Environment and Society

The Environment and Society specialization within the Geography major provides students with an understanding of the reciprocal relationships between social and environmental processes. Environmental geographers are concerned with how human beings use the earth and how humans impact the environments in which they live. Students study both the social and natural dimensions of environmental issues. This approach provides new ways of explaining and solving environmental problems on the local, national, and global scale. Research and teaching in this area emphasize that the human relationship to the environment can be biological, economic, political, physical, cultural, chemical, or social. Students specializing in Environment and Society will become familiar with relevant theories in human and physical geography, appropriate methods of inquiry, and case studies of environmental challenges. Students will be able to answer the question, why do societies and environments vary from place to place, and how have they come to be as they are?

There is no minimum GPA, required prerequisites, or application required to declare a major in Geography with a specialization in Environment & Society.

Environment and Society Curriculum

Undergraduate Curriculum

Graduate Curriculum

Issues & Topics:

Global challenges

  • Deforestation
  • Global climate change
  • Pollution
  • Ozone depletion
  • Desertification
  • Waste management

Law and policy issues

  • Environmental management
  • Social justice
  • Conservation
  • Socioeconomics
  • Imbalances of power

Ecological systems (human-environmental impact)

  • Environmental regulation
  • Soil degradation
  • Landform change
  • Hydrology
  • Plant distribution
  • Climatology

Field research

  • Ecological system management
  • Emergency management
  • Cartography and GIS
  • Spatial analysis
  • Remote sensing

Acquired Skills:

Critical skills

  • Critical thinking and reasoning
  • Oral and written communication
  • Research design, interpretation, and implementation
  • Ability to integrate and analyze information from a range of sources
  • Knowledge of moral and ethical issues

Technical skills

  • Solid foundation in mathematics and the physical sciences
  • Quantitative and qualitative data analysis
  • Graphic communication (including map reading and geovisualization)
  • Ability to develop graphical models and visually represent vast amounts of data


Geographers find careers in many fields both within and outside the discipline of geography. Below is a partial listing of careers for which students within the Environment and Society specialization are well-suited and where previous graduates have found employment.

  • Environment Analyst
  • Policymaker/Planner: natural resources and environmental policy, transportation, energy, water, hazardous waste
  • Manager/Planner for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Real estate developer
  • Professional in firms specializing in forestry, mining, engineering, architecture, or surveying
  • Flood Plain Manager
  • Attorney: Environmental Law
  • Natural Hazards Specialist
  • Cultural Ecologist
  • Water/Air Quality Specialist
  • Environmental Monitor for state and federal health departments
  • Location Expert
  • Business Consultant