University of Wisconsin–Madison


Find this semester's course offerings at the online Course Guide.

100 Level Courses

101 Introduction to Human Geography This course introduces students to the field of human geography by exploring the spaces, patterns, and processes that contribute to local and global change. To do this we explore the relations between space and social life associated with globalization through the use of a series of human geographic lenses: economic geography, sociocultural geography, population geography, political ecology, urban geography, and political geography. Similarily, we will study global change to better understand human geography. Students will gain an appreciation for interpreting data and trends with a focus on space and scale; the importance of place, environment, boundaries, territory, and other elements of geography important to human experiences; and mapping and other geographic approaches. Fall Syllabus

120 Introduction to the Earth System We live in a swiftly changing world characterized by rapidly changing climates, shifting landscapes, and growing human populations. Now, more than ever, it is essential to understand how the earth system works, how it affects our livelihoods, and how we are altering it. This course provides a critical foundation for understanding just that. Through this course students gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse processes that shape our local, regional, and global landscapes. Many students take this course to fulfill the physical science requirement. Others use it as a gateway to majors and careers in Geography, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Science. Spring Syllabus

127 Physical Systems of the Environment This course is an introduction to physical geography, the study of natural environmental systems, emphasizing how these systems produce local and global patterns of weather and climate, vegetation, soils, and landforms. The course has three objectives: 1) To provide a basic understanding of the most important processes shaping the physical environment in which we live; 2) To convince you of the dynamic nature of that environment, and the degree to which it has changed in the past and is changing at present, in part because of human activity; and 3) To provide you with important tools that you can use, with background knowledge from this course, to explore the climate, vegetation, soils, and landforms of particular places and how they are changing over time. The course has separate lecture and lab components, which are coordinated so the labs provide you with a more in-depth understanding of many of the same basic concepts discussed in lecture, along with new material.  Fall Syllabus

139 Living in the Global Environment This course explores the global and local nature of environmental problems facing humanity, including climate change, food and energy scarcity, globalization, deforestation, biodiversity loss, environmental justice, and population growth. Through group and individual work, students will learn to analyze and address environmental problems on many scales. A key theme will be that what appear to be monolithic global environmental problems are actually many smaller, context-specific and place-dependent problems that when addressed with interdisciplinary and geographical perspectives can be understood and adressed at the scale of our lived lives.  Fall Syllabus

170 Our Digital Globe: An Overview of GIScience and its Technology This course is an introduction to Geographic Information Science (GIScience) and explores the tools and technologies for acquiring, analyzing, managing, and displaying geographic information. It introduces a variety of geospatial technologies and tools, including geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), remote sensing, spatial analysis, and cartography (the science and art of mapmaking). Although GEOG 170 is a non-specialist course, it provides the foundation for various upper-level GIS, GPS, remote sensing, cartography, and web-animated cartography courses. Spring Syllabus


200 Level Courses

230 Soil: Ecosystem and Resource Soils are fundamental to ecosystem science. A systems approach is used to investigate how soils look and function. Topics investigated include soil structure, biology, water, fertility, and taxonomy, as well as the human impact on the soil environment.

244 Introduction to Southeast Asia Southeast Asian history, religion, folklore and literatures, educational systems, and politics from the early classical states to contemporary social, literary, and political developments.

252 The Civilization of India Contemporary India society as a joint product of the classical heritage and world-wide movements toward nationalism; social and economic development.

253 Russia Comprehensive interdisciplinary survey of Russian civilization from its beginnings through the present day.

254 Eastern Europe Comprehensive interdisciplinary survey of East European culture, society, politics, and literature from its beginnings through the present day.

260 Latin America Latin American culture and society from an interdisciplinary perspective; historical developments from pre-Columbian times to the present; political movements; economic problems; social change; ecology in tropical Latin America; legal systems; literature and the arts; cultural contrasts involving the US and Latin America; land reform; labor movements; capitalism, socialism, imperialism; mass media.

277 Africa African society and culture, polity and economy in multidisciplinary perspectives from prehistory and ancient kingdoms through the colonial period to contemporary developments, including modern nationalism, economic development and changing social structure.


300 Level Courses

301 Revolutions and Social Change An introduction to the spatial dimensions of social movements, social struggles, and radical social change. Provides students with a range of critical and theoretical perspectives for reading and interpreting space as a tool of social transformation. Lectures and discussions explore a variety of historic examples from the nineteenth century to the present. Spring Syllabus

305 Introduction to the City This course investigates urbanization as a general process, as well as the resulting contemporary physical, social, cultural, and political-economic forms of cities, focusing on examples from the United States from the twentieth century to the present. As an ethnic studies class, emphasis will be placed on the history and current forms of spatial and social segregation of cities by race, class, ethnicity, and gender. The myriad ways that cities have addressed the tensions emerging from this history of spatial and social segregation will be highlighted. Further, emphasis will be placed on understanding the experiences of those most affected by historical and continuing segregation. Spring Syllabus

309 People, Land, and Food In this course we will examine how and why humans have transformed the global landscape and the consequences for biodiversity, climate, biogeochemical cycling, and other ecosystem services needed to keep our planet habitable. We will explore these land-use tradeoffs between human necessities such as food production and unintended consequences such as habitat loss, floods, greenhouse gas emissions, and community displacement. We will study different agricultural systems in different regions and tackle topics such as food security, land scarcity, bioenergy, and the impacts of agriculture on the environment. The drivers and patterns of tropical deforestation will also be a focus. We will examine a range of solutions from global policy to everyday decisions to feed and fuel the world without destroying the planet. Spring Syllabus | Summer Syllabus

318 Introduction to Geopolitics The purpose of this course is to introduce you to the main concepts and research themes in contemporary geopolitics. As one of the primary perspectives within the field of political geography, geopolitics represents a broad engagement with the interactive relationships between power and place, and the construction, contestation, and reconfiguration of political spaces that result. We will examine the formation of geopolitical images of the world, where these images originate, and how they have shaped our thinking and politics over time. Spring Syllabus

320 Geomorphology Geomorphology is the study of landforms and landscapes and the processes that have shaped them. It is a basic science, driven in part by curiosity about the landscapes in which we live. Geomorphology also has important practical implications, however, and is essential to understanding many natural hazards and many forms of environmental change. In this course, we will generally follow a sequence from process to form, starting with an in-depth look at a particular group of geomorphic processes, followed by discussion of the landforms those processes create and their importance in interpreting long-term landscape development. Spring Syllabus

329 Landforms and Landscapes of North America This course is an introduction to the natural landscapes of North America, from the Pacific Northwest with its rainforests and active volcanoes to the forest-covered ridges and valleys of the Appalachians. It is a selective introduction - we'll cover landscapes that are especially interesting and distinctive, but we'll have to overlook a lot of others. Fall Syllabus

331 Climatic Environments of the Past This class focuses on climatic changes during the Quaternary Period, which encompasses the last 2.6 million years, includes the rise of human civilizations, and extends to the present day. Climatically, the defining characteristics of the Quaternary are regular cycles between glacial and interglacial periods, and abrupt shifts in the state of the climate system. Understanding the sources and causes of past climatic variability is a necessary precondition to understanding why climates are changing today and to making informed projections for the future. The field is changing rapidly and new discoveries appear every week. Fall Syllabus

332 Global Warming: Science and Impacts Climate change is underway and will continue into the foreseeable future. Climate change is caused by a combination of natural processes and human alterations of the earth system, with the latter increasing in importance. Because climate directly or indirectly affects all aspects of our lives, and vice versa, it is essential for twenty-first century citizens to be knowledgeable about climate science and policy. This course offers a fundamental understanding of how and why global warming is happening, and what to expect in the future. Together we will investigate and discuss the evidence for climate change, the interplay among human and physical drivers, the science that explains these observations, predicted impacts on humans and ecosystems, and proposed solutions. Spring Syllabus

337 Nature, Power, and Society Explores the links between nature, power, and society in today's world. The course considers the complex relationships between humans and the earth's resources, including food, energy, physical materials, water, biota, and landscapes; it considers issues linked to population and scarcity, resource tenure, green consumerism, political economy, environmental ethics, risks and hazards, political ecology, and environmental justice. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

338 Environmental Biogeography This course will explore how physical and biological factors affect the distribution of terrestrial biomes, ecosystem types, and biodiversity; as well as the role of disturbance and recent human activities on differences in past and modern day species distributions. Fall Syllabus

339 Environmental Conservation Examines major environmental conservation approaches in the U.S. and developing countries and how they are influenced by sociopolitical factors, cultural values, and scientific understandings of nature. Historical and contemporary cases are explored with emphasis on biodiversity and climate change issues. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

340 World Regions in Global Context Survey of development and change within each of the world’s regions (e.g., Africa, Southeast Asia). Attention devoted to environment and society; history, economy, and demographic change; culture and politics; future challenges; key actors. | Course website | Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

342 Geography of Wisconsin Overview of the physical and human geography of Wisconsin, with an emphasis on the physical, historical, and cultural processes that shaped the Badger State.

344 The American West This course is an introduction to the geography of the western United States. While we could look at that geography from all kinds of perspectives, this course focuses mainly on the complex human-environment interactions in the West, how they have changed in the recent past, and how they are continuing to change today. Spring Syllabus

355 Africa, South of the Sahara Physical and human distributions and interrelationships, with emphasis on the spatial processes and patterns of modernization. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

358 Human Geography of Southeast Asia This survey course is designed to introduce intermediate undergraduate students to the Human Geography of Southeast Asia, including the basic geography and history of the region, important political and theoretical issues, and policies and positions of relevance for understanding the spatiality of the region, including the ways that ethnicity and indigeneity are playing out in Southeast Asia and among Southeast Asians in the USA. Spring Syllabus

359 Australia: Environment and Society This course is an introduction to the human and environmental geography of Australia. Australia is a settler country, the scene of indigenous genocide, a former English colony, a mythical unknown, a biophysical puzzle, home to a startling diversity of life, a cradle of modern democracy, and a powerful industrial economy with a rich resource base. It thus serves in many ways as a mirror for the US - even matching the US roughly in size, if not in population. The two countries share many elements of a common history and biogeography and yet the human and environmental geographies of the two countries have traced very different paths into the modern world. This course provides a survey of Australian geology, ecology, society, and culture. It will include weekly check-ins with current events in Australia and exercises that connect students to current resource-management problems using Google Earth and other tools.

360 Quantitative Methods in Geographical Analysis Application of descriptive and inferential statistics to geographical problems. Spring Syllabus

370 Introduction to Cartography A broad introduction to cartography emphasizing the theory and practice of map-making. Topics include the basics in mapping (e.g., scale, spatial reference systems, projections), data acquisition, key techniques for thematic mapping, and principles of cartographic abstraction and design. | Course website | Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

371 Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing Intro to the Earth as viewed from above, focusing on use of aerial photography and satellite imagery to study the environment. Includes physical processes of electromagnetic radiation, data types and sensing capabilities, methods for interpretation, analysis and mapping, and applications. | Course website | Fall Syllabus

377 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems Design, implementation, and use of automated procedures for storage, analysis, and display of spatial information. Covers data bases, information manipulation and display techniques, software systems, and management issues. | Course website | Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

378 Introduction to Geocomputing Intro to scripting for Geographic Information Science. Geoprocessing with open-source GIS utilities. Python scripting with ArcGIS and open-source libraries. Fall Syllabus


400 Level Courses

420 Glacial and Pleistocene Geology Principles, characteristics, and work of glaciers; events of the Pleistocene.

434 People, Wildlife, and Landscapes This course explores the relationship between humans and wildlife amid diverse landscapes, both historic and contemporary, tropical and temperate. We study how humans shape wild animal populations by modifying physical environments, and by hunting, domesticating, and introducing species. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

439 U.S. Environmental Policy and Regulation This course covers a broad cross-section of American environmental policy by focusing on specific statutes and policy arenas. In this course we will survey the basic elements of American environmental policy and regulation with a particular focus on the specific people, sites and scales at which environmental decision-making happens through primary-source case material. Understanding environmental outcomes in a complex society depends on observing both the structure of regulations and the geographic and social context in which such regulations emerge. This course will maintain a dual focus on (a) the legal and regulatory aspects of environmental regulation and (b) the specific geographic and social features of actual cases in which regulations and policy are used. Fall Syllabus

460 American Environmental History Survey of interactions among people and natural environments from before European colonization to present. Equal attention to problems of ecological change, human ideas, and uses of nature and history of conservation and environmental public policy. | Course website | Spring Syllabus

469 The Making of the American Landscape Surveys the historical geography and environmental history of the United States by tracing the evolution of the American landscape from precolonial times to the present, with special emphasis on teaching students skills they can use to interpret landscape history themselves.


500 Level Courses

500 Qualitative Research Strategies in Geography This seminar course surveys qualitative research and methods in geography, including the human subjects review process, research ethics, preparing for fieldwork, participant observation, interviewing, focus groups, filmic experiences, archival research, participatory action research, analyzing field materials and writing styles in qualitative research. Fall Syllabus

501 Space and Place Explore the concepts of space and place from the perspective of learning and everyday experience. Examines how space and place emerge out of fundamental human needs, experiences, and ways of thinking. Fall Syllabus

503 Researching the City Explores and applies qualitative methods in the field of urban geography. An introduction to debates around the analysis and interpretation of qualitative data is provided, grounded in concrete urban research.

510 Economic Geography Theoretical aspects of spatial economic distributions and locational analysis. Spring Syllabus

518 Power, Place, Identity Processes of identification and differentiation are integral to the dynamic interaction between power and place, in some cases resulting in the creation of more inclusive multicultural sociospatial places and practices, while in others leading to more exclusionary settings. We will investigate the various intersections and interactions among power, place, and identity; review the reconceptualizations of borders and bordering in political geography; examine the specific case of nationalism and the place and identity discourses and practices that result from it; explore the cultural politics of memoryscapes; and consider the geographies of resistance through which subaltern political actors seek to empower themselves and their communities. Finally, we will assess the postnational political geographies associated with diasporas and globalization, and discuss the new spaces of citizenship identification that are said to be resulting from these processes.  Spring Syllabus

523 Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics Geographic responses of plant species and terrestrial ecosystems to late-Quaternary environmental change, particularly changes in climate and carbon dioxide. Quaternary vegetation dynamics are relevant to understanding vegetational responses to the 21st-century climate change. Laboratory section emphasizes multivariate data analysis and vegetational modeling. Spring Syllabus

525 Soil Geomorphology Soil development as related to landscape throughout the Quaternary; focusing on the relationship of soils to climate and vegetation, landscape evolution, and time; principles of soil stratigraphy; case histories of soil geomorphic studies. Spring Syllabus

526 Human Transformations of Earth Surface Processes This course takes an earth systems approach to explore the role of human societies in shaping earth surface processes from local to global scales. We address how alterations to our landscapes and waterways affect biological, physical and chemical interactions among our biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. We discuss methods used to distinguish the "human impact" from background variability. Spring Syllabus

527 The Quaternary Period Principles of Quaternary studies emphasizing terrestrial records and paleoecology of the past two million years and comparisons with the deep ocean record and models of climatic change. Spring Syllabus

528 Past Climates and Climatic Change Climatic change throughout geologic time, especially in the last 10 millennia; mechanisms of change, evidence, and criteria, paleogeography and paleoclimatology, climate models.

534 Environmental Governance: Markets, States, and Nature This class is designed to help students answer real-world questions of how the environment is managed and governed through state policy, economics, and social institutions. We will cover strategies within and outside of the formal institutions of government, and extend the discussion to the commodification of nature and the use of science to understand and govern the environment. The last third of the class will consist of students engaging with case studies of environmental governance in water, carbon, species, and urban sustainability. Spring Syllabus

537 Culture and Environment Geographic approaches to culture-nature relationships, including human perception of, use of, and adaptation to the physical environment, with emphasis on traditional subsistence systems; selected topics from contemporary and historical sources. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

538 The Humid Tropics: Ecology, Subsistence, and Development Description and analysis of humid-tropical ecosystems, with emphasis on the relationships, production potential, and human modification of biotic resources. Fall Syllabus

557 Development and Environment in Southeast Asia Examines the political, sociocultural, economic, and ecological aspects of contemporary development and human-environment relations in mainland Southeast Asia, applying a critical and theoretically informed perspective, and focusing largely on rural issues. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

560 Advanced Quantitative Methods Selected topics in the analysis of spatial distributions with emphasis on multivariate techniques. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

565 Colloquium for Undergraduate Majors Orientation to geography as a scholarly discipline; its development, objectives, essential concepts, methods of investigation, institutions, opportunities, problems, and trends.

566 History of Geographic Thought An analysis of the development and significance of basic geographic concepts and theories. Major emphasis on concepts of place, spatial relations, landscape, and human-environment relations. Fall Syllabus

572 Graphic Design in Cartography Study of the map as a graphic communication, the technical and perceptual aspects of its organization, symbolic coding, color, and lettering. | Course website | Fall Syllabus

574 Geospatial Database Design and Development Introduces the basic concepts, techniques, and methodologies for designing and implementing a spatial database. The course prepares students for professional work as a GIS designer, analyst, specialist, or researcher who uses spatial databases to store, manage, and manipulate digital geographic data. Students learn how to design conceptual spatial database models, and how to implement them within specific spatial data management systems (DBMS). The course covers the basics of the SQL database language and the latest developments in database systems (e.g. NoSQL database) for managing and mining spatial big data such as social media datasets and GPS trajectories.

575 Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization Examines emerging topics related to the design of user interfaces for manipulating maps, focusing on new cartographic challenges in Interactive Cartography, Geographic Visualization, and Geovisual Analytics and drawing upon relevant insight in Human-Computer Interaction, Information Visualization, and Usability Engineering. | Course website | Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

576 Spatial Web and Mobile Programming Learn how to program spatial analytical tools for the web and mobile devices. You will also learn how to create mobile GIS applications using Java, giving you the flexibility to create specific GIS tools for people working on the move. Objective: Develop skills to program spatial analysis functions in web and mobile environments. Specific Topics: Software development and Object Oriented Programming: JAVA programming fundamentals; Geospatial programming tools, languages and libraries: Servlet, JavaServer Page (JSP), JavaScript (JS), Google Maps API, Leaflet, HTML, CSS, XML, etc.; Web and mobile GIS design and development.

578 GIS Applications Application and use of GIS techniques in physical and human geography. Includes an introduction to a generic framework of GIS applications, case studies, and student projects. Cases range from urban and regional geography, to marketing geography, and to physical and environmental geography. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

579 GIS and Spatial Analysis Principles and algorithms for spatial analysis in geographic information systems. A theoretical and practical examination of analytical methods used in GIS, including point, line and polygon processing, spatial autocorrelation, spatial interpolation, smoothing, spatial overlay and query, network analysis, terrain analysis, and classification. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus


600 Level Courses

602 Internship Students may earn no more than two internship credits toward the 30-40 credits in geography.

675 Special Topics in Geography I or II or SS; 3 cr (S-A). Topics vary. P: Jr, Sr, or Grad st, or cons inst. Fall Syllabus

676 Special Topics in Geography I or II or SS; 3 cr (P-A). Topics vary. P: Jr, Sr, or Grad st, or cons inst. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

681 Senior Honors Thesis

682 Senior Honors Thesis

691 Senior Thesis

692 Senior Thesis

698 Directed Study

699 Directed Study


700 Level Courses

765 Geographical Inquiry and Analysis: An Introduction Geographic perspectives and analyses: history of the discipline, issues and research frontiers, interests and perspectives of Madison faculty, structure of graduate study in the department, research facilities and opportunities. Fall Syllabus

766 Geographical Inquiry and Analysis: Techniques Engaging in geographic research: analysis of successful proposals and published papers and books; different approaches to geographic research; writing of proposals for students' own research. Spring Syllabus

799 Independent Reading


900 Level Courses

900 Seminar in Geography Fall Syllabus

901 Cities and Development | Course website | Spring Syllabus

918 Seminar in Political Geography: The Geography of Nationalism

920 Seminar in Geography | Course website | Spring Syllabus

930 Seminar in People-Environment Geography I Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

930 Seminar in People-Environment Geography II Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

932 Seminar in American Environmental History | Course website | Fall Syllabus

970 Seminar in Geographic Information Science Spring Syllabus

990 Research and Thesis

999 Independent Work