University of Wisconsin–Madison


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

100 Level Courses

101 Introduction to Human Geography Human geographers explore socio-spatial relations, processes and representations of the world in which we live. This course engages economic, political, urban, sociocultural, and environmental geographic perspectives to investigate patterns and processes that have come to be associated with globalization. Spring Syllabus

120 Introduction to the Earth System Introduces students to how the Earth system works and what makes Earth livable. Through this course you will gain a deeper appreciation for how the atmosphere and earth's surface interact to shape our local, regional, and global landscapes. Many students take this course to fulfill their physical science requirement. Others use it as a gateway to majors and careers in Geography, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Science. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

127 Physical Systems of the Environment Physical Systems of the Environment (5 cr, P-E): Climatic regimes, landforms, soils, water, and lifeforms at Earth's surface in terms of energy-transforming processes, locational patterns, and changes through time. Fall Syllabus

139 Living in the Global Environment: An Introduction to People-Environment Geography Provides an exploration of the global and local nature of environmental problems facing us, including issues of climate change, food, energy, economic globalization, deforestation and land-use change, biodiversity loss, resource scarcity and access, environmental justice, and population. Through group and individual work, this course considers how we should analyze and act on environmental problems as we confront the apparently daunting scale of such issues. The theme of this course is that what appear to be single global environmental problems are actually composed of many smaller, context-specific and place-dependent problems or conflicts. Through an interdisciplinary and geographic perspective, these can be understood and addressed at the scale of our lived lives. Fall Syllabus

170 Our Digital Globe: An Overview of GIScience and its Technology Non-specialist course providing an overview of the collection, representation, and use of geospatial data. Introduces students to geospatial technologies like GPS, Google Earth, satellite imagery, and GIS, and provides a critical understanding of the strengths and limitations of spatial representations (e.g., maps, images). Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

198 Directed Study 1-2 cr (E). P: Open to Fr & So. Graded on a Cr/N basis; requires cons inst.

199 Directed Study 1-2 cr (E). P: Open to Fr & So. Graded on a lettered basis; requires cons inst.


200 Level Courses

244 Introduction to Southeast Asia: Vietnam to the Philippines 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: An Interdisciplinary Survey 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

302 Economic Geography Classic location theory with modern extensions. Examination of theoretical statements and selected empirical examples. Principles of economic regionalization and network analysis with emphasis on spatial implications of the economic development process.

305 Introduction to the City Investigates urbanization as a general process, as well as the resulting contemporary physical, social, cultural, and political- economic forms of cities. 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 | Fall Syllabus

309 People, Land and Food Introduction to how and why humans have transformed natural landscapes around the world, including tropical deforestation. Exploration of different agricultural systems, and topics such as food security, land scarcity, bioenergy, and the impacts of food production on the environment. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus

318 Introduction to Geopolitics An introduction to the contemporary study of geopolitics, featuring the main concepts and research themes encountered in this field. During the semester we will examine the formation of geopolitical images of the world, where these images come from, and how they have shaped our thinking and politics over time. Fall Syllabus

320 Geomorphology Principles and analysis of geomorphic processes and resulting landforms. Spring Syllabus

325 Analysis of the Physical Environment Selected associations of natural and human environments illustrative of the broad principles of physical geography. Practical application of data collection and the use of laboratory and field methods to Wisconsin examples employing quantitative and non-quantitative analytical methods.

326 Landforms-Topics and Regions Emphasis on natural and human processes that control the morphology of the land and its waterways.

329 Landforms and Landscapes of North America Regional variation of landforms and physical landscapes in North America; processes and forms that give character to physiographic regions. Fall Syllabus

331 Climatic Environments of the Past Climatic change at timescales from the last 1,000,000 years to the last 1000 years. Examines how climate variability arises from interplay between external forcings, feedbacks within the earth system, and (more recently) human activity. | Course website | Fall Syllabus

332 Global Warming: Science and Impacts Climate change is underway and will continue into the foreseeable future. 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 change, the science that explains these observations, predicted impacts on humans and ecosystems, and the societal debate over proposed solutions. | Course website | 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 Regional geography of the western United States. Natural and human characteristics, landscape features, land use issues, perception of area as region.

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 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 or 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 US 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.

475 Topics in Geography 1-4 cr (I). Subject matter, credits and prerequisites vary. Spring Syllabus | Fall Syllabus


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 In this advanced political geography course, we will explore reconceptualizations of power, place, and identity, as well as the interactive forces at work that continually reshape place-making and the interrelated processes of identification and differentiation.

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 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 & 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