Jul 12, 2024  
2015-2016 Undergraduate Catalog 
2015-2016 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geography and Environmental Systems

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


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

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

Associate Professors

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

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

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

Clinical Associate Professors

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

Assistant Professors

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

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

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

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


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

Erwin Villiger
B.A., George Mason, 1994; M.S., George Mason, 1996; Ph.D., George Mason, 2008 (Director, Master in Professional Studies (M.P.S.): Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Shady Grove)

Associate Staff

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

Professor Emerius

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


Courses in this program are listed under GES.

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

The discipline of geography traditionally encompasses the study of spatial patterns in both the natural and cultural environment. 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, poverty and crime, human health, water resources and water quality, land and soil resources, biodiversity, habitat loss and climate change. The department’s name, Geography and Environmental Systems, highlights the importance of interactions between natural environmental systems and social, political and economic systems. A rigorous background including courses in the natural sciences, mathematics and social sciences is also essential to the development of analytical skills and is, therefore, a required element of our degree programs. The undergraduate curriculum and the research agenda 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.

For students interested in environmental problems, natural resources and environmental conservation, a study of the impact of human activities on environmental systems includes elements of both physical and human geography. Physical geography investigates such matters as the development of landforms; patterns of climate, soils and vegetation; and interactions among these features of the physical environment. Human geography examines topics including the distribution of economic development, transportation, crime and urbanization; political, cultural and social geography; and spatial distributions of disease and health care.

Techniques and tools of spatial analysis that are widely used by geographers include cartography, remote sensing and geographic information systems, all of which involve extensive application of computer technology. 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. 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 minors in Geography, Environmental Science and certificate programs in Geographic Information Science (GIScience) and Teaching. 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 four academic areas.

Along with the four 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

Graduates may find employment with companies seeking expertise in geographic information systems and remote sensing, cartography, planning, facility location, distribution and transportation problems, and environmental consulting and analysis. 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. 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 who decide to major in geography will meet regularly with a faculty advisor to determine what combination of courses, selected from within Geography and Environmental Systems and from other disciplines, are best suited to meeting their goals. Those who plan to attend graduate school also are strongly encouraged to gain proficiency in statistical techniques. 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. Several of our students also have won competitive awards to pursue their own independent research projects through the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Initiative.


    Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of ScienceCertificateNon-Degree


      Geography and Environmental SystemsScience

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