Graduate Courses

Graduate Course Offerings

GES 601 – Introduction to Geography and Environmental Systems [3]
This course is a graduate-level introduction to the principles underlying geographic and environmental systems. Guiding theories of human geography, physical geography and environmental science will be introduced through detailed examination of cross-cutting multidisciplinary issues including natural hazards and human vulnerability, the management of water resources and fossil fuels, and global environmental changes such as the recent atmospheric-oceanic warming trend and land-use/land-cover change. Within these topics, specific theories guiding geographic and environmental research will be covered in depth, including spatial analysis, critical geographic theory, postmodern social theories, and political ecology. Important theories governing the functioning of environmental systems will be presented. This includes the cycling of mass and energy between Earth’s various spheres and the theory of Earth as a dynamic system seeking equillibrium in the face of multiple perturbations both natural and anthropogenic.

GES 602 – Research Methods [3]
This course is designed to provide GES graduate students with a clear understanding of past and present methodology associated with spatial, temporal, and dynamic research in geography and environmental systems. The primary focus of the course will be on the development of research questions and how to utilize various types of analyses to answer these questions and further fields of inquiry. Several methodologies will be covered during the course of the semester and applied to specific research questions generated by students in the course.

GES 605 – Applied Landscape Ecology [4]
This course applies the tools of landscape ecology, including GIS, remote sensing, aerial photography and landscape classification, to explore the spatial patterning of ecological processes across landscapes at different scales. Hands-on lab and field exercises will develop understanding and skills necessary for students to plan and conduct their own investigations of landscape pattern, process, and change in local and regional landscapes in collaboration with the instructor. Prerequisites: GEOG 305 and 386 or permission of instructor. NOTE: The course includes 4 full day Saturday field trips, scheduling to be arranged. Students enrolling for graduate credit are required to design and execute an original research project relating to their Thesis or Dissertation work.

GES 606 Aquatic Ecology [4]
Students enrolled in this course will gain a thorough knowledge of the local aquatic biota and their habitats. Emphasis in this lab/field-based course will be placed on the interaction between physical, chemical and biological processes occurring in aquatic ecosystems. Students will learn how to collect, analyze, and interpret ecological information by working in teams to conduct a research project.

GES 608 – Field Ecology [4]
Students enrolled in this course will gain an appreciation for the modern scope of scientific inquiry in the field of ecology. A major goal is for the students to become familiar with how organisms interact with each other and their natural environment by understanding the structure and function of different types of local ecosystems. Students will learn field collection techniques, as well as how to organize, analyze, present and interpret ecological information. This class includes both lecture and laboratory sessions.

GES 610 – Atmospheric Science [3]
This course provides a rigorous survey of advanced concepts in atmospheric science including: Thermodynamics, radiative transfer, chemistry, cloud microphysics, dynamics, mid-latitude weather systems, boundary layer and climate processes. The emphasis is on developing a conceptual understanding of the various physical processes at work in the atmosphere and their linkage with other planetary systems such as the hydrosphere, cryosphere and biosphere. The course will provide a synthesis of underlying principles for the graduate student who desires a concise, modern understanding of how the atmosphere functions within the larger Earth system. The course is also suitable for those wishing to pursue more advanced work in physical geography and/or specialized topics in meteorology such as PHYS 621/622, 721/722, and 731/732. Prerequisites: Introductory Calculus and College-Level Physics.

GES 611 – Fluvial Geomorphology [3]
This course focuses on watershed processes associated with the evolution of river systems and with sculpture of the earth’s surface by running water. Topics covered include the principles of flow in river channels; erosion and sedimentation; dynamics of sediment transport; morphometry of drainage networks; depositional and erosional features associated with the development of river channels and floodplains; the geometry and statistical properties of channel cross-section, longitudinal profile and planform patterns; the dynamics of channel and floodplain response to environmental change; spatial and temporal variability of fluvial processes and landforms; and anthropogenic modification of the fluvial system. Prior coursework in geomorphology or hydrology preferred but waived for graduate students with other strong science background. Introductory physics and calculus required.

GEOG 612: Biogeochemical Cycles and the Global Environment [3]
This course explores the chemistry and cycling of elements across the Earth’s surface and atmosphere, with special emphasis on human-induced changes in biogeochemistry that are driving global warming, ocean acidification, acid rain, ozone depletion, water pollution, and nutrient saturation of freshwater, estuarine and coastal environments. Basic biogeochemical processes will be introduced and then integrated to explain the global cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur and how these are changed by human activities. Students enrolling for graduate credit are required to design an original research project relating to their Thesis or Dissertation work. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor. (3 credits)

GES 613 – Advanced Biogeography Seminar [3]
This course will focus on specific topics relevant to the field of biogeography and will include such topics as: phylogeographpy, paleobiogeography, invasive species, island biogeography, diversification and biodiversity, linguistic biogeography and so on. The areas covered in any semester will vary according to recent developments in the field and based on the interests of the students and faculty. The course will include lecture material, relevant scientific papers for discussion, and written and oral presentations by students of reports on selected topics. When appropriate, there will also be field trips to area organizations and agencies as well as parks and reserves to illustrate examples of processes and methods studied and utilized by biogeographers.

GES 615 – Climate Change [3]
The course will present the historical evolution of Earth’s atmosphere and its response as a dynamic system to both internal and external forcings, including anthropogenic influences. This will include examination of the unique manner in which Earth’s atmosphere evolved compared to other planetary atmospheres, and the linkages between climate and other Earth spheres (biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere). The various timescales of climate change ranging from millions of years to decades will be discussed. Theories that involve changes in orbital parameters, solar output, plate tectonics, ocean thermohaline circulations, planetary impactors, volcanic emissions, the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and human emissions of carbon dioxide will be investigated in detail. Students will gain insight into the workings of General Circulation Models (GCMs) and run their own climate simulations using the EdGCM model developed jointly between NASA and Columbia University. The course will include a lab component where students will run a climate model. Prerequisite: GES 601.

GES 616 – Physical Hydrology [4]
Provides an introduction to quantifying the components of the hydrologic cycle – precipitation, evaporation, transpiration, infiltration, runoff, stream flow, and groundwater flow. Emphasis is on quantifying flow and storage in watersheds, including temporal and spatial patterns. Appropriate field and laboratory tests used to measure hydrologic processes and mechanistic and statistical models for data evaluation and interpretation are presented. Prerequisites: Calculus; probability and statistics.

GES 618 – Agricultural Evolution [3]
This course will pursue in depth the field of agricultural evolution of both plant and animal species. Topics that will be covered in this course include: centers of origin, models of domestication, artificial selection, the domestication syndrome, agricultural development, human ecology of agriculture, germplasm management in traditional and conventional farming systems, and germplasm conservation. The course will involve the critical reading and discussion of the relevant research literature and the preparation of one or more papers on specific issues or topics. On occasion, there will also be field trips to visit farms and research institutions to further illustrate the course themes. This course will be relevant to students pursuing research on agricultural evolution, international agricultural development, plant and animal breeding, cultural ecology, human ecology, invasive species, and conservation.

GES 621 – Water in the Urban Environment [3]
This course is designed for first-year graduate students who have been awarded Integrative Graduate Education, Research and Training (IGERT) fellowships on the theme of “Water in the Urban Environment” and is intended to provide an overview of topics related to the broad themes of the program. The syllabus will focus on the environmental, engineering, economic, and policy aspects of water management in urban areas and will address the impacts of urban development on hydrology, geomorphology, water quality and aquatic ecology. The course is team-taught by faculty from Geography and Environmental Systems, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Economics, and Public Policy. There will be several field trips outside of regularly scheduled class time. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

GES 622 – Research Design for the Urban Environment [3]
This is a core course in the IGERT “Water in the Urban Environment” program. Topics include the following: What are valid and feasible research questions for different kinds of projects? What are the assumptions, conceptual models and research approaches associated with different disciplinary perspectives? What are the key requirements for successful interdisciplinary research? What themes and trends will be important in the near future in interdisciplinary environmental research focusing on urban environment and water resources? Students will work individually and as members of interdisciplinary teams to present case studies, analyze journal articles and grant proposals, educate other students about their own disciplinary perspective, terminology, and methods, and develop research plans in response to an example RFP addressing an urban water-related problem. Each team will prepare written documents and will present and defend its work to the faculty and other IGERT students.

GES 629 – Advanced Geography of Disease and Health [3]
Application of tools and methods of geographic analysis to health, census and spatial data, and public health problems. The course will explore some of the more recent epidemiological debates which challenge our basic understanding of the causes of health problems. Students will be trained in the core techniques of medical/health geography, to identify some of the major methodological problems associated with these techniques, and to introduce them to some recent innovations designed to address these problems. Students develop projects for oral and written presentation.

GES 632 – Seminar in Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation [3]
The course is designed to provide students with the opportunity to undertake advanced study of particular natural resource/environmental problems and conflicts. The course also is intended to encourage students to identify and/or design strategies for resource/environmental conservation. A major goal of the course is to map future resource landscapes through the systematic analysis of contemporary natural resources and environments. In recent years the seminar has taken up such topics as world water resource supplies, global biodiversity, and conflicts over wilderness designation in the western United States.

GES 634 – Wildlife Law and the Endangered Species Act [3]
The 1973 Endangered Species Act(ESA) is arguably the most controversial of U.S. environmental laws. The course combines science, policy and legal history, philosophy and contemporary politics in an integrative approach to understand and analyze the natural resource problem of threatened and endangered species in the U.S. The course covers the evolution of wildlife law from feudal Europe to the present, conflicts over state vs. federal powers, the emergence of wildlife and natural history literature, changing attitudes towards wildlife in the 20th century, and the concept of extinction.

GES 650 – Seminar in Social Geography [3]
Advanced study of the spatial dimensions of selected social problems and policies. Students will make use of GIS and several collateral software platforms to produce a research paper on a topic of social significance.

GES 651 – Seminar in Urban Sustainability [3]
Students will be exposed to cutting-edge literature in Urban Sustainability, and conduct an original research project integrating the concept of sustainability with human and physical geographies of urban places. Possible topics include urban development and energy consumption, land-use change, or the influence of climate change on environmental issues facing urban places. Research projects focused on environmental justice and equitable urban form
are encouraged, but not required. Readings and in-class discussion will support the topical foci of student projects and develop students’ research, writing, and presentation skills.

GES 661 – Social Dimensions of Sustainability [3]
One of the greatest barriers to truly interdisciplinary human-environment research in recent years has been the lack of environmental research fully incorporating the rich theoretical literatures from human geography and other social sciences addressing social dynamics. However, a newly evolving body of sustainability literature grounded in existing literatures from the critical social science has begun to emerge. This cutting-edge body of theoretical works and empirical research attempts to elucidate the complex social processes driving environmental degradation, environmental change, and differential vulnerabilities through the lens of critical social theory. This new approach marks a departure from the more familiar multidisciplinary research in sustainability that came before, and marks the beginnings of a new interdisciplinary approach to sustainability science. Students will be exposed to this cutting-edge literature in sustainability science, and will be required to critically engage it through in-class discussions and written assignments. Finally, students will apply this literature to their own research through a formal written paper. Prerequisite: GES 601 (No concurrent enrollment)

GES 662 – Spatial Analysis of Coupled Human-Environmental Systems [3]
This course will focus on the use of GIS in analyzing social and environmental systems that constitute complex human-environmental systems. Specific dimensions of environmental and social sustainability such as land use, transportation, economic development, environmental justice, etc., will then be explored in detail. Spatial analysis skills focused on environmental
processes and social contexts will be developed through in-class exercises. These exercises and discussions are designed to enhance the students’ understandings of the planning process and of the complexities of applying the concept of sustainability in the real world. The course will end with a student-defined research project. Projects with an urban focus are encouraged, but not required. Prerequisite: GES 386 or 686

GES 681 – Remote Sensing of Environment [3]
This course is an introduction to image analysis and interpretation for mapping/monitoring the earth’s surficial environments from multispectral satellite images. Lectures will cover theories and principles of remote sensing. Laboratory exercises will provide hands-on experience in the use of computers and software for image analysis, interpretation, and classification applied to multispectral satellite image data. Environmental applications include wetland delineation, forest mapping, and land use land cover, and urban sprawl analysis. Prequisite: permission of instructor.

GES – 685 Field Research in Geography [3]
Students in this course gain hands-on experience with field methods for environmental measurement, mapping and spatial analysis of soils, vegetation and other biota, and land-cover and land-use in local landscapes assisted by GIS, GPS, remote sensing and other techniques. The class will meet one session each week and six full-day Saturday sessions; scheduling to be arranged. Students work in teams and prepare final projects that will be presented as scientific posters and on the web. Students enrolling for graduate credit are required to design an original research project relating to their Thesis or Dissertation work. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor.

GES 686 – Introduction to Geographic Information Systems [4]
This course covers the basic concepts and principles of Geographic Information Systems, data models, data structures, applications, and technical issues. Lab will focus on how these basic principles are implemented in a GIS. These include an entire sequence of building spatial databases: data capture, editing, adding attributes, building topology, registering layers to real-world coordinates, making map compositions, data conversion, and basic analysis available in a vector-based GIS. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

GES 687 – Advanced Applications of Geographic Information Systems [3]
This is an advanced GIS course covering advanced applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and is intended for students who have already acquired an introductory knowledge of the field. The course places a strong emphasis on building hands-on skills as well as advanced theoretical knowledge in spatial analysis. The topics includes the theory and methods based on prior knowledge, skills, and interests of students in the following areas: geospatial ontologies, spatial pattern analysis, advanced raster processing, spatial interpolation and geostatistics, database design and systems, dynamic GIS modeling, and computational geometry and mathematical techniques used in GIS. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

GES 688 –Seminar in Geography and Environmental Systems [1]
This is a 1-credit seminar that may be offered by department faculty on any topic of special interest. Students will met with the faculty member once each week to discuss key concepts and methods as presented in the scholarly literature. May be repeated for credit and may be offered in multiple sections concurrently.

GES 689 – Department Seminar [1]
Invited speakers will make presentations on current research topics. All graduate students are required to enroll in Department Seminar for credit as described in the curriculum requirements for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. May be repeated for credit.

GES 690 – Special Topics [3]
This course is reserved for topics that are not otherwise covered in the set of courses listed in the graduate catalogue. May be repeated for credit (as long as the topic is different) and may be offered in multiple sections concurrently.

GES 799 – Master’s Thesis Research [6]

GES 898 – Pre-candidacy Doctoral Research [1-3]
This research course is designated for Ph.D, students who need to enroll in research credits but who have not yet advanced formally to candidacy.

GES 899 – Doctoral Dissertation Research [6]