Catalog Descriptions


This course presents a broad survey of “how the earth works.” It focuses on the processes within, and the relationships between, the four global sub-systems: the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. The course examines how physical, chemical, and biological functions create local, regional, and global climate and landscape patterns. It also explores the links between human activities and changes in climate, vegetation patterns and landform processes. The course includes weekly two-hour lab sessions in which students participate in field-based data collection exercises and conduct scientific analyses. Satisfies GE, category B1 (Physical Science). This course does not fulfill the GE Science Lab Requirement

- Earth Systems
- Weather
- Climate Systems
- Glaciers
- Climate Change
- Oceans and Coasts
- Water Resources
- Human impact
- Ecosystems
- Tectonics, earthquakes

The course introduces students to a spatial perspective of cultural, economic, political, demographic, and environmental processes. We review the deep historical origins of many social processes and examine how they continue to influence our contemporary experience. We also study how these processes change as they move across geographic space and encounter other cultures and places. Satisfies GE, category D2 (World History and Civilization). CAN GEOG 4.

- Understand and appreciate different cultures
- The evolution and diffusion of languages, religions, and ethnicities
- The inter-connections between national economies and globalization
- Population changes over time and immigration today
- Governing spaces on urban, national and global scales
- Relationships between different people and their environments

This course explores 4-5 world regions from a holistic perspective, examining their economic, political, demographic, cultural and environmental landscapes with considerable historic depth. The course also considers how each region fits within a larger global political and economic system, and how their roles have changed, particularly with globalization. Satisfies GE, category D5 (Contemporary International Perspectives).

- Political Systems
- Economic Systems
- Globalization
- Economic and Social Development
- Regional Environments
- Geopolitical Conflict
- Impacts of Global Environmental Change
- Enthicities, Nationalities and Religion
- Population and Fertility
- Urbanization and Migration

The course brings an historical perspective to critical analyses of changing relationships between civilizations and their environments. Course includes an introduction to Earth’s environmental systems, the modes of understanding environmental problems raised by development which dominate human-environment geography, and several long-standing challenges to the environmental and social sustainability of development. Meets GE Area D2.




san andreas fault
Students attend a professional meeting in the Western Region, including but not limited to CGS, APCG and AAG meetings. Students participate in at least one day of professionally-led field trips organized through the conference and one day of scholarly presentations. A fee will be charged for this course. Course may be repeated for credit. Up to 2 units of GEOG 312 in total may be counted towards the major.
Recent destinations have included:

- (Fall 2011) Association of Pacific Coast Geographers Mtg in San Francisco
- (Spring 2011) California Geographic Society Mtg in Bishop
- (Fall 2010) Association of Pacific Coast Geographers Mtg in San Diego


san andreas fault
Field experience is provided in a variety of topical areas. The course titles and contents will vary and may be repeated for credit. Please see the current Schedule of Classes for the particular topic offered. A fee will be charged for this course. Up to 2 units of GEOG 314 in total may be counted toward the major.
Recent topics have included:

- Human and Physical Geography of the East Side of the Sierra Nevada
- Urban social geography of San Francisco and the East Bay
- Water Wars of California


andes mtns
Field Experience outside the United States. Cultural and physical studies of people and laces through travel, observation and interaction, oral and written analysis. Destinations include Central and south American countries. Course contents and locations will vary; may be repeated for credit. check with instructor regarding destination and cost. Offered during Intersession or Summer Session. Prerequisite: consent of the instructor.
Recently students have traveled to Ecuador, experiencing the following highlights:


map reading
This course provides hands-on experience with field sampling techniques commonly used in biophysical data collection and spatial inquiry. Course topics include sample design, field measurements, statistical data analysis, report writing and the use of field equipment. Field work will be conducted mainly in the Fairfield Osborn Preserve and surrounding area. Data collected from vegetation sampling, soil descriptions, microclimate measurements, and geomorphologic observations will be used to interpret the natural and anthropogenic landscape. Throughout the course, students will work with Global Positioning System (GPS) units to accurately locate their field samples on the Earth, allowing for subsequent spatial analysis within a Geographic Information System (GIS). Laboratory fee may be charged; see current Schedule of Classes

- Interpreting natural and anthropogenic landscapes, with:
- High precision mapping (GPS, clinometers, laser range finders)
- Vegetation sampling, field measurements and equipment
- Statistical data analysis, report writing


This course provides hands-on experience with laboratory analysis techniques commonly used in physical geography. Topics include stratigraphic and laboratory analyses, report writing and data presentation.  Data collected from sediment profiles will be used to interpret environmental conditions.   Students will follow laboratory methods, protocols and use analytical equipment. Prerequisite: GEOG 201 or equivalent course.


- Analysis of sedimentary / soil material
- Laboratory techniques and equipment
- Scientific data analysis and presentation


Geopolitics is the study of power and security in geographic space. Much of the field is dedicated to relations among national governments, though power operates at regional, local, and embodied scales as well. Our class begins with an examination of security at embodied and community scales from the perspective of various identity groups, such as gender, class, and the post-colonial. The course then reviews dominant theories of geopolitics on the state scale from political and economic perspectives. We then explore the roll of resources such as water, energy, and minerals in people’s security.

- Governance of Geographic Space
- Practices of power at global, national, community and embodied scales
- The Nation-State System and contemporary challenges
- Discourses and representations of power
- The role of identity in power relations

This course examines some of the ways specific places and people have promoted, encountered, and negotiated the projects of development and globalization. We begin with a critical examination of ‘development’ and ‘globalization’ and a public narrative that has obscured their origins, intentions, and operations. We will use case studies of specific places where development and globalization have motivated resistance; often leading to new identity-based social movements. We will examine cases related to environmental degradation, land dispossession, gender and justice, and personal and community security. The course has a global perspective which includes, but is not limited to cases from the Third World. The class often enlists political ecology and political economy perspectives in our analysis

- Development and Sustainable Development
- Globalization, Inequality, & Local Responses
- Identity Formation and Protest
- Gender and Justice
- Food Security and Sovereignty
- Political Ecology of Land Degradation & Dispossession

This class explores the use and management of natural resources. Each year, it focuses on a different set of renewable and non-renewable resources, such as water, oil, diamonds, rangeland, and others. It addresses topics such as distribution, scarcity, substitution, access and use-rights, resource cartels, regulation and sustainability. It also looks at how these issues are changing under globalization and the rise of transnational corporations.

- Common Pool Resources (fisheries, rangelands)
- Non-Renewable Resources (oil, diamonds, copper)
- Essential Resources (water)
- Market Forces vs State Regulation
- Public vs Private Ownership
- Supply Security and Rates of Extraction
- Extractive Economies
- Environmental and Social Justice

city scene
Climate change is perhaps the most complex and far-reaching issue the global community has faced. Thus far, efforts to regulate, mitigate, and adapt to global climate change have had limited effect. This course addresses the environmental effects, social management, and adaptation to contemporary and future climate change. We will begin with a review of the physical mechanisms that drive long-term climate change and models that seek to predict future environmental changes through the year 2100 with a focus on social impacts. The class will then review local, regional, national, and global efforts to mitigate and regulate greenhouse gas production. We will critically analyze the realized and potential efficacy of these efforts and discuss the reasons for their relative success and failure. In the last unit of the course we will survey several efforts, primarily at sub-national scales to adapt to climate change, again critically assessing their efficacy. This course compliments GEOG 372 - Global Climate Change: Past, Present and Future, though that course is not a prerequisite.

- Modeled environmental changes and their resultant environmental alterations
- Complexities of both limiting and regulating greenhouse gas emission in a carbon dependent global economy
- Adaptation strategies, their promises and limitations

global hamburger
This course explores the development of agriculture from its origins to its modern forms. It then addresses the current structure of agriculture in the developed world, examining America's current agricultural crisis. It then turns to the developing world, investigating plantation systems, traditional peasant systems, and modern corporate farmers in this context. The class pays particular attention to the Green Revolution and other attempts to modernize these systems and integrate them into the global market. The class then takes on the issue of hunger, considering solutions such as food aid, land reform and free trade. Finally, the class studies what current developments in agricultural biotechnology might offer American farmers, Third World peasants, and the hungry.

- Political Economy of Food
- Local Food Systems
- Globalization and Fair Trade
- Politics of hunger and famine and aid
- Biotechnology and GMO's
- Sustainable Agriculture

city scene
This course examines the evolution of cities as local and global political, economic and social centers. It explore the forces driving urban growth and change in the 20th century, with a focus on how these forces shape contemporary issues such as inequality, cultural change, and segregation..

- How and where cities emerged
- How the distribution of and connections between urban centers has changed over time
- Processes of globalization and the development of cities
- Factors driving urban growth and how this growth affects urban environments
- The effects of urbanization in a global society from different perspectives—political, economic, social, and cultural
-Questions of development, inequality and social organization

Studies aspects of demography, migration, and the spatial dimension of social organization. Included in the course are the spatial perspectives of social well-being, poverty, crime and ethnicity. The spatial structure of human settlement, as well as political, religious, and social values will be discussed. Satisfies upper-division GE, category E (Integrated Person)..

- Racial Divides
- Labor and Landscape
- Economic Segregation
- Public Space
- Gendered Suburbs
- Collective Memory
- Gentrification
- Globalization
- Sexuality and the City
- Acts of Resistance


Biogeography is the study of plant and animals distributions at local to global spatial scales, and seeks to understand the physical, biological and human processes that determine these patterns through time.  This is a highly integrative field of inquiry, pulling on concepts, theories and data from general ecology, evolutionary biology, geology, physical and human geography, and geospatial science. With its perspective on broad spatial and temporal scales, Biogeography is particularly relevant for designing viable long-term strategies for nature conservation in the face of modern human-induced changes, such as global warming and habitat conversion.  This course uses lectures, reading assignments and an individual student project to explore past and present biota at regional to global scales, and a field trip to understand our local northern California ecosystems. .

- Jaguars in Arizona?
- Delve into the mysteries of evolution
- Marvel at the wonders of biodiversity
- Plant dispersal and animal migration
- Conservation and Climate Change
- Get the big picture

Explores the relationships between surface processes such as weathering, mass movements, running water, wind, waves and glacial ice, and the landforms these processes create. The course looks at geomorphic systems and the role of tectonics and climate in changing the balance of these systems. Actual research projects are presented to demonstrate geomorphic approaches to envi-ronmental questions. Students are exposed to research methods in the field and lab. Field trips and field reports, use of maps, and hands-on labs are included. A fee will be charged for this course. Lecture 3 hours; laboratory, 3 hours. Prerequisites: GEOG 204, GEOL 102, or consent of instructor..

- Landscape History
- Climate impacts
- Geoarchaeology
- Coastal Erosion
- Earthquakes
- Landslides
- River Migration
- Volcanoes
- Glaciation
- Human impacts

Natural hazards do not exist alone, but in reference to people. This course examines natural hazards in relation to human populations and activities around the world. It focuses on disasters generated by weather, climate and geomorphic processes (such as hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, and earthquakes) as well as global climate change. It considers risk assessment, hazard perception, population change, and impact on the built environment. Prerequisite: Geog 201 or consent of instructor.

- Fire
- Volcanoes
- Earthquakes
- Tsunamis
- Tornadoes
- Hurricanes
- Climate Change
- Droughts and Floods
- Impacts and Recovery
- Vulnerability and Managing Risk

An exploration of the mechanisms that create weather and climate and how and why climate varies from place to place and through time. The role of solar radiation is studied as the major driving force of atmospheric circulation and influence on spatial variations in temperature and precipi-tation around the world. Secondary factors such as land-sea distribution, topography, altitude, and surface cover are explored. Characteristics of climate such as seasonality of temperature and precipitation, as well as humidity, cloudiness, evaporation rates, and causes of variability are also studied. Climate's influence on human culture through time, climate change, and human influence on climate are underlying themes through-out the course. Prerequisite: GEOG 204 or consent of instructor..

- Ozone Depletion
- El Nino
- Midlatitude Cyclones
- Global Climate Change
- Tropical Climates / Deserts
- High latitute climates
- Severe Weather, Hurricanes
- Droughts and Floods
- Climate Variability, Change
- Climate Modeling

volcanic scene
An advanced course focusing on evidence of climate change in the past and potential climate change in the future. Present research methods used to investigate past climate and project possible climatic trends will be studied. The range of theories regarding past, present, and future climate, and the response of the environment to such changes will be explored in detail. Prerequisite: GEOG 204 or consent of instructor..

- Climate History
- Orbital Variations
- Evidence of Past Climates
- Modelling Future Climate
- Ice Ages
- Social Change
- The Biotic Record
- The Greenhouse Debate
- Causes of Climate Change
- Effects of Global Climate Change


Environmental remote sensing uses imagery from satellite and airborne sensors to map properties of the Earth over broad spatial scales. This course develops an understanding of physical principles behind remote sensing, explores a range of sensors, spatial scales and locations, and uses image processing techniques for extracting useful environmental information.

- Imagery from satellites and airborne sensors
- Image processing
- Thematic map production
- Accuracy assessment

map making
Map and graphic methods in geography: history, design, theory, and construction. Topics include selection of map projections, use of scales, generalization, data input and processing, color, visualization of spatial data, and map production. Emphasis is placed on effective communication through graphic design. Covers the increasing role of geographic information systems (GIS) in cartography. Also examines the collection of geographic data, such as with global positioning systems (GPS). Exercises guide students through increasingly complex methods of data collection and cartographic construction. Lecture, 2 hours; laboratory, 3 hours. Laboratory fee may be charged; see current Schedule of Classes.

- Color
- Visualization of Spatial Data
- Data input and processing
- Projections
- Scale
- Generalization
- Map Production

image stack
Geographic information system (GIS) technologies provide researchers and policy makers with a powerful analytical framework for making decisions and predictions. As with any technology, the appropriate use of GIS depends greatly on the knowledge and skills of the user. This course addresses the scientific and technical aspects of working with geographical data, so that GIS users understand the general principles, opportunities, and pitfalls of recording, collecting, storing, retrieving, analyzing, and presenting spatial information. Both fundamental concepts and hands on experience with state-of-the-art software are incorporated through readings, lecture discussion and laboratory assignments. The first half of the course focuses on the "nuts and bolts" of how a GIS works, while the second half concentrates on methods for spatial analysis and modeling. Prerequisites: CS101 or basic competency with Microsoft operating system and Office applications. Laboratory fee may be charged; see current Schedule of Classes.

-- Vector and Raster Data Structures
- Geographic Design and Query
- Data input (Digitization, GPS, Remote Sensing)
- Spatial Analysis and Modeling
- Data Standards and Accuracy

Environmental issues typically involve a range of physical, ecological and socio-economic factors with complex interactions that span multiple spatial and temporal scales.  Computer-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are particularly well-suited for describing, analyzing and modeling environmental problems and datasets, and the technology is widely used for local- to global-scale research, impact assessment, conservation planning and natural resource management.  This course will investigate a range of environmental problems through the unique perspective afforded by geospatial data analysis within a GIS.  Lectures will introduce the ecological, scientific and societal issues associated with major environmental issues of our time, such as land-use change, biodiversity loss, and global carbon emissions.  These issues will be quantitatively analyzed with real-world spatial datasets using GIS-based methods and tools in coordinated laboratory exercises.  In the process, students will extend and strengthen GIS skills and concepts acquired through the Introduction to GIS course (Geog 387) and gain confidence in applying these skills and knowledge to a range of environmental issues. Prerequisits: Geography 387, basic college-level math, statistics helpful

- Current environmental issues and their underlying human-nature interactions and processes
- Maping, analyzing and modeling these issues from a spatial and temporal perspective
- Using geospatial technology and procedures for geographic inquiry and analysis
- How to present results of GIS analysis in a professional format such as maps and tables

This course provides greater depth in the foundations of geographic information systems (GIS). Readings, group discussions, and lectures delve into database development issues, advanced spatial analysis, and GIS research applications. Students also complete a semester-long research project using GIS technologies. Students learn to identify problems that can benefit from a spatial-analytical approach and determine the appropriate data for pursuing such a project. Students build their own GIS database, mastering skills such digitizing and attributing spatial data; importing data from the Internet; collecting field data for GIS integration; and converting GIS layers into a single coordinate system and map projection. Finally, students learn to choose and implement the most appropriate spatial analysis method for their research, and then interpret the results. Prerequisite: GEOG 387 with a grade of B or higher, or consent of instructor.

-- Internet GIS
- Spatial Analysis
- Hydrologic Modeling
- Student Research Project


This course explores 7-8 world regions from a holistic perspective, examining their economic, political, demographic, cultural and environmental landscapes with considerable historic depth. The course also considers how each region fits within a larger global political and economic system, and how their roles have changed, particularly with globalization. Satisfies GE, category D5 (Contemporary International Perspectives)..

- - Political Systems
- Economic Systems
- Globalization
- Economic and Social Development
- Regional Environments
- Geopolitical Conflict
- Impacts of Global Environmental Change
- Enthicities, Nationalities and Religion
- Population and Fertility
- Urbanization and Migration

Students develop understandings of historical and contemporary social and environmental issues in the specific areas within Latin America and the Caribbean. The course begins with a discussion of the physical environments and biomes typical of this region. We also explore the social organization and environmental interrelations among many of the regions’ social groups prior to the Iberian encounter. In the discussion of the colonial and republican periods we examine changing modes of social organization and their affects on indigenous peoples and local environments. Much of the course focuses upon the contemporary period. Some of the major areas of focus include: 1) Population geographies over the past 100 years emphasizing the rapid migration to urban centers and international migration to the United States and Europe. 2) Economic development in the colonial, post revolutionary, and contemporary periods through mining, agriculture, manufacturing, drug production and tourism; 3) Various historical and contemporary political processes at global, regional, and local scales; and 4) The particular spaces produced by socio-cultural processes involving religion, race, class, and gender.

- Natural environments
- Agricultural systems
- Pre-Columbian societies
- Migration
- European colonization
- Urbanization
- New hybrid cultures
- Changing economies
- Power: Kings, Church, States
- Shifting gender rolls

African Women
Students explore various historical and contemporary processes that have created Africa's diverse and complex geography. The course begins with a historical survey of the continent, starting with its great civilizations and continuing through its experiences through colonialism, independence, the cold war, and globalization. This section of the class examines how these major events have played out throughout the different regions of Africa, south of the Sahara. The class then turns directly to thematic issues that are central to a human-geographic perspective of the continent: population, rural/urban dynamics, education and health issues, and human-environment interactions including agricultural systems and conservation issues. Finally, with a deeper understanding of the region, the course addresses present-day political hot spots of post-cold war Africa, and the critical development problems plaguing the continent.

- Ancient Kingdoms
- Livelihood Systems
- The Slave Trade
- Natural Resources
- The Colonial Experience
- Demographic Change
- Economic Development
- Urbanization
- Cultural Systems
- Health and Education

This course will cover regions not regularly taught in the department. Regions may include areas such as The Middle East, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Arid lands, The Pacific Rim/World or underdeveloped lands. Offerings will vary depending on visiting faculty, experimental courses, and educational needs.
Recent courses have covered: :

- The Pacific islands
- The Middle East
- North America



Spring only. The seminar focuses upon the conduct of an original research project, the production of a profession research report, and the public presentation of that research. The seminar also addresses career development. Meetings combine large group, and individual meetings.

- Developing Research Questions and Hypotheses
- Learning and Using Various Research Methods
- Writing Professional Research Reports
- Oral Presentation



490a Senior Seminar (4)
Spring only. The focus of the seminar may vary, but the class will expose students to the nature of the discipline of geography through readings of scholarly literature. The class will emphasize a student research project and will include classroom discussions during the course of the semester.
495 Special Studies (1-4)
Special studies may be arranged to cover an area of interest not covered in the courses otherwise offered by the department. Prerequisites: completed special studies form and consent of the instructor.
494 Capstone Internship (2-5)
Students in the intern program will be given the opportunity to gain practical experience using geographical skills by working in a variety of county and city agencies in the Sonoma State University service area. Credit is given for three hours per unit work per week as arranged with the intern coordinator. Must have junior or senior class standing, and a minimum GPA of 2.75, or permission from the Department Chair.
NOTE: Students who exceed the 16-unit cap and are not graduating in the semester in which they are doing the internship will need to meet the 3.0 criterion for Internships. Students who are graduating that same semester do not need to meet the 3.0 criterion for Internships.
496 Special Topics (2-5)
A single subject or set of related subjects not ordinarily covered by the Geography Department. Offerings will vary depending on visiting faculty, experimental courses, and educational needs.
Graduate Study
The Geography, Environment, and Planning Department does not offer an M.A.; however, students in graduate programs such as Interdisciplinary Studies, Cultural Resources Management, and History may arrange to do graduate-level research with members of the geography faculty. Students should consult with the chair of the Geography, Environment, and Planning Department and their graduate advisor before arranging for graduate-level studies in Geography, Environment, and Planning.
595 Special Studies (5)
Advanced research and writing. Students work under close supervision of faculty members. Subject matter variable. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisites: consent of instructor and completed special studies form.