Feb 21, 2024  
Undergraduate Catalog | 2023-2024 
Undergraduate Catalog | 2023-2024

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.  Earth and Environmental Sciences include the study of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and surficial materials, and the influence of humans on those systems.  Environmental Studies is concerned with the intersection of human activities and the environment with particular focus on policy and planning.  Geography emphasizes the locational aspects of human activities as they are distributed over the Earth.  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 five 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, atmospheric science, climate, remote sensing, surface processes, soil science, and Environmental Information Systems.

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.For details, see the Graduate Catalog regarding the M.S. in Earth Sciences program.

Environmental Studies

The Environmental Studies program focuses on human interactions with the environment.  Areas of study are broad, but focus on the natural and built environments and the relationship between them.  Coursework covers areas such as environmental and land use planning, climate change, resource distribution and management, environmental policy, population dynamics, environmental health, food security, and conservation.

Students majoring in Environmental Studies pursue careers in environmental consulting, environmental planning, land development planning, public policy, environmental law and advocacy, park services, and teaching.  This degree also prepares students for graduate studies in environmental studies, public policy, and resource management.  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.A. in Geography and M.S. in Earth Sciences program.


The Geography program 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 Graduate Catalog regarding the M.A. in Geography program.


The Geology program provides students with a framework of geologic fundamentals integrated with applied chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics.  Elective courses allow students to tailor the degree toward specific interests or skills, and internships and independent research opportunities further enhance students’ preparedness.  Geology graduates find employment in environmental consulting, drilling or mining, and the public sector as well as pursue graduate degrees.  For details, see the Graduate Catalog regarding the M.S. in Earth Sciences program.


The Meteorology program provides students with an understanding of the atmosphere and the development of methods for applying that knowledge to practical problems.  Meteorology is an applied science that combines the fields of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science into an application of understanding the atmosphere.  The program exposes students to all of these disciplines, while in parallel applying these science concepts to mesoscale, synoptic, and global scale phenomena.

Students graduate with the skills and experience they need for professional employment within industry, private consulting firms, television, government, and the armed forces or for further study toward graduate degrees.  Meteorology also has significant ties to environmental, agricultural, oceanic, and hydrological sciences and, being in an interdisciplinary Geography and Earth Sciences department, allows students to explore these classes and possible minors.


The Department of Geography and Earth Sciences is housed in the McEniry building.  Supported Geography and Earth Science teaching and research activities include the areas of geographic information science and technology, urban and community planning, regional analysis, geography, hydrology, fluvial processes, hydrogeology, geochemistry, soils, petrology, mineralogy, sedimentology, geomorphology, structural geology, meteorology, and atmospheric science.

Numerous classrooms and laboratories are available for instructional and research purposes.  An extensive collection of rock, mineral and fossil samples are available for use in teaching.  Laboratory analytical capabilities present within the department include: ion chromatography, total carbon and nitrogen analysis, flow injection analysis, ICP-MS, atomic absorption spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD), laser particle size analysis, gas chromatography and water isotope analysis.  Rock cutting and thin-sectioning equipment along with petrographic microscopes are available for studies in mineralogy and petrology.  Field studies are supported with deployable equipment such as total stations, GPS, surface and groundwater sampling and monitoring devices, data loggers, soil boring equipment and ground penetrating radar.  The Department has vans and a four-wheel drive truck available for transportation to field research sites and for class field trips.

The meteorology program includes a wide variety of resources for our students and faculty, including the meteorology computer lab (Linux with all standard packages, Matlab, and other analysis software), access to campus High Performance Computing resources, broadcast meteorology studio, rooftop weather station, additional weather stations for field deployment, a rooftop lightning sensor, weather balloon launch system, hand-held and laboratory-grade air quality monitoring equipment, hand-held Kestral weather monitors, solar flux monitors, and skew-T charts.  Graduate and undergraduate researchers working with faculty enjoy a shared office space, and a conference room with touch-screen presentation display and video conferencing capability.

Students have access to four Departmental computer labs, three PC labs and one Linux lab, three of which have pay-for-print printers.  The three PC labs contain geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing software, including ArcGIS and ENVI software packages.  These workstations are used to support courses in GIS, remote sensing and image processing, and spatial decision support systems, as well as other classes in the department.  The Linux lab is used for our Meteorology classes and includes Matlab and other software.




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