Earth Science program

Undergrad minor

Study the Earth.

With an Earth Science minor, you'll learn about processes and structures on Earth that shape the landscape we live in. By understanding Earth’s rivers, glaciers, soils and climate, we can make better decisions in areas from natural resource management to land development.

Students in UWL's Earth Science minor gain experience using the latest technology to solve problems. They have access to professional Geographic Information System (GIS) software, drones and other high-end field equipment. Students and instructors work together to understand past and present environmental and societal conditions while developing strategies for building a more resilient and sustainable future. The program has taken students all over the world — from studying of environmental contamination in local wetlands to the impacts of climate change on Himalayan glaciers.

Careers in Earth Science

Career opportunities for earth scientists have increased as our society has placed a need on understanding our environment and careful planning of our land — both locally and internationally. 

Theories and skills learned in earth science apply to a broad range of occupations. Our graduates have gone on to work for private businesses, government and non-profit agencies. For more details on alumni careers and wages visit the Geography & Environmental Science careers page


  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist
  • Environmental scientist
  • Remote sensing specialist
  • Natural resource manager
  • Hydrographic surveyor
  • Cartographer
  • Conservation planner
  • Hydrologist
  • Forester
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) specialist
  • Surveyor
  • Sustainability coordinator
  • Natural and cultural resource mapper
  • Meteorologist or climatologist
  • Park ranger
  • Much more

Graduate school preparation

UWL's Geography and Environmental Science program provides a solid foundation for students who plan to pursue graduate school in a variety of fields. They may seek additional training in earth science, or obtain a graduate degree in areas such as geography, geology, geoarchaeology, environmental science, natural hazards, climatology, water resource management, hydrology, sustainability, and forestry.

What distinguishes UWL's Geography & Environmental Science program?

Access to cutting-edge labs and software
  • Two state-of-the-art GIS computer labs, each with over 30 high-powered computers with cutting-edge, industry-standard software.
  • Physical Geography and Environmental Science classrooms in the modern Prairie Springs Science Center outfitted for performing physical, chemical and biological analysis of soils, sediment and water. The labs contain an extensive rock and mineral collection, a wide variety of tools for hands-on learning of climate and Earth surface processes, computers loaded with physical geography and GIS-related software, two stream tables, and an augmented reality sandbox.
  • The Physical Geography Research Lab supports hands-on research for students and faculty. This modern wet lab provides the materials and facilities to analyze soils and sediment cores. Students have access to up-to-date scientific instruments to study past and present environments.
  • On-campus weather station. This station is run by the Geography & Environmental Science Department.
Invested faculty

Dedicated instructors devote considerable amounts of their time to individual students inside and outside of the classroom.

Explore local landscapes

UWL’s campus is located within a mile of towering sandstone bluffs, a 900-acre urban wetland, and the Mississippi River, all accessible through miles of hiking and biking trails. Students regularly explore the La Crosse area’s urban and natural landscape through course projects, field trips, and research projects.

Research with faculty

Students have the opportunity to work on local and international undergraduate research projects. Students regularly receive funding to support their efforts and to present their results at local and national conferences.

Study abroad and around the U.S.

Students have opportunities to participate in small group extended field trips to selected parts of the U.S. and abroad. Geography students have traveled to study and conduct research in places such as Tanzania, Nepal, Belize, Cook Islands, Iceland, and Puerto Rico.

Internship opportunities

Students seeking internships typically find them as the demand for interns in this field is strong whether searching for opportunities in the private sector or with government agencies. Internships prepare students for future careers and frequently lead to employment opportunities after graduation.

Access to field equipment

Students have access to field equipment including boats, unmanned aerial systems (drones), field mapping and surveying technology, sediment and soil sampling equipment, sonar for aquatic mapping, and much more.

Scholarship opportunities

A variety of scholarships are available for geography and environmental science students. UW-La Crosse also has a searchable database of scholarships.

Sample courses

GEO 221 Weather and Climate An introduction to physical principles and the dynamic processes that govern the behavior of the atmosphere at global and regional scales. Spatial and temporal variations of energy, moisture, circulation, and weather systems; and the patterns of the world climate systems are discussed. Lect. 3; Lab 2. Prerequisite: GEO 101. Offered Fall.

GEO 222 Earth Surface Processes and Landforms An introduction to the earth surface processes that are dominant in forming various types of landforms. Spatial variations in landforms are studied both at the local scale and as the outcome of large-scale global processes. Lect. 3, Lab 2. Prerequisite: GEO 101. Offered Spring.

GEO 430 River Systems A systematic study of the interactions between flowing water and surface landforms. Emphasis is placed on watershed and stream development, sediment transport and storage, flow frequency analysis, and applications of fluvial principles to river management and stream restoration. Class activities will include field exercises in the La Crosse region, mathematical analysis of hydrologic variables, and spatial analysis with Geographic Information Systems. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Prerequisite: GEO 222; junior standing. Offered Spring - Odd Numbered Years.

GEO 211 Global Climate Change This course serves as an introduction to causes of natural and human-induced climate change, and the current and future impacts of climate change on environmental systems and society. Actions that could be taken by governments, industry, non-profit organizations, and individuals to mitigate the magnitude and effects of climate change will be addressed. The course will investigate social, cultural, and political aspects associated with climate change policy, including how vulnerability, resilience, and adaptability to a changing climate vary across the globe. Offered Fall, Spring, Summer.

GEO 340 Polar Environments This course explores the human and environmental geography of the Arctic and Antarctic, including physical landscape and climate, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, natural resources and development, exploration, governance, and indigenous peoples. The circumpolar northern Arctic region will be compared with the southern continent of Antarctica. Anthropogenic and climate change impacts on the Arctic and Antarctic will be discussed, as will the interconnectedness of polar regions to global processes and international issues. Offered Fall - Even Numbered Years.

GEO 460 Environmental Hazards Environmental processes are investigated in light of the hazards they might pose for development and how they may be avoided, mitigated and managed. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Prerequisite: GEO 221 or GEO 222; junior standing. Offered Fall - Even Numbered Years.