Jul 18, 2024  
2021-2022 Undergraduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences

Telephone: (302) 831-2294

The Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences offers BA programs in Geography and Geography Education, as well as a minor in Geography. The Department is also home to the BS in Environmental Science and BA in Environmental Studies degree programs. In addition, the faculty participates in other interdepartmental opportunities.


Geographers investigate processes that explain the location of human and natural phenomena, as well as the interactions between people and their environment. A broad range of interests characterizes geography and reflects its position simultaneously in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Students who major in geography may, if they choose, specialize. The Department has an excellent program in climatology, for instance, and research may be undertaken through its Center for Climatic Research. Other areas include biogeography, conservation, cultural-historical geography, urban geography, and geomorphology. Skills in geographic information science (GIS), remote sensing, cartography, and spatial data analysis are also studied by geography majors. Students are required to take an introductory sequence of courses and a capstone course to provide a common background for all majors. During the senior year, majors may, at their option, undertake a research paper under the direction of their program advisors.

Meteorology and Climate Science

The Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology and Climate Science combines basic atmospheric science and climatological science with a rigorous training in mathematics, physics, and computer science. The emphasis of this degree program is on developing a broad understanding of the fundamental physical and dynamical processes governing the motions and behavior of the atmosphere and its interactions with the underlying land and ocean surfaces, developing the skills to observe and analyze meteorological and satellite data, and create and interpret weather forecasts for use in industry, agriculture, business, and government.

This comprehensive degree program will prepare students for potential employment in state, federal, and private agencies involved in the many applied fields of meteorology and climatology. The program will also assist the student in preparation for graduate studies in meteorology and climatology. Graduates of the program will satisfy the US Government’s Office of Personnel Management GS 1340 requirements, which define “meteorologist” for the purposes of federal employment. In addition, the program satisfies the similar recommended curriculum requirements of the American Meteorological Society.

Environmental Studies and Environmental Science

Housed in the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, the Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science are collaborative degrees involving several departments and colleges. First-year students typically enter the program as an ENSC or ENVR major and explore which of the concentrations they are interested in declaring. Upper-class students declare a specific concentration after taking some of the initial courses required for the major. All ENSC and ENVR majors MUST ultimately select a concentration, preferably by the end of the spring semester of the sophomore year.  Students are assigned an advisor from their area of concentration. In those cases where the student has not yet selected a concentration, students are assigned an academic advisor from one of the concentrations. Upon completion of degree requirements, students will receive either a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a specific concentration or a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a specific concentration.

Environmental Studies

The Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies assists students in gaining a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the environment and environmental systems, the impact of humans on the environment and environmental impacts on humans, the importance of environmental understanding when making economic, political, and other policy choices. The goal is to give students in the program a broad-based, interdisciplinary introduction to environmental policies and issues; the common analytical tools needed to explore them in depth through their specific concentration areas; and the ability to integrate and synthesize information from a multidisciplinary perspective in oral and written format through a capstone course. The BA in Environmental Studies program’s foundation courses are in the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences with a focus in understanding the environmental field. This, along with their specific concentration area, allows students in connecting science and society and balancing the needs of humans and other inhabitants with the needs to conserve the Earth’s precious resources while developing strategies, policies, and approaches to solve environmental issues and reduce environmental impact.

There are three concentrations in Environmental Studies: Environmental Advocacy; Environmental Planning and Design; and Environment and Society.

  • The Environmental Studies - Environmental Advocacy Concentration (BA)  is designed for students who may wish to pursue careers in environmental advocacy either through public or nonprofit organizations. Skills and knowledge useful to advocates include policy analysis, journalism, understanding how people react to risk and disasters, the role of public opinion, interest groups and parties in the policy process, and organizational management and leadership.
  • The Environmental Studies - Environmental Planning and Design Concentration (BA)  emphasizes environmental design, planning, and policy. Students gain knowledge at the interface of design, planning, and policy which will be helpful in developing more sustainable communities. Specific attention is directed to the political, economic, and social dimensions of environmental policies and decision making.
  • The Environmental Studies - Environment and Society Concentration (BA)  emphasizes how economic, social, and environmental policies and decision making affect the ability of human population and societies to support themselves without depleting the Earth’s resources and compromising the ability of future societies to meet their needs. The economic, national, and international dimensions of environment and society are emphasized. Key ideas explored in this concentration are conservation, stewardship, living harmoniously with the natural environment in the larger context of the economy, and sustainability.

Environmental Science

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science emphasizes a broad scientific understanding of the character, function, and analysis of environmental systems. Environmental Science BS students will be able to contribute to society’s understanding of and solutions to problems that arise from human occupancy and use of the planet and environment. The goal is to give students in the program a broad-based, interdisciplinary introduction to the scientific concepts, policies, and issues; the common analytical tools needed to explore environmental issues in depth through their specific concentration areas; and the ability to integrate and synthesize information from a multidisciplinary perspective in oral and written format through the capstone course. The BS in Environmental Science program is rigorous in both math and science and includes courses in social science and policy that will help the environmental science major understand the societal context of their work. This foundation along with their specific concentration area helps students appreciate the interconnectedness between understanding natural science processes and their applications and the social, political, and institutional frameworks in which environmental issues are considered

There are six concentrations in Environmental Science: Climate and Society; Ecoscience; Energy and Environment; Marine Science; Geoscience; and Water Science.

  • The Environmental Science - Climate and Society Concentration (BS)  provides an opportunity for Environmental Science majors to study how energy and moisture are transferred among earth’s environmental spheres (e.g., biosphere-atmosphere, hydrosphereatmosphere) and how humans impact our weather and climate. Emphasis is placed on the physical climatology of interactions among spheres, although courses within ecological climatology are also offered. Individual courses delve into the intricacies of atmospheric science above (e.g., GEOG 420 - Atmospheric Physics and Thermodynamics ) or within (e.g., GEOG 451 - Microclimatology) the boundary layer. Many aspects of atmospheric science are quantitative in nature, requiring knowledge of advanced calculus and/or statistics; thus MATH 243  is required, along with one additional course in differential equations, linear algebra, or statistics.
  • The Environmental Science - Ecoscience Concentration (BS)  focuses on studying the nature of ecosystems as well as the interaction of organisms with their physical and biological environment. Courses cover the breadth of ecoscience. Students interested in studying ecoscience with an emphasis on the physical environment would best fit this theme. Graduates from the theme in Ecoscience should be prepared to gain employment as environmental scientists or seek graduate education in Environmental Science.
  • The Environmental Science - Energy and Environment Concentration (BS)  focuses on the theme that discovering new energy sources that have minimal environmental impact is one of the greatest challenges of our society. The term “sustainable” is used when talking about energy that meet our current needs without endangering future generations from being able to meet their future needs. Topical areas that students in this theme explore include the science and policy aspects of renewable energy sources like wind energy, biofuels, solar energy and fuel cells as well as assessing the economic, local and global environmental impact of alternative energy sources.
  • The Environmental Science - Marine Science Concentration (BS)   allows students to study and better understand the environment of the ocean, the seabed, and the coastal zone. Building on the foundation of MAST 382 - Introduction to Ocean Sciences  in the ENSC core, students choose coursework in the physical ocean or in the marine ecosystem. Students must complete five courses that assist students in gaining a depth of understanding of the Marine Environment.
  • The Environmental Science - Geoscience Concentration (BS)  focuses on Earth’s near-surface environment. It includes the land surface and its vegetation, rivers, lakes, and shallow seas, and it extends through the underlying soils, rocks and groundwater. Interactions at this dynamic zone are governed by complex linkages and feedbacks among a vast range of physical, chemical and biological processes. They determine the availability of nearly every life-sustaining resource. A better understanding of the Critical Zone is necessary to assess the impact of human activities on Earth’s surface and to adapt to their consequences.
  • The Environmental Science - Water Science Concentration (BS)  provides an opportunity for Environmental Science majors to study the movement, distribution, quantity, and quality of water on Earth. Students pursuing this concentration will have the opportunity to study aspects of hydrology that range from the atmosphere to the Earth’s subsurface, and from biogeochemical processes to policy and water management. Eight courses in water science are offered from four departments (Geological Sciences, Geography, Civil Engineering, and Environmental Engineering) of which three are required. Many aspects of hydrology are quantitative in nature, requiring knowledge of basic calculus and in some cases more advanced calculus and/or statistics; thus MATH 243  is required, along with one additional course in differential equations, linear algebra, or statistics.

Interdepartmental Majors

An interdepartmental major, for students having interests in two areas, requires 21 credits each in geography and in one other department in the College, plus nine more elective credits approved by both departments. Of the minimum of 21 credits in geography, a student must take nine credits from the foundation level, of which one course must be from the physical geography area, one course from the human geography area, and one course from the methods area. Nine more geography credits must be taken at the 300/400-level. The remaining three geography credits may be chosen from any 200, 300, or 400-level course.

A Vibrant, Progressive Community

Our work extends far beyond the Department to include scientists, teachers, and professionals throughout the university and the larger community.

The Department houses the Office of the State Climatologist of Delaware and the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS). DEOS collects real-time information on all facets of the region’s environment for use by everyone from environmental scientists to emergency management professionals to the general public. We also work with the Delaware Geographic Alliance, an organization of teachers and others interested in strengthening geographic learning in Delaware’s K-12 classrooms.


    MajorHonors DegreeMinor4+1