Geography program

Undergrad major Undergrad minor Undergrad certificate

Geographers study the relationship between humans and their environment.

If you want to gain skills to address pressing environmental and societal issues such as climate change, natural disaster management, population growth and globalization, geography might be the right field for you. 

Students in UW-La Crosse’s Geography and Environmental Science Program gain experience using the latest technology to solve problems in their environment. 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 into the local community and all over the world — from the study of environmental contamination in local wetlands to the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.

Careers in geography and environmental science

Career opportunities for geographers and environmental scientists have increased as our society has placed a need on understanding our environment and careful planning of our land — both locally and internationally. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects growth in geography-related jobs in the next decade.

Theories and skills learned in geography 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. Geography career information is also available on the American Association of Geographers career page.


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


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 geography or environmental science, or obtain a graduate degree in areas such as urban planning, transportation, water resource management, hydrology, sustainability, forestry, sociology, anthropology, and environmental law.

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 research projects on 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 and environmental science 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.

Opportunities for specialization

The Geography & Environmental Science Department offers a wide variety of majors, minors and a certificate option.

Areas of study


Geography is the science of place and space. Geographers ask where things are located on the surface of the Earth, why they are located there, how places differ from one another, and how people interact with the environment. Geographers have skills in cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). There are four main branches of geography: human geography, physical geography, environmental geography, and geographic information science (GIS).

Learn more for Geography

Environmental Science Concentration

Environmental science applies knowledge from the natural sciences to understand issues in the environment with the goal of protecting the Earth and human health.

Undergrad major View a sample plan for Environmental Science Catalogfor Environmental Science

Geographic Information Science Concentration

Undergrad major Undergrad minor Undergrad certificate View a sample plan for Geographic Information Science Catalogfor Geographic Information Science

Humans & the Environment Emphasis

Undergrad major Undergrad minor View a sample plan for Humans & the Environment Catalogfor Humans & the Environment

Sample courses

GEO 200 Conservation of Global Environments Introduction to natural resources, resource management, environmental and land use ethics, environmental impacts of resource utilization and strategies to resolve environmental conflicts. Course examines the relationships between society and the environment from the global to the local scale. Offered Fall, Spring.

GEO 427 Sustainable Water Resource Management This course is designed to engage students in critical thinking with regard to the management of water resources within the socio-ecological framework. Students will understand how the interacting dynamics of the natural environment, social factors, politics, and economics shape sustainable water resources policies and practices. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Prerequisite: junior standing. Offered Fall - Odd Numbered Years.

GEO 445 Remote Sensing of the Environment II This course covers advanced techniques of digital satellite and airborne image analysis and processing, emphasizing theory and applications in natural resource, land use and environmental assessment. It includes practical approaches to integrating imagery with geographic information systems for spatial analyses and decision making. Data acquisition, integrity, manipulation, formatting, storage, and retrieval are also examined. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Lect. 2, Lab 2. Prerequisite: GEO 415; junior standing. 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 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 428 Past Environmental Change An overview of the study of environmental change during the Quaternary. Approaches used to understand past climatic conditions and effects on terrestrial and marine ecosystems at global, regional and local scales will be explored, as will physical, geochemical and biological methods associated with continuous and depositional environments. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Prerequisite: GEO 221 and GEO 222; junior standing. Offered Alternate Years.

GEO 321 Sustainable Development and Conservation This course is designed to engage students in critical thinking with regard to how the current momentum in environmental conservation is shaping global development practices. The dual and seemingly conflicting mandates of conservation and development are examined not only through theory but also case studies from different parts of the world. Offered Spring.