Geography and Environmental Resources

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The School of Earth Systems and Sustainability offers a program that leads to the Master of Science degree in Geography and Environmental Resources. 

Geography and Environmental Resources is the study of how humans modify, impact, adapt to, monitor, and manage the natural environment they inhabit. Geography students study the dynamic relationship between nature and society in the field and the computer laboratory as well as in the traditional classroom. Students choose among three concentrations focusing on different aspects of geography and environmental resources: environmental sustainability, geographic information science (GIS), and climate and water resources.

Students take courses that give them a foundation in these dimensions of environmental resources through a core program, then develop a research focus. Students also develop the analytic and research skills appropriate to their research interest.

The graduate program stresses a problem-solving perspective, for which habits of critical analysis and dialogue are essential. Students take the initiative in designing and carrying out their programs with the guidance of an advisory committee and the departmental faculty. Geography maintains linkages with many other departments. Courses and faculty expertise in other departments complement those in geography, and students are encouraged to take advantage of this. Each student’s progress is assessed at regular intervals by the faculty, and the student is notified of the faculty’s assessment. The student is expected to show continued progress in carrying out the program of study, and in developing habits of scholarship and professionalism.

This program requires a $65 nonrefundable application fee that must be submitted with the application for Admissions to Graduate Study in Geography and Environmental Resources. Applicants must pay this fee by credit card when completing the online application. Questions regarding the program can be directed to

Students interested in Environmental Sustainability or Climate and Water Resources concentrations delivered through distance education should contact the Chair or Graduate Program Director to discuss opportunities for transfer credits and flexibility in course requirements. Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree (See Environmental Resources and Policy Ph.D. program.)

Requirements for the Master of Science Degree


Students newly admitted to the master’s degree program are advised by the graduate program director, with the assistance of departmental faculty. Students choose a permanent adviser at the end of the first semester in residence. The choice of permanent adviser and advisory committee is made in consultation with the graduate faculty, taking into consideration such matters as faculty expertise and faculty advisee loads.

Degree Requirements

To obtain the master’s degree, the student shall:

  1. Complete all degree requirements specified by the Graduate School, and explained under degree requirements, master’s degree program in the Graduate Catalog. A total of 30 Graduate Credit Hours must be completed, with 50% of these hours at the 500 level or above.
  2. Include as required courses the following: GEOG 500, Principles of Research, during the first fall semester in residence; GEOG 501, Seminar in Geography and Environmental Research, the following semester; GEOG 504, Spatial Analysis, or GEOG 512, Applied Geographic Statistics or equivalent, and one research seminar at the 500-level. GEOG 502, Geographic Information Systems is recommended depending on the student’s background.
  3. In consultation with an adviser, develop a program of study, identifying courses to be taken, research skills to be developed, deficiencies to be rectified. This shall be approved by the faculty. The program of study shall include a core of substantive courses in geography and environmental resources, as explained in the policy statement on core curriculum for master’s degree students, available from the graduate program director. The program of study may include courses offered by other departments. The graduate faculty will meet to review and approve/disapprove the program of study of each master’s degree student enrolled in GEOG 500. An approved program of study will be filed with the graduate program director and department chair as part of GEOG 500.
  4. Develop a thesis or research paper proposal. The thesis or research paper proposal must be approved by the student’s master’s advisory committee before the student registers for GEOG 599, Thesis, or GEOG 593A-C, Research in Geography and Environmental Resources. A total of six semester hours of GEOG 599 may be awarded for a thesis at the discretion of the advisory committee upon final examination on the thesis (see #5 below). A total of three semester hours may be awarded for a research paper.
  5. Submit a thesis or research paper to the advisory committee at least two weeks before the defense. A student who writes a thesis will be examined by the committee at a meeting that may be attended by other faculty and students. A research paper may be evaluated and approved by the advisory committee with or without public presentation.

Certificate in GIS

The Graduate GIS Certificate enables students to focus on advanced geospatial techniques and analytical skills. This certificate meets the needs of the expanding job opportunities for Masters’ and Ph.D. students. Students must be admitted to an SIU graduate program or the SIU non-declared graduate program and maintain a 3.0 GPA in the certification courses. This certificate ensures that the students understand advanced mapping technologies; know how to combine individual models and functions in ArcGIS to carry out a complicated spatial analysis task; master advanced digital image processing and analysis technologies; and obtain competence in designing, developing, and managing spatial databases. Further, they will demonstrate an understanding of GIS’s relationships with remote sensing, global positioning system (GPS), mathematics, statistics, and other sciences and obtain capacity in integrating multi-disciplinary methods for problem-solving. Finally, they will be competent in planning, developing, and implementing a complex GIS project. The program requires students to complete 18 credit hours of graduate level coursework from the following:

  •     GEOG 502(3)     Geographic Information Systems
  •     GEOG 504(3)     Spatial Analysis
  •     GEOG 506(3)     Intro to Remote Sensing
  •     GEOG 508(3)     Advanced Remote Sensing
  •     GEOG 520(3)     Advanced GIS Studies
  •     GEOG 528(3)     GIS Portfolio/GIS Capstone Project

Certificate in Sustainability

The Graduate Certificate in Sustainability enables students to expand their knowledge and understanding of the long-term sustainable use of the earth’s resources, including water, land use and food systems, climate change, urban sustainability, and “green” energy. This certificate meets the needs of the expanding job opportunities in environmental sustainability. Students must be admitted to an SIU graduate program or the SIU non-declared graduate program and maintain a 3.0 GPA in the certification courses. The program requires students to complete 18 credit hours of graduate level coursework, as follows:

  •     GEOG 521(3)     Urban Sustainability
  •     GEOG 524(3)     Sustainable Development
  •     GEOG 536(3)     Natural Hazards
  •     GEOG 539(3)     Global Climate Change
  •     GEOG 570(3)     Contemporary Issues in Environmental Studies

    Plus, one of the following:

  •     GEOG 502(3)     Geographic Information Systems
  •     GEOG 512(3)     Applied Geographic Statistics