Department of Geography
Geography is the science of space, place, and environment. The department offers classes spanning the social and natural sciences and offering students training in qualitative, quantitative, spatial analysis and modelling, and laboratory methodologies. Human geographers study the spatial aspects of human activity and physical geographers study patterns of climate, land forms, soils and water. Geographic tools and techniques—including Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing, and online and interactive mapping technologies—are among the most important for exploring and understanding our complex world. Geographic inquiry is global and local, inherently interdisciplinary, and offers skills that enable insights into pressing issues valued by employers and policy makers. For example, how does climate change impact the way we build cities? How does globalization influence where your jeans are made? How can health disparities between people be overcome through policy change? By synthesizing this knowledge, geographers create unique understandings of our complex world.
Career opportunities for geographers are wide ranging in the public, private, and nongovernmental sectors. Geographers work in the areas of social, health, and environmental policy; energy, transportation, economic, development, and tourism planning; urban and regional planning; research and education; community development; resource management; and environmental regulation and modeling.
With geography you can explore the world and find yourself.
All majors and minors have a primary academic advisor from the Academic Advising Program. Students are strongly encouraged to meet regularly with their advisor and review Tar Heel Tracker each semester. The department’s director of undergraduate studies works with current and prospective majors by appointment and during regular office hours (see department website as hours will vary by semester). Departmental academic advising is highly recommended for all majors, in particular those considering graduate school. Further information on courses, undergraduate research opportunities, the honors program, careers, and graduate schools may be obtained from the department’s Web site.
The department has a range of specialized, state-of-the-art equipment for geospatial field sampling and laboratory analysis of data in hydrology, climatology, and vegetation science, including an ecohydrology laboratory and a dendrology laboratory. The department is wired internally to support the latest network technology. This network links us to the centrally managed servers that provide access to a large library of software for geographic applications and research, as well as first-class library resources, data storage and backup, and access to supercomputing clusters.
Graduate School and Career Opportunities
There are a variety of job opportunities for geographers in government, business, industry, and the nonprofit sector. Geographers are hired for the following kinds of expertise: locational analysis, GISci, remote sensing, cartography, land use planning, recreation and tourism planning, and foreign area expertise. Many geographers pursue teaching at all levels.
Students with a B.A. major in geography from UNC–Chapel Hill are well trained for graduate programs in geography and other disciplines. Majors have entered graduate programs as diverse as city and regional planning, business, medicine, and ecology. For more information about careers in geography, the UNC–Chapel Hill Department of Geography, degree requirements, and connections to other sites of interest, visit the department's website.
Michael E. Emch, Banu P. Gokariksel, Clark Gray, Elizabeth Havice, Scott Kirsch, Charles E. Konrad, Elizabeth Olson, John Pickles, Sara Smith, Conghe Song, Gabriela Valdivia, Erika Wise.
Javier A. Arce-Nazario, Paul L. Delamater, Christian Lentz, Nina Martin, Aaron Moody, Chérie Rivers Ndaliko, Diego Riveros-Iregui.
Amanda Gay DelVecchia, Ruth Matamoros-Mercado, Danielle Purifoy.
Stephen Birdsall, John W. Florin, Wilbert M. Gesler, Richard J. Kopec, Peter J. Robinson, Stephen J. Walsh, Thomas Whitmore.
This course is on understanding the physical geography of mountain environments and the processes that have created them, shaped them, and sustained them. Honors version available.
This course examines the intersection of political, economic, social, and environmental systems that shape health and disease across spatial and temporal scales. A political ecological framework is used to examine such topics as how political forces and economic interests helped shape the HIV/AIDS and malaria pandemics in Africa and beyond. Honors version available.
An introduction to the study of urban forest landscapes through a series of field experiences in Carolina's Battle Park.
An examination of the ways in which change in the global physical environment, human induced and natural, might impact the Carolinas.
Explores viewing landscape from the perspective of science and of art, and investigates how an integration of both leads to a better understanding and appreciation of a landscape.
An examination of the relationship between globalization and localization in order to think about how we, as individuals and groups, can make a difference in the world.
This course considers memorial landscapes created to reinforce values symbolized by the person, group, or event memorialized. It looks at how disagreements and cultural changes affect memorial landscape interpretation.
This seminar examines the role traditional and modern spaces play in representations of the Middle East and how Middle Easterners engage these contested spaces to construct their cultural and political identities.
Explores the social and spatial inequalities in health care access and use and their impacts on health. A variety of topics are examined, including health-related policies, beliefs about health and health care, modern medical practices, and health care costs.
Seminar participants, working in small groups, will run climate models and investigate current climate trends, combining the results to create scenarios of future climate for the southeast United States.
This first-year seminar uses the lens of culture to explore systems of meaning and values, and relations of social power, that are invested in technologies.
Alternative conceptualizations of nature in Western culture and how these meanings help create the landscapes in which we live and allow us to evaluate the implications of efforts to preserve nature. Honors version available.
Explores modern Vietnam and situates the American war in broader spatial and historical context. Draws on fact, fiction, and visual media to introduce a fascinating place, rich in history, and to animate a geographic imagination students can take anywhere.
Examines the scientific basis of climate change and how the established science is presented, distorted, and debated in the public sphere. Explores how a variety of media sources can be used to effectively communicate about climate change to people with different perspectives. Honors version available. Honors version available.
Seminar examines the ways that politics, especially contests over territory, are part of our day-to-day life. We will explore a range of cases, from immigration policy and rhetoric in the United States, to popular representations of geopolitics in film, to the politics of family planning in India.
Freshwaters sustain myriad ecosystem services by providing drinking water, irrigation, inland fisheries, transportation, recreational opportunities, nutrient cycling, and biodiversity. At the same time, both water quality and quantity are impacted by land use, water abstraction, damming, contamination, and climate change. This seminar will focus (1) on understanding how these anthropogenic pressures affect freshwater ecosystems differently across ecoregions, and (2) how management, legislative, and social initiatives have adapted or developed solutions.
Special Topics Course. Content will vary each semester.
Emphasizes geographic patterns and interrelationships in energy, climate, terrain, and life. Develops integrative view of how atmospheric, hydrologic, geomorphic, and biotic processes create global patterns in the environment. Incorporates influence of human activities on earth. Class will help students understand the natural environment, both globally and in North Carolina. Honors version available.
An introduction to the nature and causes of weather variability and climate change and their impact on human activity. No laboratory. (Core)
Introduces the science and art of map making and will lay the conceptual foundation necessary to understand how and why maps are made and used.
A survey of the geographic structure of human activity in major world regions and nations. Emphasizes current developments related to population, urbanization, and economic activity. (Core)
This course examines places and the connections between places to build critical understandings of the role of human geographies in global economic, political, social, and cultural systems. (Core)
How population, environment, and human culture is expressed in technology and organization interact over space and time. (GHA)
This course explores the relationship between gender and place and introduces feminist approaches to key geographical concepts. We will study how places that we live in shape our gender identities and how gender relations affect our worlds. Topics include bodies, home, city, migration, development, nationalism, and war.
Explores how everyday culture helps create the landscapes and places in which we live and what these landscapes tell us about ourselves.
An introduction to historical and contemporary ideas about practices and meanings of development. Students will explore "development" in a global landscape of poverty, power, and struggles over inequality.
In this course, students develop geographic concepts and skills and use them to navigate real-world social and environmental challenges. Co-taught by a physical and human geographer, the course provides students with essential building blocks for becoming active and engaged leaders and citizens in a rapidly changing world.
Survey of international social, political, and cultural patterns in selected societies of Africa, Asia, America, and Europe, stressing comparative analysis of conflicts and change in different historical contexts. LAC recitation sections offered in French, German, and Spanish.
Survey of environmental change as driven by physical processes and human activity. Problem-solving methods are explored. Focus on issues such as global warming, ozone depletion, deforestation, extinction, pollution, wetland loss. This course will provide significant background in physical geography in the context of today's most pressing environmental concerns and with reference to the societal implications and management strategies. (No lab.) (Core)
This course will introduce students to data science with a focus on spatial (geographic) data, data that are referenced to a location on Earth's surface. Students will learn concepts and techniques to apply various facets of data science practice, including data collection, management, and integration, descriptive modeling, exploratory spatial data analysis, and communication via visualization and mapping. Real world examples and datasets spanning physical, social, and health sciences will be used throughout the course.
Health and disease are studied by analyzing the cultural/environmental interactions that lie behind world patterns of disease distribution, diffusion, and treatment, and the ways these are being altered by development. Previously offered as GEOG 445. (GHA)
Gender, race, and class are examined in terms of the spatial patterns of everyday life, regional patterns, and global patterns. (GHA)
Explores the evolution, patterns, and processes of urbanization and the development of cities. Emphasis on the power, politics, technology, and environmental forces shaping urban life. Topics may include housing and segregation, cities and climate change, economic development, transportation challenges, and the racialization of urban policy.
Approximately eight billion people live on the Earth. How did we get here? What have been the consequences for us and the planet? What will the future bring? To answer these questions, we will draw on population and human-environment geography and on an abundance of new data sources.
A study of environmental parameters, cultural preferences, technological developments, and spatial economic infrastructure that result in world patterns of food consumption, production, and distribution. (GHA)
An analysis of selected biological and mineral resources of the world with particular emphasis on their distribution, utilization, and management policies and on their social and economic implications. (GHA)
Environmental justice is about social equity and its relationship to the environment. This course provides an introduction to the principles, history, and scholarship of environmental justice. It traces the origins of the movement in the US and globally and its relationship to environmentalism. Students will use case studies and engagement to become familiar with environmental justice concerns related to food systems, environmental health, climate change, and economic development.
Includes one-hour laboratory. Atmospheric processes including radiation, dynamics, and thermodynamics are emphasized. Circulations across a range of temporal and spatial scales are described. Links between environmental problems and the atmosphere are explored.
A study of selected past geographies of the United States with emphasis on the significant geographic changes in population, cultural, and economic conditions through time. Previously offered as FOLK/GEOG 454. (GHA)
This survey course examines political, cultural, and biophysical dimensions of human- environment relations across the ecologically diverse and historically rich region of Latin America. It draws on multiple data sources, perspectives, and media to explore sub-regions and their biocultural histories, including the Caribbean, Andes, Amazon, Central and North America, and their relationship with the United States.
A survey of the cultural and physical landscapes of the United States and Canada. Emphasis on landscape evolution, present distributions, and interactions between people and their environment. (Regional)
Present-day Southern United States, approached historically through a study of its physical, economic, and cultural environment. (Regional)
A survey of the cultural, economic, and physical diversity of North Carolina. Emphasizes regional patterns, historical changes, and the appearance of the landscape. (Regional)
This course explores the biogeography of Siberia and gives students practical training on how to do field work in field ecology and physical geography.
This course will give students a multidisciplinary introduction to growing field of biodiversity preservation.
Spatial structure of population, urbanization, agriculture, industrialization, and regional links in China, Japan, and Korea. (Regional)
This survey integrates sociological, biophysical, and geographical elements to examine interactions of population and environment across the ecologically-diverse and historically-rich region of Southeast Asia. Draws on multiple data sources, perspectives, and media to explore Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma/Myanmar, the Philippines, and neighboring countries.
Introduces students to the geography of South Asia, including an overview of the physical environment, cultural practices, and economic development. Emphasizes the political geography of South Asia and political and social processes such as nationalism and colonialism that have played a formative role in the region.
Africa is a vast continent with extraordinary biodiversity, cultural diversity, and history. But despite its many historic and contemporary contributions to the modern world, Africa is often represented as needing civilization, development, economic growth, charity, and education. This course investigates Africa's place in the global geopolitical imagination. With an emphasis on human geography, we analyze various forms of media (including maps, films, songs) to investigate the relationship between representation and the sociopolitical construction of place.
The Social and ecological implications of resource conservation and eonomic development in a World Heritage Site are examined in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.
This course provides a systematic introduction to China as an emerging political and economic power. From a geographic perspective, this course addresses uneven human and physical landscapes, the historical evolution and current status of the natural environment, economic development, and human well being.
This course will provide lower level undergraduate students with a survey of ethnographic research in geography and related fields. We will examine studies from work, labor, and gender, to indigenous youth and decolonization. Previously offered as GEOG 481.
The objective of Freedom Farming is to understand--in theory and in practice--the relationship between farming, health, and social justice among Black communities throughout the African diaspora. To this end we will investigate the history of agriculture's place in Black liberation movements; engage theories that orient these movements. Students also contribute to a local freedom farm. APPLES service-learning.
This course explores critical questions of sustenance, which are often overlooked in ''sustainability'' discourse: How do people sustain themselves in North America? Against what pressures? How does the geography and history of the land shape cultural, social, political, and economic practices of sustenance? And, in contexts of oppression, dispossession, and discrimination, how do acts of sustenance intersect or conflict with larger cultural, social, economic, and political debates about ''sustainability''?
Permission of the instructor. For students who wish to participate in departmental research programs. May be taken twice.
Permission of the instructor. Special reading and research in geography under the supervision of a selected instructor. Course may not be taken more than twice.
Examines the role of the interactions of cultures, environments, and human diseases in the quest for sustainable agriculture by examining the cultural ecology of agriculture systems and their human diseases. Previously offered as GEOG 434. (GHA)
The Tropics have some of the largest river flows in the world. Three billion people live in humid tropical regions, yet many of them lack adequate water supply. This course focuses on the water cycle of tropical regions and the interactions between hydrology and ecology with an emphasis on sustainability.
A survey of geographic data sources including maps, photos, digital images, Census information, and others. Emphasis is on appropriate uses, limitations, and skilled interpretation in physical and human geography applications. (Core)
Exploration of topics in contemporary geography.
This course provides an introduction to the application of statistical methods to geographic problems and to statistical packages in their solution. Attention given to spatial data analysis and sampling methods.
Introduces geographic research methods and develops skills to conduct independent research. Themes include spatial analysis, knowledge production, methodology, theory and evidence, and principles of informed argument. Students gain experience with multiple methods applicable to the study of diverse topics.
Advanced Undergraduate and Graduate-level Courses
Principles of analysis of the atmosphere are applied to the analysis of environmental phenomena. The link between the atmosphere and other environmental compartments is explored through environmental case studies.
Uses systems theory and computer models to understand ecosystem energy and matter flows, such as energy flow in food webs, terrestrial ecosystem evapotranspiration and productivity, related to climate, vegetation, soils, and hydrology across a range of spatial and temporal scales.
An analysis of synoptic weather patterns and the processes responsible for them. Climatological aspects of these weather patterns are emphasized. (EES)
An investigation of the scientific basis of climate change (past, present, and future), the current state of knowledge concerning future projections, and the implications of climate change for society and the environment.
This hands-on course will set you on a path towards being a researcher and scientist who will make a positive difference in the world through good research practices and effective communication. Topics will include: reproducibility and ethics, creating effective graphics, giving engaging oral and poster presentations, writing abstracts, social media use in research, communication with journalists, operating in the judicial and political arenas, and stakeholder outreach and public talks.
Applied climatology involves the interdisciplinary application of climate data and techniques to solve a wide range of societal and environmental problems. This projects-based course investigates how climate impacts a range of sectors, including water resources, urban environments, ecosystems, and human health.
Involves evaluation of landscapes by examining nature and biophysical elements influencing landscape form and function. Course emphasizes data collection, analysis, and interpretation using GIS and field methods. (EES)
A study of the spatial components of current social problems, such as poverty, race relations, environmental deterioration and pollution, and crime. (GHA)
This course considers the theoretical and empirical dimensions of religion from a geographical perspective. The course introduces the key theories linking space, place, and religion and helps students apply these new theoretical tools to examine some of the pressing issues in the contemporary study of religion.
This course addresses questions of power, politics, and identity in the urban environment, with a focus on the emergence of key selected global cities and the processes that both created them historically and which are currently transforming them locally and globally.
An interdisciplinary exploration of urban social problems, bridging the literature on urban geography with that on urban politics. Students will be required to complete 30 hours of service for an organization that works on an urban social issue.
This course explores the relationship between patterns of urban development in the United States and migration, in both historical and contemporary contexts.
This advanced course brings geographical perspectives on place, space, scale, and environmental change to the study of environmental justice. In lectures, texts, and research projects, students examine environmental concerns as they intersect with racial, economic and political differences. Topics include environmental policy processes, environmental justice movements, environmental health risks, conservation, urban environments, and the role of science in environmental politics and justice. (GHA)
Interdisciplinary course for advanced undergraduates and graduate students. Focuses on multiscale environmental issues and related social, institutional, governance, and policy challenges. Examines key concepts and theories involving global environmental change and problem-solving efforts.
How does climate change affect vulnerable human populations? We will attempt to answer a shared research question on this topic by reading the peer-reviewed literature and by conducting a semester-long data analysis project incorporating social and climate data from around the world. This is a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE).
This course will focus on the processes of soil formation, erosion, and landform evolution with an emphasis on the interaction of geomorphic processes with surface hydrology and ecosystems. (EES)
Introduction to hydrologic and geomorphic processes in watersheds as applied to problems in flood analysis, water quality, and interactions of hydrology and environmental sciences. Drainage networks, nested catchments, and distribution and controls of precipitation, evaporation, runoff, and groundwater flow. Includes local field trips. (EES)
Introduction to landforms and processes associated with flowing water at the earth's surface. Hydrology, sedimentology, and theories of channel formation and drainage basin evolution. (ESS)
This course is concerned with the application of biogeographical principles and techniques to the study of natural and human-modified landscapes. It includes local and extraregional case studies. (EES)
This course examines the role that geography plays in shaping how people interact with the health care system. Topics include health care delivery system types, facility and personnel distributions, access to care, health care utilization, as well as GIS, spatial analysis, and decision support systems.
Examines gender, space, and place relationships in the modern Middle East. Investigates shifting gender geographies of colonialism, nationalism, modernization, and globalization in this region. (GHA)
Examines modern Muslim geographies that are created by transnational flows, connections, and imaginaries that cross national and regional boundaries across the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and beyond.
Introduction to contemporary and historical changes in human population, international development, and the global environment and how these processes interact, drawing on population geography as an organizing framework. Previously offered as GEOG 450.
This course explores the contemporary experience of migrants. Various theoretical approaches are introduced, with the emphasis on a political-economic approach. (GHA)
The geography of politics is explored at the global, the nation-state, and the local scale in separate course units, but the interconnections between these geographical scales are emphasized throughout. (GHA)
This course investigates the challenges, tools and techniques, and important applications of visualizing and analyzing geographic data that is temporally dynamic. We tackle technical challenges in obtaining, analyzing, and visualizing dynamic processes in space though maps, and discuss the consequences of our choices in how to re/present these processes. Students will produce original geovisualizations of dynamic data related to their field. Recommended preparation: experience with GIS software (GEOG 370 or GEOG 491).
This course explores a systems and cultural-ecological view of agriculture, environment, natural resource, and rural development issues in Latin America. It serves as a complement to GEOG 458 Urban Latin America. (Regional) Honors version available.
This course examines urban social issues in contemporary Latin America. Cities and their residents will be considered in relation to each other and to North American examples. (Regional)
This course is designed to explore changing geographies of production and consumption in theory and in practice.
A survey by topic and country of Europe west of Russia. Those features that make Europe a distinct and important region today are emphasized. (Regional)
While much attention has been given to Europe's "green" cities and the region's examples of sustainable development, less attention has been given to the ways in which the uneven distributions of environmental degradation have social and spatial ramifications within and beyond the region. This course will provide an overview of environmental justice in urban Europe to consider the key concepts, topics, debates, and trends shaping people and places there.
Examines foundational concepts and methods and their relevance for understanding nature-society relationships. Discussions on environmental change and conflict and how nature is bound up with relations of power and constructions of identity.
Covers fundamental theory and mechanics of remote sensing, related theoretical aspects of radiation and the environment, and remote-sensing applications relating to terrestrial, atmospheric, and marine environments. Hands-on experience for application and information extraction from satellite-based imagery through biweekly laboratory assignments. Prepares students for GEOG 577. (GISc)
An examination of the theory and history of resistance in the modern world, including instances of contestation from 'foot dragging' to the formation of social movements, and exploring the relationship between place and protest.
Stresses the spatial analysis and modeling capabilities of organizing data within a geographic information system. (GISci)
The premise of this course is that the possibilities articulated by radical Black intellectuals and artists in Africa and its diaspora are key to dismantling systems of oppression. It includes theories of unfreedoms derived from experiences of oppression-colonization, slavery, mass incarceration, racial inequity. It also examines radical Black responses to unfreedoms through practices of mental (de)colonization and moral courage, epistemology and pedagogy, human-earth relationships and environmental justice.
Open to junior and senior geography majors. Geography internships combine substantive geographic work experience with an academic project designed to integrate theory and practice. Field work is included.
Explores theory and application of geographic information systems (GIS) for public health. The course includes an overview of the principles of GIS in public health and practical experience in its use. (GISci)
This course explores how neighborhood context influences the health of the populations living in them. It includes a survey of neighborhoods and health theory and empirical examples. (GHA)
This course teaches qualitative methods in geography for graduate and advanced undergraduate students. We will cover interviews, focus groups, visual, and other methodologies. We will also discuss modes of analysis, coding, and writing up qualitative research for publication.
Examines the theory and application of geographic information systems (GIS) for impact evaluation for intervention studies. The course will focus especially on health and economic interventions in the developing world. The course includes an overview of the principles of GIS in impact evaluation and practical experience in its use.
This course presents cartographic techniques for better map design, with a focus on mapping the geographies of the Global South. Modern techniques and software will be used for developing and demonstrating proficiency in what are considered standard map design techniques, and we will also study examples from places and map makers outside of dominant cartographic traditions, and maps meant for actors and audiences in the Global South.
This course teaches students key concepts and skills for geospatial data analysis using the rich geospatial data resources, tools, and cloud computing facility on Google Earth Engine for environmental monitoring, mapping, modeling, and visualization. The course will enable students to pursue geospatial data analysis ranging from local to global scales to extract critical information for scientific understanding of the environment and for making science-based policies to address the environmental challenges we face today.
Acquisition, processing, and analysis of satellite digital data for the mapping and characterization of land cover types. (GISci)
Applied issues in the use of geographic information systems in terrain analysis, medical geography, biophysical analysis, and population geography. (GISci)
This course will teach students the elements of GISci software development using major GIS platforms. Students will modularly build a series of applications through the term, culminating in an integrated GIS applications program.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) fundamental theory, application design, post processing, integration of GPS data into GIS and GPS application examples (such as public health, business, etc.) will be introduced.
This course focuses on modeling the terrestrial forest ecosystems processes, including population dynamics, energy, water, nutrients, and carbon flow through the ecosystem. (GISci)
GIS and Systems Modeling are theory and methodology that use GIS, quantitative models, and systems analysis to describe processes, interactions, and feedbacks in complex systems. Simulation experiments of systems models can be used as a "laboratory" to answer many "what if" questions, which can be used for the evaluation of policies and scenarios.
Are technological choices open to democratic participation? Through a novel research workshop format, this graduate and undergraduate course explores political and geographical dimensions of technological change around key environmental issues--energy, water, and waste.
By permission of the department. Required of all students aspiring to honors in geography. Directed readings, research, and writing.
Required of all students aspiring to honors in geography. Preparation of a senior thesis.
A systematic study of the approaches, key concepts, and methods of geography, emphasizing the application of these approaches through hands-on independent research designed and implemented by the students. (Core)