplinary research on sustainability as it relates to numerous fields of study.  Use these resources to learn about research at Cal Poly and to connect with other faculty working on sustainability.

Research Tools

Cal Poly Climate Change Listserv

This email listserv focuses on teaching, learning, research, and outreach related to climate issues, providing communication between various groups across campus and helping us to break out of our respect silos. Please email Erin Pearse ( to be added to the group.

Central Coast Climate Collaborative

The Central Coast Climate Collaborative is a membership organization fostering a network of local and regional community leaders throughout six Central Coast counties to address climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Collaborative involves representatives from local and regional government, business and agriculture, academia, and diverse community groups to share information and best practices, leverage efforts and resources and identify critical issues and needs. The Collaborative will engage all communities throughout the region to help ensure a resilient and low-carbon Central Coast prepared for the impacts of climate change. Collaborative will engage with other collaboratives throughout the state.To learn more about 4C visit

Digital Commons

DigitalCommons @ CalPoly promotes discovery, research, cross-disciplinary collaboration and instruction by collecting, preserving and providing access to scholarly work created at Cal Poly. Enter a keyword search for a sustainability-related topic to locate research conducted by Cal Poly faculty. The digital commons was launched in 2008 and is growing rapidly.

Cal Poly Land

The Cal Poly Land website, created by an interdisciplinary faculty team, has supported GE courses such as "Cal Poly Land: Nature, Technology and Society". It describes a range of topics related to Cal Poly's land holdings and their use for educational purposes.

Organic Farm

The Cal Poly Organic Farm (CPOF) provides students and the community a place to experience and explore organic and sustainable farming and gardening techniques. Furthermore, it serves as a classroom and laboratory to several Cal Poly courses and research programs. Faculty, staff and students jointly manage and steward the farm. The farm is also supported by grants, community members, the Horticulture and Crop Science Department and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

Swanton Pacific Ranch

Swanton Pacific Ranch is a working 3,200 acre ranch on the California coast just north of Santa Cruz. The property was donated by Cal Poly alum and Orchard Supply Hardware founder Al Smith in 1993. The ranch serves as a laboratory for sustainable forestry, watershed management, organic agriculture, and livestock management. The ranch is utilized for field trips, short courses, academic coursework, senior projects, live-in internships, and research projects.

Library Research Guide

The Kennedy Library's sustainability research guide is intended to help students doing research on topics related to sustainability across disciplines.

Research Centers and Institutes

Initiative for Climate Leadership and Resilience

Initiative for Climate Leadership and Resilience (ICLR) exists to facilitate collaboration among donors, industry partners, different campus departments, and our global community to create a future workforce that can produce climate solutions. The foundational skills to lead the necessary work of developing climate resilience are teachable, and our students are uniquely qualified with the ability and passion to lead the way. Resilience is built through human adaptation to climate change and we provide interdisciplinary, hands-on, Learn by Doing educational experiences focused specifically on responding to climate change. Cal Poly’s robust portfolio of high-impact research centers and firmly established brand of top-tier polytechnic education uniquely position it to provide leadership in developing applied climate solutions and to train the climate professionals of tomorrow.

CAFES Center for Sustainability

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) launched the CAFES Center for Sustainability in Winter 2010. The new center serves as a catalyst for new curricula, educational programs, and research that address sustainability topics in agriculture and environmental stewardship. The center brings increased awareness and support to many of the College's existing initiatives in sustainability, such as its programs for soil and water conservation, organic fruit and vegetables, insect pest bio-control, grass-fed beef and lamb, composting, xerophytic landscaping, sustainable viticulture and forestry, and Fair Trade chocolates. The center also provides a CAFES link to University-wide sustainability efforts, making it easier for students, staff and faculty to forge and cultivate interdisciplinary collaborations.

California Center for Construction Education

The California Center for Construction Education is an educational outreach unit designed to provide practitioner education, applied research services, and consultation to the design and construction industry in the state of California and to serve the community at large as a national clearinghouse for industry leadership, knowledge, technology, and innovation.  This initiative focuses on seeking to educate decision makers in the construction industry about how the global and local drivers of sustainability are likely to affect their decisions.

Cal Poly Irrigation Training & Research Center

The Cal Poly ITRC is a center of excellence housed within the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering (BRAE) Department.  The first commitment of ITRC is to enhance Cal Poly's strong irrigation teaching program through outside activities in training, research, and technical support.  Irrigation faculty members comprise the board of directors; an industry advisory board provides guidance and support.  ITRC has been a major innovator in water-related peak load reduction and electrical energy conservation for the California Energy Commission, utilities, and others.

Electric Power Institute

The Electric Power Institute at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California has been promoting power engineering education and research since its establishment in 1971.  EPI serves as an interface between the university and the electric power industry and also serves as a center for electric power oriented activity within the university. The Power Quality Technology Center is part of the EPI and is involved with power quality research.

Environmental Biotechnology Institute

The mission of the Environmental Biotechnology Institute (EBI) is to develop and apply biological tools to address environmental concerns and discover new resources through collaborative interdisciplinary research and education.  Biotechnology can be used to assess the well-being of ecosystems, transform pollutants into benign substances, generate biodegradable substances from renewable resources and develop environmentally safe manufacturing and disposal processes.

Global Waste Research Institute

In 2009, the Cal Poly College of Engineering announced the establishment of the Global Waste Research Institute (GWRI) , a collaborative effort between Cal Poly and industry to promote the development of sustainable waste treatment technologies and advance current practices in resource management.  Funded by an initial $1 million grant from Waste Connections, Inc., the Institute will engage faculty and students in projects that investigate all aspects of wastes and byproducts from initial generation to final disposal.

Resilient Communities Research Institute

Resilient Communities Research Institute (RCRI) in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) is an applied research unit devoted to advancing the application of knowledge and practice that improves the quality and safety of the built environment.  The RCRI assembles faculty, supervised students and professional affiliates to work on projects of faculty interest and community and professional need, focusing on the built and ecological environments and the factors that shape them.  Past projects have included development of climate action plans for the City of Benecia and the City of San Luis Obispo, and development of a comprehensive and linked "Green Experimentation Grounds" including Poly Canyon, courtyards, rooftops, the Solar Decathlon house and the solar cooled Hay House.

The Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy

The Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy mission is to develop and promote practical solutions to real-world problems by informing and driving public policy through advanced technology. Interdisciplinary teams of students, faculty, industry leaders and policy experts adept at removing barriers apply technology to craft practical yet transformative solutions ripe for implementation.

Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute

The Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute (UFEI) was developed by the Natural Resources Management Department to address the increasing need for improved management of the urban forests in California.  The purpose of the institute at Cal Poly is to provide a center for Applied Research, Extension and Technology Transfer, and Community Service and Outreach Programs assisting landowners and public agencies in improving the management of urban forests.  The scope of UFEI ranges across the full spectrum of forest settings -- from the inner-city forests to remote semi-developed forests.  The institute is designed to work in co-operation with other universities, government agencies and private consulting firms.  Project work is accomplished through an interdisciplinary approach with the NRM Department representing the core group of disciplines at Cal Poly.