Students participating in research activity.

About Us

Climate change is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced, and it will be the defining challenge for the next generation.

To meet this challenge, ICLR is building the Institute for Climate Leadership and Resilience, an organization that will train the next generation of climate leaders for these emergent careers, increase regional resilience on the Central Coast, and make Cal Poly a recognized climate leader in higher education. Cal Poly’s contribution is crucial, and so is yours:

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.

Cal Poly has many highly-regarded faculty experts working on climate policy and socio-economic impacts, sustainable technologies, climate-smart agriculture and alternative energy, locally and around the world. Cal Poly offers an ideal location due to (i) agricultural, fishery and ecological diversity within many microclimates, (ii) abundant open space, (iii) a diverse socio-economic demographic, (iv) forward-thinking local government, (v) an environmentally-engaged populace, and (vi) proximity to major metropolitan areas in spite of an essentially rural character.


Service Learning Projects

ICLR coordinates with local jurisdictions to identify projects with components that fit well into existing courses, following the EPIC model. This allows city, county, or other entities to leverage no-cost student work to complete local climate change and sustainability projects, and provides a rich learning experience for the student while producing valuable deliverables for the client entity.

Projects may include:

  • Outreach and education for electrification of buildings
  • Outreach and education for incentive programs for energy reduction
  • Development of EV Readiness Strategy
  • Climate action planning and resilience planning activities
  • Environmental justice and vulnerability assessments

stock images. students participating in research activity.

Example Service Learning Projects

Significant opportunities exist for potential repurposing uses of the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Oil Refinery, according to preliminary analysis conducted by ICLR and commissioned by the Central Coast Economic Recovery Initiative (ERI).  The analysis was produced by two separate student-led projects at Cal Poly, and explored a half dozen different repurposing uses for the Phillips 66 facility that is slated for closure in 2023. Potential reuses analyzed for the site include desalination, green hydrogen generation, grid-scale battery storage, plastics recycling, an anaerobic digester for organic waste, and conservation. Read the full story at

  • Repurposing Phillips 66: Conceptual Desalination Environmental Constraints Analysis

    This project focused specifically on opportunities and constraints related to converting the Phillips 66 facility to a desalination plant. This group performed a preliminary site feasibility analysis for a potential desalination plant including identification of constraints related to the environmental review, permitting, and regulatory agency approval process (CEQA). They considered a 30 to 80 million gallon reverse osmosis treatment plant, which could supply enough water for as many as 375,000 to a million homes, respectively. You can review their report here.
    The group consisted of students in the Natural Resources course NRES 425, led by Professor Sarah Spann of the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department.


  • Repurposing Phillips 66: Conceptual Multipurpose Site Redevelopment Analysis
    This project provides a redevelopment analysis of several potential repurposing uses for the Phillips 66 facility. The resulting deliverable is a promotional document highlighting five different repurposing uses. You can review their report here.
    This research group consisted of five students in the Environmental Design course EDES 408, taught by Architecture Professor Jonathan Reich and Landscape Architecture Professor Joe Ragsdale.

Focused Research Projects

ICLR coordinates interdisciplinary student-faculty teams working outside of existing courses on specific research projects.

Example projects:

  • Optimal Offset CalculatorThis tool was developed for the SLO County Air Pollution to be used by local developers who need to purchase carbon credits or fund sequestration projects. This project was brought to ICLR by the SLO County APCD
  • Resilient Energy Assessment (REA). A tool for educating city staffers, council members, and concerned community members about the resilience and economic benefits of microgrids (solar + storage energy solutions that can operate independently during a power outage), including technical, financial, and regulatory aspects. The REA is designed to allow decision-makers to envision the possibilities for resilient energy in their community and provide avenues for pursuing projects, thereby creating project champions. This project was brought to ICLR by the SLO Climate Coalition.
  • Micro-Community Collaboratives (MCC) program. A community-based outreach and education program that promotes social equity, community resilience, and sustainable behaviors at a neighbourhood, block, or even apartment buildings level. MCC leverages existing platforms and works through affinity groups and existing community structures (e.g., churches and service organizations). This project was brought to ICLR by the SLO Climate Coalition.
  • Microgrid UBI. This project is to design a business plan and financial model for a nonprofit (or B-corporation) that could provide solar power to a large business through a power-purchase agreement, and then return profits to a subset of the local underserved population as Unconditional Basic Income (UBI). Example: agricultural/food processing facilities require refrigeration with high electric loads, and outages produce spoilage. Savings provided by solar could yield UBI for local farmworkers. This project was brought to ICLR by the Sustainable Systems Research Foundation.
  • Streetlight EV Charging. Replacing high-pressure sodium streetlights with LEDs has become common practice because it yields tremendous energy savings. However, the reduction in load on the circuit also makes it possible to install EV chargers on streetlight poles. This avoids the need to dig and install new lines and can reduce installation costs by over half. This project was brought to ICLR by the Economic Recovery Initiative
  • Innovative Carbon Sequestration. It is known that inoculating the roots of certain seedlings with symbiotic fungi prior to planting produces several synergistic effects, including increased sequestration of carbon in the roots. Professors Yamina Pressler and Charlotte Decock are working with students to assess the extension of this technique in a novel fashion that allows for treatment of existing orchards: groundcover crops are inoculated with the fungus and deliver it to fruit trees through the soil as they take root.

stock images. students participating in research activity.

Curriculum Development

ICLR supports faculty developing new curricula related to climate change and sustainability, or adapting existing courses to include a project-based service learning component.

Example courses:

  • NR 310 - Global Climate Change. This junior-level Natural Resources Management course is a general education course open to all majors and covers global climate systems, methods of inference used in climate science, how global warming affects the human and natural world, and policy impacts.
  • BIO 470 - Biology of Climate Change. Biological consequences of climate change at different levels of biological organization and various environments. Atmospheric chemistry, global and regional climate dynamics and history, consequences for human populations. Possible mitigation actions and their contribution to CO2 emission reduction.

stock images. students participating in research activity.

Professional Development

ICLR offers workshops and courses through Extended Education that promote sustainable practices and allow professionals to pivot towards sustainable pursuits within their chosen career.

Courses include:

  • Carbon Farm Planning. For farmers and agribusiness professionals to learn about low-carbon and regenerative farming techniques and implementation. This course is offered through cooperation with the CAFES Center for Sustainability.
  • High-Performance Buildings. For HVAC professionals to learn about automated control systems and new electric alternatives to gas appliances (heat pumps, thermal energy systems, etc).
  • LCA Literacy. For city staffers and managers of industrial operations to learn about Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) data; how to interpret it and how to incorporate it in the decision-making process.
  • Climate Action Planning. For city staffers and elected officials to learn about the process of developing a community plan for decarbonizing at a municipal level.

stock images. students participating in research activity.

Climate Solutions Now

The annual ICLR fundraising conference connects faculty, government employees, industry professionals, entrepreneurs, and students, to showcase current and future solutions to climate and sustainability challenges.

Conference info Button

Related Content

DEI in the Bailey College

Learn More