electronic mapping.

Geography and Geographic Information Science

Program Details

Knowledge of geography helps us understand the characteristics of space, location, and place in the broader context of how people interact with both physical and human environments. Geographers identify and analyze the global patterns that shape our lives. Thus, Geography is unique as it straddles the social sciences (human) and natural sciences (physical), making it a highly interdisciplinary discipline. A number of topics can be studied under geography, including population, health, economics, transportation, location analysis, climates, landforms, vegetation, soils, and water, to mention a few. Geographers employ a number of techniques, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, aerial photo interpretation, and spatial statistical analysis. The robust curriculum is applied based, with specializations in physical, human, urban and regional planning, and geospatial technologies.

Career opportunities are found in both the public and private sectors. Most notable are disaster response companies, transportation firms, land-use planning agencies, GIS-related professions, historic preservation firms, construction companies, real estate firms, international business, location analysis firms, architectural firms, and wind energy/sustainable energy companies.

A degree in Geography and Geographic Information Science prepares students to be professionals in their area of concentration or specialization, with strong foundations in Geography.

Geography and Geographic Information Science majors may pursue an option in:

  • Geospatial Technologies
  • Human or Physical Geography

Integrated Baccalaureate and Master's Degree Option

An integrated baccalaureate and master’s degree program is available for the Bachelor of Science in Geography and Geographic Information Science: Master of Science in Geography. An integrated baccalaureate and master’s degree program is available for the Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology: Master of Arts in Museum Studies. An integrated degree program provides the opportunity for outstanding undergraduates to earn both degrees in five years. View detailed information about the Integrated Baccalaureate and Master of Arts Degree Program in Sociology (PDF).

The Department of Geography, established in 1917, has earned a national reputation for excellence. All Geography courses are taught by faculty members holding doctoral degrees from distinguished universities across the United States. The faculty members offer a broad range of competencies, thus providing excellent scope for students with different inclinations and talents.

Student Activities

Special Opportunities in Geography and Geographic Information Science

  • The department is home to the McDonough County Geographic Information Systems Center, a partnership between WIU, the City of Macomb and McDonough County. Responsible for compilation, execution, and management of GIS projects for the city of Macomb and McDonough County, students are provided regular opportunities to put their knowledge and skills into ongoing projects with real world results. Undergraduate and graduate students have internship opportunities in the Center. The Center’s job placement rate is 100 percent.
  • State-of-the-art Geospatial Technologies
  • Premium undergraduate education
  • Hands-on experience
  • Public speaking and presentation skills
  • Internship opportunities
  • Applied geography emphasis
  • Develop geospatial skills
  • Low student-teacher ratios
  • Courses taught by Ph.D.s
  • Senior capstone thesis project
  • Open-door policy
  • Strong dedication to success of students
  • Guaranteed valuable research experience
  • Conference attendance
  • Augmented reality
  • Internship in the GIS Center

After College

WIU students are uniquely prepared to apply their understanding of human relationships to a variety of fields, including medicine and health care, law and law enforcement, international relations, ecology, conservation, community planning, politics, marketing and business, social work and human relations. In a time when new employees are expected to have an extensive skill set in many careers, anthropology is an ideal primary or secondary major for WIU students.

    • Digital Mapping
    • Disaster Response
    • Environmentalist
    • Urban Planning
    • Transportation Planning
    • Land Use Planning
    • Tourism Planning
    • Environmental Planning
    • Economic Development Planning
    • Public Health Planning
    • Historic Preservation Planning
    • GIS related Professions
    • Homeland Security
    • Utilities/Construction Company
    • Real Estate Business
    • International Business
    • Location or Geographic Analyst
    • Marketing Researcher
    • Remote Sensor Specialist
    • Public Education


Please refer to the undergraduate catalog for detailed program information and course requirements.


108 Digital Earth. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) An introduction to various applications of mapping and navigational technology (Google Earth, photography, GIS, and GPS) used in daily life. This course involves student presentations and projects focused on basic principles and applications of this technology.

202 Principles of GIS. (4) Introduction to the principles of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), including GIS representation of the real world; GIS concepts, data, methods, tools, and their integration for location-related decision making; and GIS procedure for representation, analysis, and presentation.

208 GIS Map Design. (3) An introduction to basic cartographic principles and design techniques necessary for Geographic Information System (GIS) map production. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

209 GIS Data Acquisition. (3) This course covers principles of geospatial data concepts. These concepts include field and office data collection using applications of GPS and common GIS software, digitizing, and coordinate geometry (COGO). This course also includes internet download techniques and basic map making. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

309 GIS Data Integration. (3) This course covers core principles of geographic information, GIS data manipulation skills, common GIS data sets together with lab/project experiences, and GIS data evaluation. It strengthens the GIS “data” foundation for future GIS specialists. Prerequisite: GEOG 209 or permission of instructor. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

402 Advanced Cartography. (3) Advanced map compilation; theory and practice of cartographic design emphasizing thematic mapping, geovisualization, and map communication using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Prerequisite: GEOG 202 or consent of instructor. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

403 Advanced Remote Sensing. (3) Digital image processing techniques for thematic information extraction from remotely-sensed data for environmental applications. Laboratory. Prerequisites: GEOG 202 or consent of instructor.

406 Spatial Statistics in GIS. (3) Introduction to statistical approaches in GIS to measure geographic distributions, identify geographic patterns and spatial clusters, and analyze geographic relationships. Prerequisites: GEOG 202 and 301; or consent of instructor.

407 Social Applications of GIS. (3) Examination of GIS concepts and skills in studying the geospatial characteristics of social phenomena, such as population geography, geographic segregation of neighborhoods, and spatial patterns of crimes. Practice of GIS applications in sociodemographic issues through lab exercises and course project. Prerequisite: GEOG 202 or consent of instructor. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

408 Environmental Applications of GIS. (3) GIS modeling of the biophysical environment, including water flow simulation, mapping of soils and climates, habitat delineation, and soil erosion modeling. Review of GIS methods, literature, and practice of environmental analysis in labs and project. Prerequisites: GEOG 202; and GEOG 301 or STAT 171 or equivalent.

409 Advanced GIS Spatial Analysis. (3) Thorough and systematic examination of GIS analytical/modeling methods. Students will be trained to translate real-world problems into GIS data, tools, maps, new findings, and reports. Laboratory. Prerequisites: GEOG 202 or 209 or equivalent.

410 Applied GIScience. (3) Examination of real-world applications of GIS, remote sensing, and GPS, including issues in the associated literature and principles. Fostering ideas and practicing skills of designing and completing GIScience projects scientifically. Prerequisite: GEOG 202 and 409; or consent of instructor. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

450 Geography Workshop. (1) General workshop of a variety of geographic topics. Discussions and creative activities are emphasized in a supportive environment. Not open to students with credit in GEOG 322 or METR 322. Prerequisite: elementary algebra or equivalent. Graded S/U only.


121 Planet Earth: Surface Processes and Interactions. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) The interplay between landforms, soils, water, climate, and life forms (including humans) on Earth’s surface, and how these interact to shape the surface of Planet Earth. It also covers the distribution of landforms in the U.S. and other countries. Laboratory. IAI: P1 905L.

182 (Cross-listed with PHYS 182) Integrated Science II. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) A laboratory course in interdisciplinary science with an emphasis on the Earth’s place in the physical universe. Topics address the nature of matter and energy and their impact on the Earth’s weather and climate. (Integrated Science I is BIOL/GEOL 181) Not open to students with credit in PHYS 182. Prerequisite: MATH 100. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

421 Physiography. (3) Characteristics and distribution of landforms and underlying structures of the U.S. Prerequisites: GEOG 121 and METR 120, or GEOL 110 and 112.

423 River Water Resources. (3) An examination of river water resources at the global scale. Case studies of river basins from different countries will be used to understand past and present issues related to their management, ecological problems, and restoration initiatives. Prerequisite: Lower division natural science course with a lab, or consent of instructor.

426 (Cross-listed with BIOL 426) Conservation and Management of Natural Resources. (3) Problems in the conservation and management of natural resources including soil, water, rangeland, forest, wildlife, air, and energy resources. Special attention to resource problems of the United States. Not open to students with credit in BIOL 426. Prerequisites: GEOG 121 and METR 120, or consent of instructor.

430 Natural Hazards. (3) Examination of the causes, development, and impact of different natural hazards around the world. Hazards range from volcanoes and earthquakes to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and fires. Understanding community responses to particular disasters, including planning, first responses, and lessons learned.

459 (Cross-listed with BIOL 459) Biogeography. (3) Study of the geographical distributions of organisms, the evolutionary and ecological processes underlying the patterns of distribution, and the role of biogeography in biological conservation. Not open to students with credit in BIOL 459. Prerequisites: BOT 200 (C grade or better) and ZOOL 200 (C grade or better), or permission of instructor.


100 Introduction to Human Geography. (3) (General Education/Social Sciences) (Global Issues) Analysis of the spatial patterns of population, population trends, human migrations, ecological processes, and the impact of people on the natural environment. IAI: S4 900N.

251 Principles of Urban and Regional Planning. (3) (General Education/Social Sciences) Examines contemporary planning processes with an emphasis upon utopian planning precedents, frameworks and mechanisms for planning, and comprehensive planning and implementation.

341 Economic Geography. (3) The production and distribution of the world’s commodities and their regional aspects. The reproductive, extractive, and manufacturing industries and their natural and cultural relationships. Prerequisite: GEOG 100 or consent of instructor.

352 Planning Applications. (3) Introduces basic applications of urban and regional planning processes to understand land development, including the use of GIS analysis, zoning, form-based coding, and future land use planning. It involves research projects to understand these processes. Prerequisites: GEOG 251 or consent of instructor.

440 Connections: A Geography of Transportation. (3) Introduction to transport systems at various geographic scales in society, and the concepts, methods, and application areas of Transport Geography. Prerequisite: GEOG 202 and 301; or consent of instructor.

443 Population Geography. (3) Description and spatial analysis of population data and of fertility, mortality, and migration of the human population. Some emphasis given to migration; some to the United States. Prerequisites: two courses in Geography or consent of instructor.

445 Urban Geography. (3) An analysis of the nature, distribution, and principal functions of urban settlements and supporting areas. Prerequisites: two courses in Geography or consent of instructor.

448 Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning. (3) An examination of contemporary planning processes. Emphasis upon utopian planning precedents, frameworks and mechanisms for planning, and comprehensive planning and implementation. Prerequisite: POLS 370, or its equivalent, or consent of instructor.

457 Historic Preservation Planning. (3) Explores the practice and regulation of historic preservation planning. Students will identify and interpret best practices for the preservation and interpretation of historic resources. Focus will be on U.S. resources with a brief introduction of international conservation practices. Prerequisites: GEOG 251 or consent of instructor.

458 Planning Methods. (3) Introduces commonly used analytic techniques in the practice of urban and regional planning. Consideration is given to techniques and data sources to support urban development. Prerequisite: GEOG 251 or consent of instructor.


110 World Regional Geography. (3) (General Education/Social Sciences or Multicultural Studies) (Global Issues) A survey of the world’s regions emphasizing the spatial arrangements of resources, population, institutions, economic activities, and cultural landscapes, and their significance for distinctive regional problems. IAI: S4 900N.

466 (GEOG 466—Africa is cross-listed with AAS 466) World Regions. (3, repeatable for different regional subtitles to 9) (Global Issues) Analysis of the physical and cultural geography of a major world region chosen from the following: Latin America, Russia, Monsoon Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle America, South America, and Asia. Not open to students with credit for AAS 466. Prerequisite: two courses in Geography or consent of instructor.

(Theory, Methods and Research)

301 Introduction to Quantitative Geography. (3) Principles of quantitative analysis and their application to geographical problems. Prerequisite: two courses in Geography, MATH 128 or high school algebra, or consent of instructor.

405 Senior Thesis Capstone Course. (2) Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (WID) course. Prerequisites: ENG 280, Geography or Meteorology major, and senior status.

495 Honors Thesis. (3) Prerequisite: permission of department chair.

497 Internship in Applied Geography. (1–3, repeatable to 3) Assignment as an undergraduate assistant in public, private, or university agencies engaged in planning, meteorology, environmental assessments, cartography, etc. Only 3 s.h. may be applied to minimum degree requirements. Prerequisite: permission of department chair. Graded S/U only.

498 Individualized Studies. (1–3) This course is available to students who are interested in the study of topics which are not currently a part of the curriculum. The students should consult their advisor or the department chair about the procedure which is to be followed. Prerequisite: permission of department chair.

499 Special Problems in Geography (Research). (1–6, repeatable to 6) Prerequisites: senior standing and consent of instructor.


120 (Formerly GEOG 120) Introduction to Weather and Climate. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) Concepts and processes that govern weather and climate systems: solar energy distribution and seasons, world climates, temperature, humidity, wind and force balances, clouds and precipitation, stability, fronts, cyclones, and severe weather (including tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.). Laboratory. IAI: P1 905L.

220 (Formerly GEOG 220) Severe and Unusual Weather. (3) Study of severe weather causes and impacts on local communities. Apply current technologies and data sources to analyze winter weather events (blizzards, ice storms, etc.) and warm season events (thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, lightning, floods, hurricanes). Prerequisite: METR 120.

300 (Formerly GEOG 300) Weather Instruments. (3) A survey of the instruments and reporting techniques associated with standard weather observations, which will enable students to identify meteorological phenomena and report their occurrences in an understandable format. Prerequisites: METR 120 and MATH 133. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

322 (Formerly GEOG 322) Synoptic Meteorology I. (4) Study of large-scale (synoptic) atmospheric circulations and the relationship between upper air circulation, vertical motion, and surface development, particularly cyclogenesis. Emphasis on weather analysis through observational data and computer models. Prerequisite: METR 120 and MATH 133.

327 (Formerly GEOG 327) Environmental Climatology. (3) This course deals with the mechanisms of heat flow, radiation exchanges, and water vapor flux and with the effects of climate on organisms, ecosystems, and human societies as well as changes in global environment. Prerequisite: METR 120 or consent of instructor.

329 (Formerly GEOG 329) Dynamic Meteorology I. (3) Examination of atmospheric thermodynamics and cloud processes, including hydrostatic equilibrium, equation of state, atmospheric moisture, adiabatic processes, the use of thermodynamic charts, precipitation development, and lightning mechanisms. Prerequisites: METR 322 and MATH 134.

333 (Formerly GEOG 333) Meteorological Data Analysis. (3) Various meteorological data analysis software packages will be used to enhance synoptic/ dynamics concepts learned in concurrent courses. These tools will be used to produce and present an analysis of a meteorological case study. Prerequisite or Corequisite: METR 322 or consent of instructor.

337 (Formerly GEOG 337) Understanding Climate Change. (3) This course introduces basic physical principles underlying climate change, time scales of climate change, the nature and the role of technology and computer models in the context of climate change research, and social and political dimensions of climate change. Prerequisite: METR 120 or consent of instructor.

422 (Formerly GEOG 422) Synoptic Meteorology II. (4) Quantitative treatment of dynamical and thermodynamical processes involved in synoptic meteorology. Evolution of fronts and cyclones, isentropic analysis, vertical cross sections, interpretation of satellite imagery and numerical model data, all in the context of theory and case studies. Prerequisite: METR 322 and MATH 134.

425 (Formerly GEOG 425) Satellite and Radar Meteorology. (3) The theoretical principles and application of satellites and radar in synoptic meteorology and climatology. Applications of satellite and radar imageries include clouds, wind, atmospheric water vapor precipitation, and storm prediction. The course includes operational procedures fundamental to weather radar. Prerequisite: METR 322 or permission of instructor.

429 (Formerly GEOG 429) Dynamic Meteorology II. (3) Examination of atmospheric fluid motion, including atmospheric kinematics, real and apparent forces, geostrophic and gradient winds, thermal winds, vorticity, quasi-geostrophy, and their application to numerical weather prediction. Prerequisites: GEOG 301; METR 322, 329; and MATH 231.

432 (Formerly GEOG 432) Physical Meteorology. (3) Examination of atmospheric radiation and chemistry, including optical effects, acoustical phenomena, tropospheric and stratospheric chemical processes, and how these disciplines combine to determine Earth’s radiative equilibrium. Prerequisite: METR 322 and MATH 133, or permission of instructor.


Department of Geography

Chairperson: Dr. Sam Thompson
Office: Tillman Hall 312
Telephone: (309) 298-1648
Fax: (309) 298-3003

Geography Website
Geography Directory
Geography Advisor

College of Arts and Sciences (CAS)

Dean: Dr. Susan Martinelli-Fernandez
Associate Dean: Dr. James A. Schmidt
Interim Associate Dean: Dr. Kyle R. Mayborn
Assistant Dean (WIU—QC): Dr. James A. Rabchuk
Office: Morgan Hall 114
Telephone: (309) 298-1828
Fax: (309) 298-2585

CAS Website

Website: Quad Cities Advising
outside of Morgan Hall