Environmental Geography Concentration

The study of human impacts on the environment has been a core concern of American cultural geography since the 1920s and today is an important theme in both human and physical geography.  Analyses of the political and political economic contexts of the discourses and practices associated with land and water use and management have become central to the major human geography subfield of political ecology.  Environmental themes also are important today in such diverse human geography subfields as the human dimensions of global environmental change, cultural ecology, development geography, political geography, economic geography, urban geography, cultural geography, and social geography.

Geographic approaches to environmental issues integrate political, economic, social, and cultural analysis with attention to geographic and historical variation and contingency.  Geographers also add to concerns with sustainability and environmental impacts attention to social justice issues of equity, vulnerability and risk, and human and indigenous rights.  Our faculty engage with diverse environmental issues, including climate change, deforestation, desertification, the agricultural conversion of grasslands, urban sprawl, urban environmental footprints, biodiversity loss, community conserved areas, national parks, cultural landscapes, environmental justice, water resources policy, governance and sustainability, diverse and sustainable economies, and ecological cycling

The Environmental Geography concentration for the Geography B.A. provides a unique and much-needed opportunity and resource for UMass students to take a broad, integrative social science approach to studies of the environment.  Geography majors will have an opportunity to focus their studies on geographic approaches to environmental issues, policy, and history once they have gained foundational breadth, methods, and skills in geography.  This new concentration will benefit from faculty expertise in political ecology and in environmental issues, policy, and history from the perspectives of economic, political, urban, and regional geography.

Geography integrates physical and social science perspectives – while Geography B.A. students focus on the social science aspects of geography, all UMass geography majors already take at least one foundational course each in both “human” and “physical” geography, and students in the Environmental Studies concentration will continue to do this.  The  Geography B.A. spans multiple aspects of human society that are often analyzed separately in other social science fields. This will prepare students to engage with complex environmental issues and relationships – examining, for example, the interconnections among economic development, geopolitics, culture, population changes, ecological processes, and social inequality that shape both the impact and response to climate change.


Concentration in Environmental Geography for the Geography BA Degree


Program Structure

Core Courses (20 credits)
Methods and Skills (9 credits) (including Writing in Geography)
Elective Courses (12 credits)

1 Core Courses (20 credits)

Two 100 level core courses (8 credits)  and four 300-500 level core courses (12 credits) in geography are required as follows:


100 level (8 credits) – two of the following three geography courses:

Geosci 100 Global Environmental Change (4 credits) and

Geosci 150 The Earth Transformed: World Environmental Issues (4 credits) or

Geosci 102 The Human Landscape (4 credits).  Geosci 150 is recommended; Geosci 102   will be accepted.

300-500 level (12 credits)four of the following Environmental Geography courses:

Geosci 362     Conservation Geography

Geosci 372     Urban Issues

Geosci 420     Political Ecology

Geosci 450     Indigenous Peoples and Conservation

Geosci 458     Climate Change

Geosci 497E  Geography, Policy and the Environment

Geosci 497W Water Geographies: Conflict & Sustainability

Geosci 592N  National Parks and Protected Areas


2. Methods and Skills Courses (9 credits)

Three 300-500 level courses are required.


Geosci 314 Writing in Geography

Geosci 340 Quantitative Methods

Plus one of the following:

Geosci 352 Computer Mapping

Geosci 468 GIS and Spatial Analysis

Geosci 426 Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation

Geosci 591D Spatial Data Analysis

Geosci 594Q Advanced Remote Sensing

3. Elective Courses (12 credits)

Twelve additional credits.  At least 6 of these elective credits must be in Geography courses.  Students may choose electives from the 300-500 level core courses or methods and skills courses (see lists above) which they have not used to fulfill those requirements and may also take elective courses outside of the Geosciences Department with the approval of the undergraduate advisor. Up to 3 credits may be independent study and an additional 3 credits may be senior thesis credits.