The following courses have been developed by and for the Department of Geography at Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Human Dimensions of Global Warming

Credit: Sunny Day Tidal Flood by User B137 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Course Description

GEOG 438W is a writing-intensive course that concentrates on the human-environment interactions involved in contemporary and future global warming. The course comprises two broad topical areas: global warming impacts, which takes place in the first half of the course, and global warming mitigation and policy, which encompasses the second half of the course. Each week highlights a theme, such as the impacts of climate change on human health or greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, that weaves through the course lecture, reading assignment, class discussion, and writing activity.

Energy Policy

Credit: Purple Flowers by winterseitler is licensed under CC0

Course Description

Energy policy sits at the crossroads of science and policy. And now, energy and climate policy are inextricably linked; the policies we choose have very real consequences for our climate. This intersection of science and policy is chaotic and bustles with activity motivated by various competing (and conflicting) interests and factors. We must understand the motivations driving them and bridge the divides between our reliance on fossil fuels and our need to transition to less carbon-intensive and renewable alternatives.

Course Description

In GEOG 871, we'll take a critical look at geospatial project management. Project management is a broad discipline that encompasses technical methods such as system design and analysis and also interpersonal factors that affect professional relationships. Project management is also a discipline that has matured outside of, but can be incorporated into, geospatial technology. By the end of this course, you'll have devised a project plan from a scenario built upon a real-life project involving the city of Metropolis geodatabase.

Course Description

Increasingly volatile climate and weather; vulnerable drinking water supplies; shrinking wildlife habitats; widespread deforestation due to energy and food production. These are examples of environmental challenges that are of critical importance in our world, both in far away places and close to home, and are particularly well suited to inquiry using geographic information systems. In GEOG 487 you will explore topics like these and learn about data and spatial analysis techniques commonly employed in environmental applications.

Course Description

"Exploring Imagery and Elevation Data in GIS Applications" (GEOG 480) focuses on the use of remotely sensed imagery and elevation data in GIS applications. Students enrolling in GEOG 480 should have a solid conceptual foundation in geospatial information science and technology. GEOG 480 is appropriate for those who are already working in the geospatial profession and wish to use imagery and elevation data in visualization and spatial analysis.

Geographic Perspectives on Sustainability and Human-Environment Systems

Credit: Ariel view of a flooded neighborhood near New Orleans by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Schofield is Public Domain

Course Description

What factors lead to a natural disaster? What causes a famine? Why do cities flood? According to a recent article in The Atlantic, Houston's flooding during the 2017 Hurricane Harvey was primarily caused by impervious pavement which prevents the absorption of water into the land. This example illustrates how nature and society are interlinked, which is the main focus of Geography 30, Penn State's introductory course to nature-society geography.

Course Description

Bill Gates is credited with saying he would "hire a lazy person to do a difficult job" with the justification that "a lazy person will find an easy way to do it." GEOG 485 doesn't teach the lazy way to get the job done, but it does teach the scripting way _ which is arguably even better. You've probably heard the "give a fish"/"teach to fish" saying?

Course Description

Geospatial System Analysis and Design surveys the process of GIS design through critical reading/writing and collaborative discussion. Key topics in the course outline the broad range of current GIS systems, how they are designed and evaluated, and how emerging technologies may impact their design and implementation in the near future. In particular, students will develop a term-long project where they propose a realistic problem scenario that requires the skills and understanding required to effectively complete a geospatial system specification, design, and implementation.

The Nature of Geographic Information

Credit: Tumey Hills by Michael Westphal, BLM is Public domain

Course Description

The Nature of Geographic Information is an orientation to the properties of geographic data and the practice of distance learning. The purpose of this course is to promote understanding of the Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIS&T) enterprise. GIS&T is the intersection of professions, institutions, and technologies that produce geographic data and render information from it. It is a rapidly growing and evolving field. Learning is a way of life for all GIS&T professionals.

Energy Industry Applications of GIS

Credit: Stormast by Inactive account 127071 is licensed under CC0


Course Description

Is Energy and GIS your passion? If so, Energy Industry Applications of GIS provides students with an in-depth exploration of the complexities of siting decisions in the electricity market. The course introduces a variety of siting challenges that confront the energy industry and its customers and neighbors but focuses on the siting of electrical transmission lines. The course also provides hands-on experience with a common decision support technology, ArcGIS, and considers how the technology may be used to facilitate public participation in siting decisions.


Course Spotlight

From Meteorology to Mitigation: Understanding Global Warming (METEO 469) - learn about the fundamentals of climate change and its impact on societal, environmental, and economic policies. Visit the course.

Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Richard Alley

Dr. Richard Alley has been with us since the beginning, with one of our first OPEN courses - Geology of the National Parks. See what he has to say about the OPEN.ED effort over ten years later.