Jul 22, 2024  
2020-2021 Undergraduate Catalog 
2020-2021 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geography and Environmental Systems



J. Alan Yeakley
B.S. Texas A&M-Commerce, 1986; M.S. University of Texas-Dallas, 1988; Ph.D. University of Virginia, 1993


Matthew Baker
B.A. Emory University, 1992; M.S. University of Michigan, 1996; Ph.D. 2002

Erle Ellis
B.A. Cornell, 1986; Ph.D. 1990

Jeffrey B. Halverson
B.S. University of Virginia, 1989; Ph.D.1995

Andrew Miller
B.A., Brown University, 1975; Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 1983

Christopher M. Swan
B.S., West Chester University, 1994; M.S. 1997, Ph.D. University of Maryland, 2003

Associate Professors

Dawn Biehler
B.A. Williams College, 1997; M.S. 2003; Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, 2007

Margaret Holland
B.A., Middlebury College, 1999; M.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009

David Lansing
B.A. University of Wyoming, 1999; M.A. Ohio State University, 2005, Ph.D. 2009

Colin Studds
B.S., Brown University, 1997; M.S. University of Rhode Island, 2001; Ph.D. University of Maryland, 2009

Assistant Professors

Dena Aufseeser
B.A., Brown University, 2003; M.Sc., London School of Economics, 2007; Ph.D., University of Washington, 2012

Matthew Fagan
B.S., University of Texas, Austin, 1998; M.S., Dartmouth College, 2003; Ph.D., Columbia University, 2014

Christine Hawn
Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2015

Dillon Mahmoudi
B.S. Georgia Institute of Technology, 2006; Ph.D. Portland State University, 2017

Ashante’ Reese
B.A., Trinity University (Texas), 2007; M.A., American University, 2013; PhD, American University, 2015

Yolanda Valencia
B.A., Eastern Washington University, 2002; M.A., University of Washington, 2014; PhD, University of Washington, 2019

Senior Lecturer

Suzanne Braunschweig
B.S., Towson University, 1988; Ph.D. Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University, 1993 (Director, Interdisciplinary Science)

Associate Staff

Joseph School
B.A., State University of New York, Potsdam, 1982; M.A. Temple University, 1984

Professor Emerius

Sari J. Bennett
B.A. University of Illinois, 1970; M.A. 1972; Ph.D. 1977

Roger N. Dubois
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

Robert J. Earickson
B.S., Arizona State University, 1963; M.A., 1965; Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle, 1968

Keith Harries
B.Sc., London School of Economics (U.K.), 1960; M.S., University of California, Los Angeles, 1966; Ph.D. 1969

Eugene P. Parker
B.A., The Ohio State University, 1972; M.A. 1974, M.S. 1975; Ph.D., University of Colorado, 1981

Thomas D. Rabenhorst,
M.A., University of Maryland College Park

Courses in this program are listed under GES.

For updated and current information, visit our department Web site: http://www.ges.umbc.edu.

The disciplines within the Geography & Environmental Systems Department traditionally encompass the study of patterns in both the natural and human environments. Our department’s name highlights the importance of interactions between natural environmental systems and social, political and economic systems. The dynamic and interdisciplinary character of the field is becoming increasingly relevant for a range of societal and environmental problems, including those related to urban and suburban economic development, transportation, poverty and crime, spatial distributions of disease and health care, environmental justice, water resources and water quality, landscapes, soils and vegetation, biodiversity, habitat loss and climate change. Techniques and tools of spatial analysis widely used in the discipline include cartography, remote sensing and geographic information systems, all of which involve extensive application of computer technology. The undergraduate curriculum emphasizes analytical skills and provides a rigorous background through course work in social science, natural science and mathematics.

The department’s program is designed to prepare students for any of three principal post-graduation activities: graduate school, a career in business or government or a career in education. The department offers both bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees; majors are expected to complete the prescribed number of credits of course work within the department, as well as work in complementary disciplines. The research agendas of the department’s faculty provide multiple opportunities for students to acquire both breadth and depth in their training and to engage in the study of problems whose importance is becoming more and more evident.  In addition, students in their junior and senior years are encouraged to gain practical experience through internships.

Please note, students majoring in one degree area can not pursue a second major (or minor) in the same department. The department also offers an Environmental Science Minor  and a Geography Minor  and a Geographic Information Science Certificate  and a Geography/Social Studies Secondary Teaching Certification Program . The GIS certificate is available to both majors and non-majors. The teaching certificate requires a student to major in one of the Department’s academic areas. In conjunction with the Secondary Education Program of UMBC’s Department of Education, there is also a degree track available for the B.S. that satisfies both the curriculum requirements of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the secondary-education certification in earth and space science in the state of Maryland. Interested students are encouraged to speak with a member of the faculty for advising and information.

Along with the undergraduate programs offered by the department there is an option for a Five-year B.S./M.S. Degree Pathway Program for qualified students. Undergraduate students interested in this program should consult with their GES faculty advisor as early in their academic career as possible.

Career and Academic Paths

The Environmental Science & Geography, B.S.  provides students with a strong grounding in both basic science and mathematics and in aspects of earth and environmental science that will enable them to address environmental problems from an interdisciplinary perspective. Graduates of the program will be eligible either for immediate employment or graduate study in earth science, environmental science or environmental engineering. Employment opportunities include public agencies, private-sector companies and non-profit organizations, or K-12 science education with a focus on earth and environment. Available jobs may involve field, laboratory and computer work using skills and knowledge in biogeography and landscape ecology, hydrology, geomorphology, soils, watershed processes, atmospheric science, environmental chemistry, biogeochemical cycling, water quality, estuarine processes, GIS, remote sensing and computer modeling. Public-sector employment opportunities include city and county planning and zoning agencies, the Census Bureau, teaching (including environmental education), law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Maryland Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency, state environmental and natural resources management agencies, transportation planning, the Commerce Department, State Department, Peace Corps and CIA. Private-sector opportunities are generally available with GIS and Environmental consulting companies along with firms specializing in areas related to the environment. Additional opportunities are sometimes available with non-profit organizations.

The educational objectives of the Geography & Environmental Studies, B.A.  shares many aspects of the objectives defined for the B.S., particularly at the introductory level. The B.A. program has a stronger emphasis on environmental policy and on the political, economic and cultural aspects of environmental problems, as well as on conservation strategies, risk analysis, environmental ethics and aesthetics. Opportunities for employment and graduate education focus more heavily on policy and management issues, including planning, natural resource management, urban issues, transportation, environmental education, environmental health, environmental justice, environmental economics and sustainable development.

UMBC students who choose to seek advanced degrees after completing the bachelor’s degree may choose from a range of programs in geography or in other disciplines, such as public policy, urban planning, earth and environmental sciences, and environmental engineering. Graduate programs attended by our students include those at University of California, Santa Barbara; Pennsylvania State University; Cal Tech; University of Georgia; The Johns Hopkins University; University of Arizona; University of Michigan; Duke and Louisiana State University.

Academic Advising

Students majoring in Environmental Science & Geography or Geography & Environmental Studies will meet regularly with a faculty advisor to determine what combination of courses are best suited to meeting their goals. Students should consult with faculty advisors to ensure that their academic background includes appropriate prerequisites if they are interested in pursuing graduate degrees in other disciplines.

Five-Year B.S./M.S. Pathway Degree

To gain entrance into this program a student must see their advisor for guidance. The advisor will verify that the student’s academic progress is sufficiently advanced to allow successful completion of the requisite graduate-level courses while also completing the requirements for the Bachelor’s degree in their senior year. Given advisor consent and approval by the GES graduate program director, students in their Junior year secure permission to join the pathway, allowing them to take up to three graduate-level courses, including GES 601/602, during their senior year. This permission requires a form filled out by the student and signed by the GPD that the student files with the UMBC Graduate School (Application form). In their Senior year, students then take the GRE and apply for admission to the GES MS program following the regular graduate admissions process. Remember, see your advisor to find out more.

Departmental Honors

Students who maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25 and a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 in the major are eligible to graduate with departmental honors upon successful completion of the following:

1. Three (3) GES credits designated as Honors at the 300 or 400 level, or three (3) credits of graduate-level course work if the student plans to enroll in the MS Pathway program. You may also arrange with a GES faculty member (in consultation with your advisor) to complete additional honors work in regular departmental courses. Students should plan to complete this course prior to registering for GES 491H  .

2. GES 491H  : Independent Study (3 credits)- This course must be taken before GES 499  ; therefore the latest students may take it is in their second to last semester. Students are required to complete a project proposal by the end of the course.

3. GES 499  : Honors Thesis (3 credits) - Eligibility to enroll in GES 499   requires senior standing, maintenance of the minimum grade point average (listed above) through the end of the previous academic semester, completion of at least one 400-level course in a topic area related to the thesis research, and permission of the student’s faculty advisor, along with a completed project proposal from GES 491H  .

Honors students must earn minimum of nine (9) credits of honors course work in the department.

The Honors Thesis (GES 499  ):
Each student will be assigned to a member of the Honors Committee who, along with the student’s advisor, will review and provide feedback on the honors’ thesis proposal. Upon completion, the thesis will be evaluated and graded by the student’s advisor and the honors committee member.  The department will award honors to students who maintain the required cumulative GPA and earn at least a B on her/his thesis.

In addition, each honors student is required to present the results of his or her work. The presentation can be either oral or as a poster (or both) at one or more public forums such as a professional meeting, UMBC’s annual spring Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day, or on the date reserved for undergraduate research during the Geography & Environmental Systems Department seminar series.

Any questions regarding the GES Honors program should be directed to Dr. Dawn Biehler, coordinator of the Undergraduate Program Committee.

Evening Option

Evening courses are offered occasionally, but generally, no more than one to three evening courses are offered in a single semester. Required core courses are almost always offered during daytime hours only.

Special Opportunities

The department’s cartography and geographic information systems (GIS) laboratories provide state-of-the-art facilities for students interested in analysis and presentation of spatial data. Faculty projects and special cooperative initiatives with government agencies provide opportunities for students to use these tools in answering vital research questions. Numerous internship opportunities are available for students who wish to pursue a practical work experience with local, state or federal government agencies; private corporations or nonprofit organizations. Some, but not all, of these are paid internships. In addition, the department offers in-house internships for students enrolled in the cartography or geographic information science applications certificate programs. Advanced students also have the opportunity to work with faculty on a range of research projects in human geography, physical geography and environmental science funded by agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and the U.S. Forest Service. Students also may develop their own independent study projects in collaboration with a faculty advisor. Several of our students have won competitive awards to pursue their own independent research projects through the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Initiative.

Some of the opportunities for research and internships at UMBC that are particularly noteworthy are associated with the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) (www.ecostudies.org/bes), the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education (CUERE)(www.umbc.edu/cuere/), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Water Science Center, and the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) (www.umbc.edu/jcet), a UMBC/NASA partnership. Students interested in these opportunities should consult with a faculty adviser.

The Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) - is one of only two NSF-funded Urban Long-Term Ecological Research sites in the United States. This is a long-term project with participation by scientists from many institutions and agencies, with the common goal of studying the internal structure and functioning of the Baltimore metropolitan area as an ecosystem involving interactions between humans and the natural and built environments. The field headquarters of this project are located on campus, and students are often hired as interns and field assistants.

Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education (CUERE) - The mission of CUERE is to advance understanding of the environmental, social and economic consequences of transformation of the urban and suburban landscape. It performs its mission through cooperative research projects, conferences and symposia, and support of university teaching programs. Students interested in science, policy or historical development of the urban environment may be able to work as interns on research projects through CUERE.

Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) - JCET operates under a cooperative agreement between UMBC and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. JCET meets the common interest of UMBC and GSFC to develop new technology for environmental remote sensing. JCET research focuses on four themes: atmospheric radiation, observations, clouds and precipitation, and interdisciplinary studies. Several JCET researchers teach climatology and weather classes in the Department of Geography and Environmental Systems and are interested in sponsoring students as interns.


    Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of ScienceCertificateNon-Degree


      Geography and Environmental SystemsScience