Areas of Emphasis

Course requirements for a geography degree move students through a core curriculum and expose them to foundational perspectives in human geography, physical geography and geographic methods. From there, students are encouraged to pursue, with the consultation of an advisor, one of the following emphasis areas (click on each title to display a requirement list):

  • Climate Change: Recent and future changes in the Earth’s climate represent one of the great challenges for modern society. Greenhouse gas-induced warming has critical environmental, societal, and economic impacts. Courses in this emphasis cover the components of the climate system from small to large scales, how climate changes over long and short time scales, and how the projected future climate will impact physical, natural and social systems. This emphasis is designed to provide the necessary context to critically analyze and discuss the issues facing students as they prepare for climate change during their lifetimes, as well as potential solutions.

  • Ecology & Biogeography:  Ecology deals with the relationships of plants and animals with each other and their environment and Biogeography studies where plants and animals occur on the Earth, and what controls their distributions, including climate, disturbances and interactions between organisms. This emphasis explores how variations in these controls (past, present and future) affect where plants and animals can live, and their ability to move across space. Many courses include hands-on opportunities to learn how data in this field are collected and analyzed, providing students useful field and lab skills.

  • Geographic Information Science: This emphasis combines theories of how geographic information is used to represent real-world phenomena with methods for applying this information to 21st century social-environmental problems. Geotechnology is a rapidly advancing field that has been placed alongside biotech and nanotech as one of the fastest growing employment areas in the coming decades.

  • Geomorphology & Hydrology: This emphasis focuses on the evolution of landscapes and on the hydrologic cycle, especially in the context of climate variability. Landscapes are analyzed across a broad range of scales, from outcrops to images acquired from satellites or aircraft. Courses within this emphasis combine lab and fieldwork with classroom instruction.

  • Global Development, Population, & Sustainability:  This emphasis focuses on using geographical perspectives to understand issues related to global development, population health and transitions, and the sustainability of human-environment systems. This emphasis would be especially valuable for students interested in working for public or private employers in areas related with population wellbeing, the environment, and globalization or who intend to pursue further study in population health, environment change, and globalization.

  • Hazards Resources, & Human Security: The focus of this emphasis is the uncertain future that rapidly growing populations face in areas with environmental hazards, diminishing resources, and political, socio-cultural, and economic conflict.  Geographic education in this area focuses on understanding the complex interactions, environmental variation, and dynamic processes that shape risk and associated extreme events (e.g. drought, flooding, war, terrorist acts) with the goal of improving disaster resilience through action in mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

  • Remote Sensing of the Environment:  Remote sensing relies on measurements of electromagnetic radiation to monitor the Earth and its environmental systems using satellites, aircraft, sensor networks and UAVs.  This emphasis allows students to get in-depth, valuable knowledge on how remote sensing data are collected, processed, and used for a mulititude of applications.  Remote sensing skills are increasingly sought after in a variety of disciplines, and by many employers in enviornmental and intelligence fields.

  • Urban Systems, Location, & Resilience:  This emphasis focuses on the spatial organization of human activities within cities as well as the connections between cities. Geographic education promotes the understanding of processes and forces that affect dynamic changes within urban areas, including economic development, industrial location, migration and urbanization, neighborhood change, and planning process, to help with human decision making, planning and policy to make cities livable and resilient.