Apr 13, 2024  
Undergraduate Catalog | 2018-2019 
Undergraduate Catalog | 2018-2019 Previous Edition

Department of Geography and Earth Sciences

The Department of Geography and Earth Sciences is a cross-disciplinary unit offering different but related programs of study. Geography emphasizes the locational aspects of human activities as they are distributed over the Earth. Earth and Environmental Sciences include the study of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and surficial materials, and the interactions between those systems with humans. Geology examines the composition, history, and structure of the whole Earth. Meteorology provides a rigorous study of the fundamental atmospheric processes that lead to weather and climate. A unique advantage of the Department’s interdisciplinary curriculum is that all four programs of study are inter-related in many ways. For example, a geography student interested in land use planning might gain important experience and knowledge from coursework in soil science or hydrology. An Earth and Environmental Sciences major might better understand soil formation and chemical weathering with courses in petrology and optical mineralogy. Emphasis in one area should not preclude class work or interest in another. In fact, this type of interdisciplinary work is often critical to the student’s program of study.

Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Earth and Environmental Sciences program focuses on the suite of dynamic processes acting at or near the surface of the Earth.  Study spotlights the composition and dynamics of the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and/or surficial materials including environmental applications of these fields of study.  Coursework covers areas such as environmental geology, hydrology, remote sensing, surfaces processes, soil science, and Environmental Information Systems.  This program also offers Concentrations in Hydrologic, Atmospheric, or Environmental Sciences, which provide students the opportunity to be recognized for more focused academic work. 

Students majoring in Earth and Environmental Sciences pursue careers in environmental consulting, environmental planning, meteorology, land development planning, site analysis, terrain analysis, and teaching.  This degree also prepares students for graduate studies in hydrology and remote sensing.  There are employment opportunities in both government and private industry with the greatest range of positions available to students who earn graduate degrees.  For details, see the UNC Charlotte Graduate Catalog regarding the M.S. in Earth Sciences program.


The Geography curriculum is oriented toward the concepts and methodologies of social science that stress the importance of location.  Geography is the study of spatial variation - of how things vary from place to place on the surface of the earth; how places are connected to each other, and the factors that shape how places interact and change over time.

Geography is studied at many levels, from the local to the global, and from many perspectives (i.e., social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental). Conceptual treatment of geographic issues deal with urbanization; globalization; migration; sustainability; patterns of land use; transportation systems; the flow of goods, services, and information; business location; planning for the natural and built environment; and human-environmental interaction in both urban and rural settings.  Special emphasis is placed on how these factors shape our world, the places where we live and work, and the ways in which we interact.  Geographic analysis involves information technology; mapping and statistical analysis; social area analysis; remote sensing and satellite imagery; and especially the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  A host of courses prepare students in both the concepts and methods of contemporary spatial analysis.  The department also leads the interdisciplinary Minor in Urban Studies .  Geography majors find careers in urban and regional planning, cartography, GIS applications and development, marketing research, transportation planning, real estate development, and teaching.  While a wide range of career options are available to undergraduate geography majors, graduate studies provide additional options.  For details, see the UNC Charlotte Graduate Catalog regarding the M.A. in Geography program.


The Geology program examines the entire Earth as a dynamic natural system by focusing on its composition, history and structure.  Students pursuing a B.S. degree take coursework in areas of Earth Sciences and Geology such as mineralogy, geochemistry, structural geology, hydrogeology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, petrology, and optical mineralogy. 

Students majoring in Geology pursue careers in geotechnical engineering, environmental consulting, mining, oil and gas exploration, site analysis, and teaching.  Students should seek advising for guidance toward courses that meet the requirements for North Carolina Licensure as a Professional Geologist and/or Soil Scientist.  There are employment opportunities in both government and private industry with the greatest range of positions available to students who earn graduate degrees.  For details, see the UNC Charlotte Graduate Catalog regarding the M.S. in Earth Sciences program.


The Meteorology program focuses on the atmosphere.  Students pursuing the B.S. degree take courses describing and explaining processes in the atmosphere, with traditional coursework in synoptic, dynamic, physical and boundary layer meteorology.  Ancillary coursework in oceanography, applied climatology, and air quality modeling are also available.  Students majoring in meteorology pursue employment in weather forecasting - private and public, air quality, climatology or atmospheric research.  Students majoring in meteorology pursue employment in government with the National Weather Service or through service in the United States Air Force and careers in industry either through broadcasting or with consulting companies and public utilities.


The Department of Geography and Earth Sciences is housed in modern, well-equipped facilities. Extensive rock, mineral and fossil holdings are available for instructional purposes. The optical mineralogy laboratory features high-quality petrographic microscopes linked with image analysis and cathodoluminescence systems. Analytical facilities also include a geochemical sample preparation laboratory, a plasma emission spectrometer, IC, TOC/TN, Microwave Digestion, XRD, XRF, ICP-MS analytical units, and rapid sediment analyzers. The petrology lab employs a precision thin section machine and an automated photomicrography unit that is attached to a research-grade polarizing microscope. A proton magnetometer and ground penetrating radar systems are available for ground-based field surveys. Frequent field trips are facilitated by the Department’s vans, extensive field instruments and camping gear.

The atmospheric-hydrology laboratories house the Department’s Meteorology Data Acquisition System (McIDAS), a geographic information systems package that provides “real time” meteorological data via links to weather satellites. Stream gauges, ground water monitoring equipment, and soil analysis instruments are on hand for use in fluvial processes, hydrogeology, and soils labs.

Students have access to a Departmental computer lab equipped with networked Macintosh and PC workstations, a file server, and printer. These facilities are networked to other labs on campus and to the University’s Novell servers. A separate geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing lab houses PC and Unix workstations, digitizers, and a large format color inkjet plotter. ArcGIS, ArcView and Erdas software packages run on the workstations and are used to support courses in GIS, remote sensing and image processing, and spatial decision support systems. The Department also maintains a large collection of geographically-referenced data for use by students and staff in the lab. These data sets include satellite imagery, U.S. Census Bureau files, and U.S. Geological Survey map data, as well as locally-developed data sets.

The UNC Charlotte Cartography Laboratory has earned a national reputation for its high quality production cartography. This cutting edge facility contains high-end Macintosh workstations, one 1200 dpi scanner, a 35 mm slide scanner and a slide processing unit, high-resolution laser printers and a large format color printer. Software include Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, PageMill, Authorware, Director, PowerPoint, and Astound.




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