Fall 2014 Geography Course Offerings

Click on the course title for course description, instructor name, and meeting time.

The course descriptions should be considered only as a guide to the course content since different instructors may emphasize slightly different aspects.

Past semester syllabi can also be viewed for more course content.


100 Level

Geog 101: Introduction to Human Geography, 3 cr. (S/E/C/Comm B)

Instructor: Prof. Keith Woodward
Meets: TR 9:30-10:45

"The 21st century will be China's century!" "Global warming threatens to sink island nations!" "Egyptian military removes President Morsi while death toll in Syrian civil war tops 100,000, casting gains from the Arab Spring in doubt!" "Wisconsin as the global leader in the production of biotechnology and mass murderers!" "The Onion prints its last newspaper in Madison!"

Such headlines highlight the diversity of global changes that daily impact our lives and localities. Geography 101 empowers students to make sense of these globalizing trends and their uneven outcomes and consequences for different communities around the world. It is a Comm B class that provides students with a broad range of critical tools for understanding the diverse cultural, social, political, and natural forces and actors that contribute to globalization today. | Past syllabus

Geog 120: Global Physical Environments: the Earth System, 3 cr. (P/E/C)

Instructors: Profs. Erika Marin-Spiotta and Jack Williams
Meets: MW 11:00-11:50

The Earth is many things: the place where we live, the water that we drink, the air that we breathe, and the home to all known life in the universe. The earth is a system, composed of many interacting subsystems: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere, the geosphere, and the anthrosphere. The earth is dynamic: we live in a swiftly changing world, characterized by rapidly changing climates, shifting landscapes, and growing human populations. Now, more than ever, it's essential to understand how the Earth system works, how it affects our livelihoods, and how we are altering the physical environment of our planet.

This class provides a critical foundation for careers in the environmental science and studies by providing an introductory description of how the Earth System works and what makes Earth livable. Through this course you will gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse processes that shape our local, regional and global landscapes. Many students take 120 to fulfill their physical science requirement. Others use the course as a gateway to majors and careers in Geography, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Science. We welcome students of all backgrounds and interests. Questions about the class may be directed to Professors Jack Williams and Erika Marin-Spiotta | Past syllabus

Geog 127: Physical Systems of the Environment, 5 cr. (P/E/C)

Instructor: Prof. Joe Mason
Meets: TR 11:00-12:15

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 first objective of the course is to provide a basic understanding of the most important processes shaping the environment in which we live. The second is 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. | Past syllabus

Geog 139: Living in the Global Environment: Intro to People-Environment Geog, 3 cr. (S/E/C)

Note: This course is still be listed in the timetable as "Resources and People" for Fall 2014.
Instructor: Prof. Morgan Robertson
Meets: MW 2:30-3:20

Have you ever thought about how humans have impacted the environment in your neighborhood or hometown? What about in your state, country, or even the globe? Over the past 500 years, the development of the modern world has created numerous environmental changes relating to issues like food production and resource management, as well as numerous challenges such as climate change and rising pollution. In this class you will be challenged to consider the complex interrelationships between nature and society. You'll think like a geographer and look at how global environmental problems have local, political, and historical dimensions. And you'll come away from the class with new solutions to some of these environmental challenges. | Past syllabus

Geog 170: Our Digital Globe: Overview of GIScience & its Technologies, 3 cr. (P/E/C)

Instructor: Prof. Qunying Huang
Meets: TR 2:30-3:45

This class is an introduction to Geographic Information Science (GIScience) and explores the tools and technologies for acquiring, analyzing, managing, and displaying geographic information. This course introduces a variety of geospatial technologies and tools, including geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning system (GPS), remote sensing (RS), spatial analysis, and cartography (the science and art of mapmaking). Although Geography 170 is a non-specialist course, it provides the foundation for various upper-level GIS, GPS, remote sensing, cartography, and web-animated cartography courses. | Past syllabus

300 Level

Geog 305: Introduction to the City, 3-4 cr. (S/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Sarah Moore
Meets: TR 2:30-3:45

What is a city? Is it defined by population? Density? Tall buildings? Attitude? Relationships? YES – a city is all of these things, and more. In this introductory urban geography course we will examine cities as physical and social constructions created over time. We will consider the ways in which "local" experiences and conditions of urban life are affected by broader social, economic and political processes including industrialization, economic restructuring and globalization.

This course is designed to help you develop: 1) An historically and geographically informed understanding of the ways in which cities are experienced by their inhabitants; 2) A thorough grounding in the key elements of urban geography that is informed BOTH by existing theory and research and by critical reflection on field observation and analysis; 3) An understanding of spatial organization and current restructuring of modern cities in light of the changing economic, cultural, and political forces that shape them and; 4) The ability to explain the economic, political, and social forces that have led to uneven development within cities and metropolitan areas and to starkly unequal conditions and opportunities for residents in these areas. This includes recent economic crises and recovery plans. | Past syllabus

Geog 318: Introduction to Geopolitics, 3 cr. (S/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Robert Kaiser
Meets: TR 1:00-2:15

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. | Past syllabus

Geog 329: Landforms and Landscapes of North America, 3 cr. (P/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Joe Mason
Meets: TR 2:30-3:45

This course is an introduction to the evolution of North American landscapes over geologic time. The focus is on some of the continent's most interesting and distinctive landscapes, where the results of tectonic and geomorphic processes are particularly well displayed. Although the same basic processes have shaped all of these landscapes, the results in each case are unique. Each region has its own set of landforms, soils, vegetation, lakes and streams, aquifers, and own "look" and character. These characteristics often have a strong influence on a region's human land uses, environmental problems, and natural hazards. One of the most important ideas underlying this course is that none of these distinctive landscapes can be understood without considering their long-term evolution. Each records a sequence of change over geologic time that can include past and present motion of the lithospheric plates, cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, changes in the stream network, glacial erosion, and major fluctuations of climate and vegetation. | Past syllabus

Geog 331: Climatic Environments of the Past, 3 cr. (P/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Jack Williams
Meets: TR 1:00-12:15

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 1) regular cycles between glacial and interglacial periods and 2) abrupt shifts in the state of the climate system. Understanding the sources and causes of past climatic variability is a necessary precondition to making informed projections of future climate changes and impacts. The field is changing rapidly and new discoveries appear every week. | Past syllabus | Course webpage

Geog 337: Nature, Power and Society, 3 cr. (/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Ian Baird
Meets: TR 1:00-2:15

Considers the complex interactions between contemporary societies and the environment, attentive to power relations, both in the USA and internationally.  | Past syllabus

Geog 338: Environmental Biogeography, 3 cr. (B/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Erika Marin-Spiotta
Meets: MW 2:30-3:35

This course takes an ecosystems approach to understand how physical -- climate, geologic history, soils -- and biological -- physiology, evolution, extinction, competition, dispersal -- factors interact to affect the past, present and future distribution of terrestrial biomes and all levels of biodiversity: genes, species, and ecosystems. A particular focus will be placed on the role of disturbance and to recent human-driven climatic and landcover changes and biological invasions, on differences in historical and current distributions of biodiversity.

Course goals include: 1) To learn patterns and mechanisms of local to global gene, species, ecosystem and biome distributions; 2) To learn how to apply concepts from biogeography to current environmental problems; 3) To learn important events and authors in the history of biogeographic study and; 4) To learn how to read and interpret the primary literature, that is, scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals. | Past syllabus

Geog 339: Environmental Conservation, 4 cr. (S/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Matt Turner
Meets: MW 2:30-3:45

How can we save biodiversity? Slow climate change? What are the strengths and weaknesses of conservation approaches such as national parks, community-based conservation, payments for ecosystem services, carbon credits, cap-and-trade, green labeling…etc. for addressing these and other environmental challenges. This course adopts an integrative approach for examining these and other approaches within different biophysical, socioeconomic and cultural contexts not only in the U.S. but around the world. Beyond lectures, our class activities include role-playing and debate and group exercises -- all based on a problem-solving approach. Students from all over campus are welcome to this class. | Past syllabus

Geog 340: World Regions in a Global Context, 3 cr. (S/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Kris Olds
Meets: Online

This online course that takes advantage of online learning technology to help you: 1) Enhance the acquisition of multiple forms of knowledge about all of the world's regions (e.g., Southeast Asia, East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa), and their component parts (e.g., countries, sub-national regions, cities, towns); 2) Learn about the insights generated via direct engagement (especially fieldwork and extensive travel) with world regions; and 3) Learn how key public, private and non-governmental actors with 'global reach' (e.g., the Gates Foundation, Google, the European Commission, ASEAN, Médecins Sans Frontières) frame, develop, and implement regionally specific strategies (e.g., the EU's Asia or Africa strategy).

By the end of the course you should know substantially more about the environment and society, history, economy and demographic change, and culture and politics, within each world region.  | Past syllabus

Geog 349: Europe, 3 cr. (S/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Robert Ostegren
Meets: MW 2:30-3:45

A topical overview of people-environment interaction, migration, culture, urbanization, political organization and integration. | Past syllabus

Geog 370: Introduction to Cartography, 4 cr. (P/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Robert Roth
Meets: TR 11:00-12:15

Geography 370 provides a general introduction to Cartography, broadly defined as the art, science, and ethics of mapmaking and map use. G370—and the UW Cartography curriculum generally—focuses upon the design of maps, drawing from research and practice on graphic design, information visualization, and semiotics, perspectives that you are unlikely to receive in other GIS courses. Specifically, G370 emphasizes mapmaking over map use (compared to G170) and print mapping over web-based or interactive mapping (compared to G572 and G575, respectively). G370 is divided into two components: lectures and labs. | Past syllabus

Geog 371: Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing, 3 cr. (/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Annemarie Schneider
Meets: TR 2:30-3:45

The objective of this course is to provide an overall introduction to the Earth as viewed from above, focusing primarily on the use of aerial photography and satellite imagery to study the environment. The intent is to learn how to use these data to understand issues related to environmental science, geography, earth sciences, forestry and resource management. The synoptic perspective of aerial and satellite remote sensing proves ideal for studying the spatial patterns of surface phenomena and for making maps of surface features. Currently, one of the most exciting uses of remote sensing is monitoring environmental change. | Past syllabus | Course website

Geog 377: Introduction to GIS, 4 cr. (P/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. A-Xing Zhu
Meets: TR 4:00-5:15

This course offers an introduction to methods of managing and processing geographic data. Emphases will be placed on: the nature of geographic data; spatial data models and structures; data input and management; spatial analytical and modeling techniques, and error analyses. The course is made of two components: the lectures and the labs. In the lectures, the conceptual elements of the above topics are explained. The labs are designed to give students experience in data input, data management, data analyses, and result presentation. | Past syllabus

Geog 378: Introduction to Geocomputing, 3 cr. (/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Jim Burt
Meets: MW 9:55-10-:45

This course is intended to be an introduction to scripting and programming for GIS and spatial analysis. For the purposes of the Cart/GIS major, Geog 378 will be accepted as meeting the programming requirement. The only pre-requisite is Geog 377, which may be taken concurrently. No programming background is assumed. As permitted by time, Geog 378 will cover the following: shell scripting, use of open-source GIS libraries, programming and scripting using the Python language. This is a 3-credit offering consisting of lecture and laboratory components. | Past syllabus

400 Level

Geog 434: People, Wildlife and Landscapes, 3 cr. (S/A/C)

Instructor: Prof. Lisa Naughton
Meets: TR 8:50-9:45

This course investigates the relationship between people and wildlife amidst different social and ecological contexts. We begin with 'puzzles from prehistory': Were humans responsible for eliminating megafauna across the continents ~12,000 years ago? Was big game hunting a formative part of human evolution? Why is hunting such a sex-biased activity? These puzzles have ecological significance as well as cultural import as metaphors for human-nature relations. We then turn to contemporary human-wildlife interactions, delving into the ecological and social conditions underlying patterns of coexistence and conflict. Conservationists have traditionally assigned mutually exclusive places to wildlife (wilderness) and humans (agriculture, cities). But the boundaries separating these places are permeable. Elephants leave African parks to forage in banana fields. Coyotes dwell in Madison. We analyze the resulting people-wildlife interactions and alternative strategies for wildlife conservation in human-dominated environments. Over the course of the semester students will learn key Geographic approaches to studying the human role in environmental change, particularly biogeography, political ecology and environmental perceptions. Class assignments will also help students improve their writing and speaking skills. | Past syllabus

Geog 439: U.S. Environmental Policy and Regulation, 3 cr. (/I/C)

Instructor: Prof. Morgan Robertson
Meets: MWF 11:00-11:50

This course covers a broad cross-section of American environmental policy. The goals of this course will be: 1) to familiarize the student with the spectrum of major US environmental regulations, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, CERCLA, regulations involving environmental justice and climate change, 2) to make students literate in the specialized language of environmental regulation, 3) to see how these policies affect our daily interaction with the environment, and 4) to also view issues of policy through the critical and geographic viewpoints often adopted by scientists and academics. In this course we will survey the basic elements of American environmental policy and regulation, and also focus on the specific people, sites and scales at which environmental decision-making happens. | Past syllabus

Geog 475: Topics in Geography: Cartography Practicum, 3 cr. (/A/C)

Instructor: Tanya Buckingham
Meets: MW 3:30-3:45

500 Level

Geog 500: Qualitative Research Strategies in Geography, 3 cr. (S/A/C)

Instructor: Prof. Ian Baird
Meets: W 3:00-5:30

This course is designed to familiarize students with various aspects of qualitative research strategies, as practiced by human and people-environment geographers, and prepare students to address many (but certainly not all!) of the kinds of challenges that they are likely to encounter when conducting qualitative research in both the USA and internationally. The course is designed to increase the confidence of upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students in relation to conducting qualitative research. The course, which is taught as a seminar, considers a wide range of issues related to qualitative research, including the human subjects review process, research ethics, the development of research questions, conceptualizing research subjects, preparing for fieldwork, participant observation, interviewing techniques, the organization of focus group discussions, filmic experiences, participatory action research, analyzing field materials and some (but not all) of the writing styles commonly used in qualitative research | Past syllabus

Geog 506: Historical Geography of European Urbanization, 3cr. (S/A/C)

Instructor: Prof. Robert Ostegren
Meets: T 3:30-5:30

Changes in the morphology, functions, and arrangements of towns and cities from the urban revolution in the ancient Middle East to the Industrial Revolution in nineteenth century western Europe and America. | Past syllabus

Geog 538: The Humid Tropics: Ecology, Subsistence and Development, 4 cr. (S/A/C)

Instructor: Prof. Lisa Naughton
Meets: T 1:20-3:15

The humid tropics cover only 10% of the earth’s surface but are home to nearly half of the world's people and half its species.The humid tropics are undergoing rapid social and environmental change, including urbanization and deforestation.We begin this course with an overview of the physical environment of the tropics (what explains such high biodiversity? how will climate change affect tropical forests?). Then we study the forces driving landuse change in tropical Africa, Latin America, and SE Asia.We spend the second half of the course delving into the ecological and social viability of dominant strategies for conserving tropical ecosystems, including protected areas, community-based forest management, and payments for ecosystem services (especially forest carbon payments). This is an advanced class for seniors and graduate students. | Past syllabus

Geog 565: Colloquium for Undergraduate Majors, 3 cr. (/A/C)

Instructor: William Gartner
Meets: TR 9:30-10:45

The Geography Undergraduate Colloquium will: (1) briefly introduce you to a broad scope of geographic theory, debate, and practice across the discipline; (2) help you acquire the skills necessary to design and implement a geographic research project; (3) enhance your critical reasoning and analytical skills; (4) advance your knowledge of a specific sub‐field of the discipline; and (5) further develop your written, oral, and visual communication skills. The Undergraduate Geographic Colloquium differs from most lecture classes in that participants will meet these objectives by designing and implementing an original research project. The ultimate objective of this class is for you to produce a high quality final project that showcases your skills as a geographer to a potential employer or a graduate program. One often comes to appreciate the study of "earth as home" through geographic practice. This class provides you with that opportunity. | Past syllabus

Geog 566: History of Geographic Thought, 3 cr. (S/A/C)

Instructor: Prof. Keith Woodward
Meets: M 3:30-6:00

This course surveys the major traditions of geographic thought from the early 20th century to the present. Attending to both 'human' and 'physical' perspectives in the discipline - as well as those that blur the lines between the social and natural sciences - we will explore the changing, contested nature of geographic knowledge in terms of its situated, historical contexts and its numerous reformulations in contemporary practice. In so doing, the course provides students with the background for understanding their research in terms of the philosophies and methods, and the convergences and departures that constitute the intellectual history of the discipline in general, and Geography at Madison in particular. | Past syllabus

Geog 575: Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization, 4 cr. (P/A/C)

Instructor: Prof. Robert Roth
Meets: TR 1:00-2:15

Geography 575 provides a comprehensive overview of topics related to dynamic mapping, topics typically considered under the cartographic research thrusts of Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization. The class focuses on the design and development of user interfaces to geographic information and associated map-centered representations of these information, drawing from research and practice on Human-Computer Interaction, Information Visualization, Usability Engineering, and Visual Analytics, perspectives that you are unlikely to receive in other GIS courses. Specifically, Geography 575 emphasizes mapmaking over map use (compared to G170) and the design of interfaces to maps rather than the maps themselves (compared to G370 and G572). | Past syllabus | Course webpage

Graduate Seminars

Geog 901: Deleuze and Geophilosophy (Woodward), 3 cr.

Instructor: Prof. Keith Woodward
Meets:T 3:30-6:00PM

One of the most influential and controversial figures in contemporary thought, Gilles Deleuze is an inherently spatial thinker. While popularly celebrated for theories of becoming and rhizomes, it is rather his 'geophilosophy' that reverses many tropes in the history of western thought. This innovation marks a high point in half a century of 'spatial turns' in continental philosophy and social theory. By borrowing liberally from human and physical geography, Deleuze develops a 'philosophy of difference' that attempts to take stock of the complexity of grounded, real situations. This course will delve into the depths of Deleuzian thought, exploring the key questions that drive his interventions and the methodologies he adapts and invents for his theoretical project. We will ask how Deleuze's unique treatment of social and spatial realities informs his ability to open new theoretical avenues. Along the way, we will explore the contributions of other key interventions in the French spatial turn, from Bachelard's spatial poetics to Foucault's institutional spaces, and from Lefebvre's 'production of space' to Derrida's deconstructive spacings. Related topics include: space, politics, social change, affect, subjectivity.

Geog 930: Approaches to Reducing Tropical Deforestation (Gibbs), 3 cr.

Instructor: Prof. Holly Gibbs
Meets:W 1:00-3:30PM

This seminar will explore a range of approaches aiming to reduce deforestation looking across the tropics and through time. We will study the social and environmental implications of various efforts including REDD+, payments for ecosystem services, environmental certification schemes, zero-deforestation agreements, as well as command-and-control interventions including land use zoning and protected areas. We will consider what these approaches mean on the ground in terms of livelihoods, land rights, market access, and other social implications in addition to assessing their variable impacts on forest conservation. All major forest regions will be considered but Brazil will be a focus as we examine the dramatic fluctuations in rates of forest clearing.

top