Go to the Fall 2023 Course Schedule page to see the schedule for all Fall 2023 courses and who the instructors are.
*Note: Continuing Education (CE) Classes are Billed Separately. If you enroll in both Main Campus and CE classes in the same term, CE tuition will be billed in addition to your Main Campus tuition. CE courses are not COF eligible.
Environmental Systems: Climate and Vegetation
GEOG 1001-300E* & 581*
The objective of this course is to provide you with an introduction to the Earth’s climate system and patterns of world vegetation. We will emphasize the many linkages and feedbacks between the non- living (abiotic) and living (biotic) components of the earth system.
Topics we will cover include radiation, temperature, winds and pressure, the water cycle, climate change, and biomes. This course will prepare you for subsequent, more specialized courses in climatology, hydrology, ecology, and biogeography (ecosystems and cycles). This is a natural science course, and graphs and basic algebra-level math calculations will be used to help understand the concepts covered.
Environmental Systems: Landscapes and Water
Earth’s landscapes – the natural surfaces composed of rock, soils, water and vegetation – are always changing. These landscapes host life and human activity. Knowledge of how the Earth’s surface changes is necessary to ensure public safety, provide food and water security, and support ecosystem management – and thus this knowledge is relevant to diverse career pursuits.
Topics covered include the basic geologic processes of plate tectonics, volcanoes, and earthquake. We then explore how the land surface is shaped by water and physical processes, focusing on weathering, soils, hydrology, fluvial processes, glaciers, climate change, and human impacts. By the end of the course, you will be familiar with the primary physical processes involved in the formation of the Earth’s landscapes. You should also be able to generally describe how these natural sciences are related to important scientific and societal issues.
Geographies of Global Change
Some geologists argue we live in an epoch in which humans are the main geological agent on the planet’s surface, or what they call the Anthropocene. However, such a term does not explain which humans, where, and since when brought about such a significant transformation. Moreover, it evades discussions of intra-human differentiation, power, and scale. As such, we ask: how does our understanding of our current epoch define how we conceptualize contemporary issues, such as climate change, transnational migration, geopolitical conflict, and environmental pollution? In this course, we introduce and critique the notion of the Anthropocene through specific perspectives in human geography and political ecology. We also build a conceptual toolbox to analyze current affairs, such as labor mobilities and migration patterns, war and peace building, and the creation and spread of toxic environments. Through key concepts in Marxist and More-than-Human geographies, the course will allow you to engage critically and rigorously with mainstream narratives about globalization and interpret social, economic, political, and environmental changes from the planetary to the international to the molecular scale.
GEOG 1972-581, 582*:
The study of global environmental issues evokes one of the most profound questions of our times: What is, and what ought to be, the relationship between humans and the environment? To answer this, we must also ask: What is “nature” and how do people of different cultures conceptualize it differently? What drives human modification of the earth and its non-human inhabitants, and how are specific groups of people differentially affected by these modifications? What kinds of assumptions have led to the creation of certain environmental problems, and for whom or what are they problems? Topics we will cover include anthropogenic climate change; population and consumption; hazards, ethics, and environmental justice; conservation; food/ agriculture, water, and waste. We will draw from examples around the world to critically examine how environmental problems are defined and tackled and what this tells us about nature-society relations more broadly.
This class fulfills a MAPS requirement and a requirement for the Geography Major; it is also a great introduction to “Environment-Society” Geography Track.
Examines social, political, economic, and cultural processes creating the geographical worlds in which we live, and how these spatial relationships shape our everyday lives. Studies critical geopolitics, ecological change, international development, population dynamics, urbanization, and migration to explore how these processes work at global scales as well as shape geographies of particular places.
This class fulfills a MAPS requirement and a requirement for the Geography Major; it is also a great introduction to the “Human Geography” Track.
Topics in Physical Geography: Deserts Hot and Cold, Near and Far
Did you know that deserts comprise 1/3rd of Earth’s land surface? Or that Antarctica is the planet’s largest desert? Or that Mars is a desert planet? Deserts are a critical landscape, home to a variety of organisms and unique physical attributes that aid in our understanding of how systems respond to changing climates and how life can persist in extreme environments. This class explores the geography of deserts across Earth and the solar system. We will discuss classifications of deserts, processes of desert formation, and human-desert interactions. Lectures will be primarily discussion based, with small group projects and assignments.
Mapping a Changing World
Do you know how to read maps, know what different types are used for, and where to find data to make maps? Do you want to know when you can trust the information on a map is correct, current, or relevant to some question you have about the world around you? Then this class is for you!
You will learn how maps are used for all sorts of applications (news stories, social media, travel diaries, historical documents, hiking and navigation, web mapping, etc.) You’ll learn how to read a topographic map, how to work with map scale and map projections, and about using Internet mapping services, such as creating online maps. You’ll work with maps showing the human and physical landscape including population parameters, soils, topography, and much more. We’ll talk about maps as propaganda, and as tools of social and political power.
The course does not assume previous experience with geographic information systems, statistics or mapping technologies. This course satisfies the mapping requirement for the Geography major, and serves as a great introduction for students considering a Geography major or minor.
Introduction to the Arctic Environment
The Arctic plays a key role in the global climate system and is a region in the midst of rapid change, encompassing the land, ocean and the atmosphere. In this course you will learn about the highly varied climates and landscapes that characterize the Arctic, the Arctic Ocean and its floating sea ice cover, the Greenland ice sheet, Arctic tundra, snow and permafrost.
The course will also emphasize the dramatic changes that are taking place in the Arctic, including rapid warming and a shrinking sea ice cover, and what these changes mean for the rest of the planet.
Foundations in Public Health
This course provides a comprehensive overview of public health as well as an in-depth review of specific public health-related topics. Beginning with historical overview, students will explore major public health concepts such as the basic principles of epidemiology, the biomedical basis of disease, social and behavioral determinants of health, and systems thinking. Students will be introduced to the concepts of measuring and evaluating the health of the populations, principles of communicable and non-communicable diseases, environmental and occupational health, the economics of health, and the role of public health workers in society.
Statistics and Geographic Data
From fitness trackers to Facebook to polls on politics and other issues, our world is flooded with data. Careers in Data Science are in high demand, and technological and societal changes make data available on nearly everything.
In this course, we teach you how to understand and model the relationships between data and your world. You'll learn how to collect data, learn modeling techniques, and develop questions that we can answer with statistical methods. The course is hands-on and will guide you in using the latest statistical software to produce graphics, answer questions, and find patterns about the world around us.
This course does not assume any previous experience with statistics. It satisfies the statistics requirement for the Geography major, and serves as a great introduction to data modeling for any Geography major or minor.
Geographic Information Science: Mapping
Mapping and data visualization supports many tasks in Geography, Environmental Studies, Earth Sciences and Human and Social Sciences. Maps can help you explore spatial data, perform analysis, and present meaningful results. Knowing how to put together a database and process layers of terrain, water, roads, and thematic data (vegetation, population, etc.) in order to make a map is an extremely useful skill that many employers are seeking. Come learn what it is all about!
This course provides a technical introduction to mapping and information design in a GIS environment. We’ll cover principles of scientific visualization, graphical design, and mapping. You’ll learn how to manipulate scale, work with and change map projections, how to select informative colors, how to classify map data, and how to symbolize data, and how to quantify patterns of error on maps. In lab, you will design maps and create a working cartographic database. By the end of this course, you will be capable of creating high quality cartographic displays and work comfortably with Desktop ArcGIS software to process spatial data.
Some prior experience with Apple or Windows computing is expected. No previous experience in ArcGIS or mapping technologies is required. GEOG 3053 is a prerequisite for the Geography GIS courses. A beginning course in statistics is strongly recommended and may be taken concurrently.
The world’s mountains are fascinating and mysterious landscapes. Created by geologic activity, shaped by water and ice, and transformed by vegetation and human activity, mountain landscapes offer a unique perspective into historical and current events. Using mountain landscapes as our study area, this course will examine the interactions and connections among key topics in physical and human geography. Daily presentations and frequent hands-on activities will apply geographic concepts to the Colorado Rockies as well as mountain ranges around the world. To explore our mountain landscapes, local examples will be used to examine how wildfire impacts local forests and human communities, and investigate how historic mining and continuing human activities have shaped the mountain landscapes in our backyard.
‘The environment’ figures centrally in our daily lives and academic pursuits, from concerns over climate change and biodiversity loss, to water policy and the environmental consequences of rapid urbanization. Yet we rarely stop to consider the specific historical, political, cultural, and economic contextsof these issues.
A political ecology approach seeks to draw attention to the politics involved in mediating access to resources and in negotiating nature- society relations. This class will consider the power dynamics involved in knowing, managing, and making claims on the environment, including those related to gender, class, race, indigeneity and nationality. We will discuss the creation of political ecology as a specific intellectual perspective, and explore its value for understanding a diversity of topics including water, energy, food systems, urban environmental politics, and conservation in both the global north and global south. You will leave the class with a more complete view of environmental debates and the guiding principles that make political ecology a strong and exciting field.
Introduction to Hydrology
This course is about learning both the principles of hydrology as well as the techniques which can be used to solve hydrologic problems.
In practice, hydrologists have to quantify rates at which water is exchanged between the atmosphere, land surface, and the oceans. This often involves processing data and solving sets of equations. It is fairly easy to lose sight of the conceptual part of the problem once you focus on techniques.
Thus, one of our other goals is to give you a balanced view of hydrology--one that includes a description of the physical processes as well as a coherent presentation of the theories and techniques which are used in practice.
Who Runs the World? Sex, Power, and Gender in Geography
This course will examine how gender and sexuality is constructed locally, nationally, and globally, drawing on conversations about feminist pasts, presents, and futures.
We will focus on how gender intersects with race, class, sexuality, ability, religion, ethnicity, and geopolitical location to structure the lived experiences of women across the globe.
We will apply critical geographic perspectives to gender inequality, exploring the overlaps and differences in women’s and LGBTQ+ struggles as they are shaped by ongoing socio-cultural, political, and economic conditions globally.
Geography of International Development
Today, amid rising global debates about migration, regional instabilities from the Mediterranean to the South China Sea, and transnational corporations increasingly involved in everything from poverty to governance to climate change, the politics of international development could not be more urgent.
What is the role of international assistance in a world marked by imperialism and inequity? How do actors in the “global South” deal with livelihood and governance issues that crosscut economics, politics, history and tradition? How is “Development” itself changing as the United State's place in the world is increasingly unsettled?
This course uses the lens and tools of human geography to explore these questions. Examining cases from Latin America, sub- Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim, this course surveys the changing terrain of international development at the dawn of the Twenty-first Century.
Introduction to Global Public Health
This course explores critical issues in global public health through a biosocial lens, incorporating the biological, economic, political, social and cultural influences on health. We take a candid look at the challenges of quantifying health as well as the issues of past health and development initiatives (with a focus on developing countries). We examine the tensions between intellectual property rights and the fundamental need for affordable medicines as played out in the cases of TB and HIV. We delve into the roles of the World Health Organization, nongovernmental organizations and ministries of health in addressing both infectious and non‐communicable diseases. We explore health care systems and consider the essential elements of systems which improve accessibility and quality of care for its citizens. We look at the future priorities of global health, including the impact of climate change on health. Students will read and discuss case studies on global health, conduct a guided semester-long research project on the health of a developing country, and take 3 non- cumulative exams. This is a 4-credit course.
Place, Power, and Contemporary Culture
GEOG 3742-581, 582*
What is ‘power,’ and how are spaces produced through relationships of power? GEOG 3742 introduces students to key theories and contemporary debates in critical and feminist geography through a focus on the themes of power, space, and culture as conceptual frameworks. We will apply critical geographic perspectives on power to the topics of: colonialism and imperialism; states and territoriality; transnational migration and human rights; conflict and nationalism; environmental politics and social movements; and connections between local and transnational activism.
The course is structured around four units:
i) feminist geographies;
ii) postcolonial geographies;
iii)environmental injustice and queer ecologies;
iv) decolonial geographies.
While many of our readings are theoretical, we will draw from contemporary examples from different regions of the world – Canada, India, Iran, Lebanon, Mexico, Russia, Tajikistan, South Africa, Ukraine, United Kingdom – to ground our studies.
Geography of China
China is one of the fastest changing countries on earth. With hundreds of new cities under construction, rapidly accumulating wealth among the middle and upper classes, a precarious environment and resource-base, and rising geopolitical ambitions, understanding a changing China is more important now than ever before. Yet as China’s influence grows, it seems to become more misunderstood than ever.
This course aims to explore China’s changes, as well as dispel common myths about contemporary China, through the lens of human geography.
We explore China’s diverse environmental and cultural landscapes, its historical geography, and the challenges of rural development, urbanization, environment, energy, and climate change.
Topics in Physical Geography: Climate Change Cause & Impacts
Climate change is one of the most important and contentious issues impacting every aspect of our society. So what is climate change? What evidence do we have? What are the effects of human activity on global climate change? How do we mitigate or even adapt to climate change in the future? What about the spatial patterns? What are the different impacts we expect to environments and societies around the world?
This course will address these questions and more as we explore climate change throughout Earth’s history, the factors effecting climate, evidence for human-caused climate change, the impacts, and what we expect for our future including the environmental and societal consequences.
This class will have a lecture and lab component as we explore the physical and societal aspects of climate change. You will graph, map, and view satellite data to provide evidence of climate change around the world. In these efforts, you will be introduced to basic graphing, GIS, and remote sensing skills.
Topics in Human & Environment/Society:
Geography of the Andes
This course explores the history, cultures, and politics of the Andean region of South America, including the nations of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, from pre-Incan times to the present, with an emphasis on land, indigenous people, and cultures. Throughout the course we will examine how those in power, from the ancient civilizations to the Inca Empire, from the Spanish colonial government to modern democracies have attempted to incorporate and/or exclude peasants and indigenous peoples from political inclusion and power. For example, in the current Peruvian political crisis, indigenous protesters from Quechua and Aymara communities have organized to demand political inclusion, and the State responded with violent military force.
Topics covered include the political and cultural impact of the conquest, land and labor systems, and global trends that have influenced the region, including international development, environmentalism, and neoliberalism. Other topics include popular uprisings and revolutions during colonial times, and how they influence the current politicization of ethnic identities, social movements, migration and mobilization in the Andes and beyond.
This course will be highly relevant for students in Geography, International Affairs, Anthropology, Political Science, and Environmental Studies. It also fulfills a requirement for the Certificate in Latin American and Latinx Studies, and complements the Quechua language program.
Topics in Geographic Skills: UAS for Earth Observations (aka “The Drone Course”)
Earth observations are the basis for scientific endeavors across many diverse disciplines. The recent ubiquity of small, inexpensive UAS (Uncrewed Aircraft Systems) allows for people to obtain timely datasets worldwide with minimal expense. Scientific data products obtained from UAS include: digital elevation models, three- dimensional structure mapping, insitu atmospheric measurements, thermal maps, and more.
This course instructs students how to successfully carry out a UAS mission from beginning to end, such as incorporating ground control points needed to geo-reference UAS data, qualifing as a CU Boulder UAS Pilot & Visual Observer, and creating point-cloud data from imagery. The course will have a field component where students will fly UAS to collect original datasets and then create the associated data products.
Student Learning Outcome: Ability to run a successful UAS Earth Observation mission from project concept to product delivery.
Topics in Geographic Skills: Machine Learning & Spatial Data
The ever-increasing volume and heterogeneity of data made available through high-resolution sensors, field observations or crowdsourced data create unique challenges and opportunities for generating information and knowledge. In the last decade, data science has emerged as an interdisciplinary field leveraging data-driven scientific methods and systems to extract insight from such large volumes of structured and unstructured data. Central to data science, machine learning-based approaches are increasingly utilized in the sciences and industry for data integration, analysis and prediction. The advances and accessibility of cloud-based hardware and libraries have made these methods even more accessible to practitioners and researchers in every domain, including geospatial, social and environmental sciences.
Building on the latest advances that make data science and cloud infrastructure available to non-experts, this course will focus on applied machine learning in the geospatial sciences. We will cover novel data- driven approaches to analysis, modeling and prediction using conventional and novel spatial data. Specific topics covered include machine learning basics, model evaluation and comparison, random forests, support vector machines, and various flavors of deep learning, all from an applied perspective. We will also use accessible cloud computing infrastructure for spatial analysis of remote sensing satellite imagery.
Spatial Data Science will be a hands-on course, with lectures to explain the concepts and interactive lab components to implement the methods and apply to real-world data via Python in Jupyter Notebooks, Google Colab environment, and Google Earth Engine.
Remote Sensing of the Environment
Global environmental change is one of the most pressing international issues of this century. There is a need to monitor the earth’s vital signs from atmospheric ozone to sea level change.
Satellite data sets are critical for monitoring regional and global changes, determine natural variability of Earth systems and addressing fundamental global change issues.
The course is designed to introduce students to the techniques of remote sensing measurements of environmental parameters from aircraft and satellite platforms. The course is based on the application of simple physical principles of electromagnetic radiation. Different sensing systems such as electro-optical systems, passive microwave systems, ranging systems, and scattering techniques will be discussed with applications for the atmosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere.
GEOG 4103 / 5103
Geographic Information Science: Spatial Analytics
Prerequisites: GEOG 3053 (GIS: Mapping) or similar, GEOG 3023 (Statistics and Geographic Data)
Are you ready to bring your GIS skills up to the next level? This course introduces the theoretical concepts and advanced use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It focuses on the nature of geographic information, the management of geospatial data and available methods for geographic analysis and geoprocessing to perform advanced and complex modeling in a GIS environment. Lectures focus on the theoretical basis of GIScience, the understanding of spatial algorithms and the development of a critical attitude toward GIS operations and model outputs. During lab sessions students will be able to apply the concepts and techniques presented in lectures and become well-trained in using GIS software. The aim of this course is that students understand elementary GIS theory, have a working knowledge of ArcGIS, and be able to develop GIS-based solutions for spatial problems, independently. In short: You will be ready for starting your professional GIS career.
Biology + Meteorology = Biometeorology
Those with an interest in exploring how weather affects life will enjoy this course. We will explore how the atmosphere affects plants, animals, and people. Topics ranging from water flow through plants to heat stroke and windchill effects will be covered. Basic high school level mathematical skills are required.
Geographic Information Science: Spatial Modeling
- GEOG 4103/5103 or a comparable introductory course is required, OR instructor permission
- A basic course in statistics or quantitative methods; OR Instructor permission
- Working experience with ArcGIS
- Programming experience is not required
Did your first GIS class create an interest in learning more advanced skills? Are you getting ready to start an undergraduate or graduate research project that requires spatial modeling and analysis, but you’re not sure how to get started? This class is for you! You’ll extend skills and principles, gain confidence in your GIS knowledge, and get hands-on technical experience with the full spectrum of GIS modeling. You will learn to implement line-of-sight models, proximity models, design hydrologic and terrain analyses, and work with point interpolation and kriging, dasymetric small area estimation, weighted criteria estimation, sensitivity analysis, and modeling landscape change. You will learn best practices for exploring data and using models to search for patterns that will help you in many areas of physical and social geographic analysis and environmental modeling. You'll work with raster data in a visual programming environment, learning automation and GIS scripting methods that will help you in your own research or in a job or internship. This class provides an excellent transition between Introductory GIScience (GEOG 4103/5103) and GIS Programming (GEOG 4303/5303).
The class format includes lectures, weekly in-class demos and exercises, and weekly lab assignments, each on a specific modeling task. In the second part of the semester, students will work in small groups to design, run and evaluate GIS models for projects they choose, with guidance from the instructor and TA. Each group will present project results to the class and complete a report to be handed in the final week of term. Project leaders will design and manage the project and the group activities, learning basic project management skills by working one-on-one with the instructor.
Principles of Geomorphology
This class investigates the physical forms on Earth’s surface and the processes that shape those forms. The Earth’s surface is modified by water, ice, wind, and biota. Geomorphic science draws from many disciplines, including geology, geography, physics, chemistry, and biology. The lab portion of the course will include quantitative problem solving and field trips to collect and analyze geomorphic data on hill-slopes and streams.
Upon completion of the course, students will have mastered knowledge about diverse surficial geologic processes and landforms, implemented geomorphic analyses through lab exercises and in-class activities, and applied core geomorphic principles to diverse landscapes, including hill-slope, glacial, fluvial, eolian, and coastal environments.
Forest Geography: Principles and Dynamics
Are you interested in forest ecology and in getting hands-on field experience for a future career in the environment? Have you ever wondered how trees grow so large and live so long? Are you curious about how disturbances such as bark beetles and fire impact our Colorado forests?
If you answered yes, then you should register for Forest Geography!
In Forest Geography, we combine a mixture of field trips, in-class labs, critical thinking, and lectures to give you a strong foundation in forest ecology. When possible, we try to hold class outside because it is easier to learn about trees when you can see and touch them!
Earth Analytics Data Science Bootcamp
Advance Earth Science by Harnessing the Data Revolution
This introductory, multidisciplinary course will equip you with the core scientific programming skills to efficiently work with earth systems data in Python. No programming experience is required to take this course.
Through this course, you will learn to:
- Work with the spatial and time-series data structures necessary to get started with earth data science.
- Write reproducible earth data science workflows to turn raw data imports into compelling data-based graphics.
- Reduce redundancy and maximize efficiency through modular programming.
- Track changes in your code, collaborate with others, and start building an earth data science portfolio using GitHub.
- Take your GIS skills to the next level with powerful and industry-standard open-source tools that support continental- and global-scale studies.
Water Resources and Management of the Western U.S.
This course serves upper-division undergraduate students and grad students. It starts with a broad geographical overview of water resources in the American West, drawing on primary and secondary literature to define the physical and social dimensions of western water and to explicate key elements like regional hydrology (e.g., snowpack and runoff), urban/industrial/agricultural demand and use, and the physical (e.g., dams, canals, and tunnels) and institutional (e.g., water rights, allocation compacts, legal precedents) mechanisms by which water is managed for economic and ecological values. The coursework leads to a capstone project addressing key issues in water managements, with groups investigating subjects such as the effects of climate change, revising the Colorado River Compact, urban-rural interactions, and specific water system case studies. Students will become conversant in detail with selected aspects of western water that can be a base for expertise and career tracks associated with water resources analysis and management.
This course focuses on the international and cross-national perspectives of political geography. It deals with political, economic and social aspects of international relations from a geographical perspective and examines the post Cold War and post 9-11 world. As such, the course has an integrative character and requires basic knowledge about international affairs. Frequent reading of a substantive newspaper or magazine, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, the Economist or the BBC News webpage (news.bbc.co.uk) would help significantly to acquire (or develop) knowledge of global locations and current events.
The course is designed for the upper-division level. It surveys some important aspects of the discipline of political geography but does not engage in a systematic survey of regional issues and conflicts. Instead, case studies of contemporary developments, including the role of nationalism in global South states, the geopolitics of rising powers like China and India, and the causes of environmental and natural resource conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, are used to illustrate key concepts from the lectures and readings.
The Geography of Food and Agriculture
The central place of food in our lives has made food one of the major foci of human existence. How we grow, process, distribute, and consume our food often defines us as a society. In our society, the food system has become the target of enormous critique in the last ten years, and also enormous innovation. How does what we eat define us? What does it mean to eat food made in factories and advertised on television, or to seek out "fresh," local or organic food? How do we use food to define ourselves as men and women, as Americans or punks, or Chinese, as children or adults? What does it mean to eat too much, or too little, and how does it define us as social beings? These are the key questions we'll be asking in this course.
This course approaches food from two perspectives. The first is the political economy of food. We will look at food as a commodity, and study where it comes from, how it connects members of different societies and social groups as it travels along the commodity chain, and how it creates social and geopolitical inequalities. We will also study food as culture, including the symbolic meanings of different foods in various world cultures, the role of food in defining gender, national identity, and social class. We'll look at food, memory and place, the relationship between food spaces and gender/race, and the role of food in transnational culture.
Topics in Physical Geography: Fluvial Geomorphology
This graduate level course will cover aspects of fluvial geomorphology, which is the study of rivers and how they shape the landscape. In the course, we will link river channel forms with the processes that create those forms.
Topics covered include river hydraulics, sediment transport, drainage networks, channel forms and patterns, interactions between ecological and geomorphic processes in rivers, and some discussion of river restoration and management. The course will combine lectures, discussions, and field trips.
Students will gain a strong understanding of fluvial geomorphic processes, gain experience collecting and analyzing field data, and interpret and analyze literature on fluvial geomorphology.
*Continuing Education Classes are Billed Separately. See course notes for billing details.