2017-2018 General Catalog 
    Apr 21, 2018  
2017-2018 General Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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College of Social and Behavioral Science
Department Office: Room 217
Building 73
332 S 1400 E
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Phone: 801-581-8218
Fax: 801-581-8219
Website: www.geog.utah.edu

Department Chair: Andrea R. Brunelle, Ph.D.
Academic Coordinator-Advisor: 801-581-8218

Geography is the study of the natural Earth systems, human societies and the interaction between them. Geography bridges the physical and social sciences. Geographers work with powerful technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS), digital Earth imagery (remote sensing) and spatial modeling. And geographers are not afraid to get their boots muddy! Geography has a long-standing field tradition, often involving travel to spectacular locations - some of them in our own backyard.

Geographers use a collaborative and integrated approach to help understand complex 21st century challenges such as climate change, global sustainability, urbanization, spatial inequality, and living with hazards. Rewarding careers exist in the private and public sectors, and education.

Geographers use a variety of tools to gather, analyze and communicate geographic data and information. Computer-based geographic information systems (GIS), satellite and airborne remote sensing and geo-spatial technologies such as the global positioning system (GPS) have revolutionized the field of geography. Geographers also use statistics, modeling, field-based methods and computer-based simulation when analyzing human and physical phenomena and systems.

Undergraduate Program

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 or two of the following emphasis areas.  These emphasis areas are noted on the final course transcript to indicate areas of degree/coursework focus.

Areas of Emphasis within the Geography Major

Climate Change and Land Scape Dynamics
Geographic Information Science (GIS)
Hazards, Resilience, & Human Security
Population, Development, & Sustainability
Remote Sensing of the Environment

A student can develop a degree program in Geographic Information Science (GIS) starting at the early undergraduate level and culminating in a master’s of science degree in GIS.  This BS/MSGIS degrees program can be completed in five years with focused, early course selection.

Please see the sections on the Geography B.A., B.S., H.B.A., H.B.S., Minor, and Geography Teaching Minor listed in the Program and Course Offerings section.

Certificate Programs

The Department of Geography offers certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels to enhance student credentials in:

Climate Change
Geographic Information Science (GIS)
Hazards and Emergency Management
Geospatial Intelligence

Certificate programs are described in the Program and Course Offerings section.

Graduate Program

Please see the Geography M.S., Ph.D., and Geographic Information Science M.S. (MSGIS) listed in the Program and Course Offerings section.

Areas of Specialization in Graduate Studies

Prospective Master’s and Ph.D. candidates are urged to assess the congruence of their interests with departmental specializations.  The graduate program specializations are:

Health, Population-Environment, and Urban/Economic Geography
Environmental Geography, Climate Change and Earth System Science
Hazards and Security
Geographic Information Science and Remote Sensing

Admission Requirements

Students should contact the department or refer to the Department web site at www.geog.utah.edu for admission procedures and materials.

Initial enrollment in the Master’s in Geography program only occurs in fall semester. Enrollment in the MSGIS and Ph.D. program can occur in fall and spring. To be considered for admission and financial assistance, completed applications (including all supporting documentation) must be received no later than January 10th prior to the fall in which initial enrollment is anticipated. For the MSGIS admission deadline, see the Geography Department website. Accordance of students’ interests with those of prospective faculty advisors is a condition for acceptance into the program.


In 2013, Utah Geography gained recognition as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) discipline in the areas of Geographic Information Science (GIS) and Cartography, Geospatial Intelligence and basic Earth Science.  In 2015 the Department of Geography was designated as an Academic Center of Excellence in Geospatial Sciences by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA).  This gives our students access to more scholarships, programs and career opportunities.

The Geography Department has many well-equipped research laboratories. The Digitally Integrated Geographic Information Technologies Laboratory (DIGIT Lab) is a major GIS research and production facility that provides support for both theoretical and applied geographic information analysis and application development.  Visit www.digit.utah.edu for more information. The Department also houses the Center for Natural and Technological Hazards (CNTH) as a focus for research and teaching about hazard analysis, policy, and mitigation. We are home to the Utah Remote Sensing Applications (URSA) Lab, which engages in cutting-edge, applied remote sensing research.  Recent URSA research has included remote sensing of vegetation, wildfire danger, and drought impacts. Geography also hosts a Snow and Ice Lab that focuses on studying the climate change aspects of mountain glaciers, ice sheets, and seasonal snow. The lab currently conducts field work in Alaska, Greenland, and Antarctica and uses remote sensing data acquired from satellites, airborne and ground-based systems.  The Utah Geo-Health (UGH) Lab focuses on using GIS and spatial methods to explore how the interactions among individual, society, and the environment influence population health.  Current projects include disparities in health and access to healthcare, exposure to environmental pollutants such as agricultural pesticides and PM 2.5 and its health consequences, and smartphone applications in physical activity monitoring and aging.

The Donald R. Currey Paleoenvironmental Research Group includes several research laboratories studying aspects of past environments. The Records of Environment and Disturbance (RED) Lab conducts research on past environments as recorded in lake or wetland sediments. Proxies of past change (pollen, charcoal, plant and insect remains) are examined from the sediment record and interpreted to describe changes in forest composition, fire regime, and insect population over thousands of years. The Nicoll Lab for Quaternary Sedimentology and Geomorphology focuses on landforms and how they represent changes in past climate with particular interest on the Bonneville basin and fluctuations in the Great Salt Lake over time. The Power Paleoecology Lab conducts environmental change research using biological and geochemical proxies for exploring past global change. Students working in the lab also contribute to the growth and management of the global charcoal database (GCD), an archive of over 800 fire history records from around the world (http://gpwg.org/). The Power Lab is also engaged in collecting modern and fossil plant specimens from research sites across Utah and the Intermountain West for the Garrett Herbarium, a collection of over 130,000 dried plant specimens housed at the Natural History Museum of Utah. In addition to the charcoal database, the Paleo-Data Lab works with regional and continental scale databases of pollen and peatland sequences to reconstruct information about past climates and ecosystems over the Northern Hemisphere. This information is used to test how well models of climate, vegetation and the carbon cycle can simulate past environments, tests that allow us to judge how well these models will estimate future global change.

Program and Course Offerings


    Undergraduate MajorMinorCertificateMasterDoctorate


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