About the Program
All human activity takes place on a geographic stage of great diversity and constant transformation. For more than a century, the Geography Department at Berkeley has been a leading center of scholarship about earth’s landscapes and human relationships to the environment. Our inquiries encompass a wide range of topics, from the economies and cultures of cities and built landscapes, to tropical climates and the flow of polar ice sheets. We combine rigorous empirical work with deeply conceptual theoretical analyses, always recognizing the importance of both spatial processes and accumulated histories. We use geographic analyses to illuminate the abiding problems of the modern world.
The Geography Department provides a broad-ranging perspective on humans as inhabitants and transformers of the face of the earth. The search for this kind of understanding involves thorough study of (a) the interlocking systems of the natural environment (climate, landforms, oceans, biota) and the evaluation of natural resources; (b) those diverse historical, cultural, social, economic, and political structures and processes which affect the location and spatial organization of population groups and their activities; and (c) significant geographical units, whether described as cities, regions, nations, states or landscapes, where integrated interpretation can be attempted, and a variety of problems thereby better understood.
As geographic theory and research has expanded their horizons over the past quarter-century, three research focuses have emerged to define geography at Berkeley:
Earth System Science (a.k.a. Physical Geography)
This branch of geography focuses on the study of the interconnected components of our environment—the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere—and how they interact to produce an integrated whole. It utilizes the fundamental disciplines of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology and applies them in the context of human activities and landscapes to understand the Earth, at scales ranging from single watersheds to the entire globe.
The research of our Earth Systems Science faculty epitomizes this interdisciplinary and global approach, and with expertise in biogeochemistry, biogeography, climate dynamics and climate change, geomorphology, glaciology, hydrology, and terrestrial ecology. Our research spans all corners of the world—from the swamps of the Everglades to the tundra of Alaska, from the ocean-atmosphere systems of the tropical Pacific to the vast ice sheets of Antarctica.
Economy, Culture and Society (a.k.a. Human Geography)
Human geography is a social science distinguished by its attention to the relation of humanity to the earth, in two regards. The first concerns the interaction of people with nature, including the extraction of natural resources, the environmental impact of people and their activities, and the effects of natural forces on society. The second concerns the spatial organization of societies at all scales from the local to the global (and from minutes to millennia) and the production of place, territory, and landscape by human imagination and activity.
Our Economy, Culture and Society faculty and graduate students work all around the world and explore an enormous range of topics: forest and range utilization in North America, urban development in China, agrarian change and resource extraction in Africa, conflict and human rights in Latin America, and much more. We examine borders and migration, conservation and development, globalization and governance while attending closely to the roles of race, gender, and class and of science, technology, and economy in shaping the world around us.
Geospatial Representation and Analysis
Advances in digital technologies have revolutionized how scholars, governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations collect, store, analyze and represent information about space, place, flows and locations. Even as the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has become ubiquitous, it has been superseded for research purposes by advances in spatial analysis, simulation modeling, remote sensing, web-based mapping, and geo-visualization. These technologies apply to the study of biophysical and social systems alike, and they are beginning to show potential to erode the practical and pedagogical obstacles that have historically separated quantitative and qualitative methods, Human and Physical Geography. Our faculty use them to model global climate and coastal sediment dynamics, gentrification, segregation, transit and public health. We encourage students to use these tools critically and creatively to answer pressing questions about the contemporary world.
Bachelor of Arts in Geography
The undergraduate major in geography is unusually broad and diverse, including the study of cultural, economic, political, historical, biophysical, urban and regional geography as well as cartography, quantitative methods, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing and fieldwork. Backgrounds in the natural and social sciences, history, and statistical methods may be useful to the geography major, with the mix and emphasis depending on the student's particular interests. Completing a major in geography requires the satisfactory completion of three lower division courses and eight upper division courses. Lower division requirements ensure that all students gain a broad understanding of the discipline, while upper division requirements are structured to allow students to specialize in the areas of their greatest interest.
Geography students are expected to have diverse interests and independent thought. The department welcomes students from a variety of backgrounds, including those with professional experience who wish to deepen their education. Students are encouraged to roam freely through the curriculum and to follow their inspiration where it leads while working in tandem with faculty advisers.
Declaring the Major
Students may declare the geography major after completing at least 30 units, with a 2.0 or better cumulative Berkeley GPA, and after completion of at least two of the three lower division requirements. Junior transfer students should declare their major during the beginning of their second semester at Berkeley.
To declare a major in geography, please schedule an appointment with the Undergraduate Major Advisor, Sarah Varner, here: https://calendly.com/svarner-geography.
The major requires a student to take three lower division courses, one in each of these areas:
- Basic Physical Geography
- World Geography
- Regional Geography
In order to declare the major, a student must have taken and successfully passed at least TWO lower division courses, one from each area.
Geography Lower Division Courses
|Basic Physical Geography|
|Global Environmental Change |
|Introduction to Earth System Science |
|Introduction to Environmental Sciences |
|World Peoples and Cultural Environments |
|Worldings: Regions, Peoples and States |
|Justice, Nature, and the Geographies of Identity |
|Introduction to Global Studies |
|Introduction to Central Asia |
|The Urban Experience |
|The Bay Area |
Upon declaring the major and completing the three lower division course requirements, students will need to complete eight upper division courses in order to satisfy the requirements of the major.
All newly declared geography majors will need to choose one of the two specialty groups: Earth System Science (physical geography) or Economy, Culture and Society (human geography). Please read more about the geography program for insight into the two specialty groups housed within the major.
The eight upper division courses span the two different specialty groups as well as a third section for methodology courses.
Both of the specialty groups have at least one required core course:
- All students choosing the Earth System Science option must take Geography 140A.
- Beginning with all majors declared after August 1, 2021, all students choosing the Economy, Culture and Society option must take TWO of the following: GEOG 110 -OR- GEOG 130 -OR- GEOG C155.
- Additionally, all students, regardless of their chosen specialty group, are required to take at least ONE methodology course as part of their upper division requirements.
Geography Upper Division Courses
|Earth System Science|
|Water Resources and the Environment |
|Terrestrial Hydrology |
|Top Ten Global Environmental Problems |
|Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics |
|Physical Landscapes: Process and Form  (Required course for students studying Earth System Science)|
|Physiography and Geomorphologic Extremes |
|Climate Dynamics |
|Global Change Biogeochemistry |
|Principles of Meteorology |
|Communicating Ocean Science |
|Communicating Climate Science |
|Climates of the World |
|Climate Impacts and Risk Analysis |
|Special Topics in Physical Geography |
|Undergraduate Seminars |
|Economy, Culture, & Society|
|The Black City: Oakland California |
|Black Geographic Thought |
|Waste Matters: Exploring the Abject, Discarded, and Disposable |
|Geographies of Energy: The Rise and Fall of the Fossil Fuel Economy |
|Critical Economic Geographies  (Required course for students studying Economy, Culture and Society)|
|Global Development: Theory, History, Geography |
|Thinking Globally, Acting Regionally: Geographies of Climate Change |
|Urban Sites and City Life |
|Ocean Worlds |
|Food and the Environment  (Required course for students studying Economy, Culture and Society)|
|Food and the Environment [=]|
|Global Environmental Politics |
|Platform Geographies |
|Race, Space, and Inequality |
|The Southern Border |
|American Landscapes: History, Culture, and the Built Environment |
|Global China |
|Border Geographies, Migration and Decolonial Movements of Latin America |
|Special Topics in Geography |
|Undergraduate Seminars |
|Digital Worlds: An Introduction to Geospatial Technologies |
|Field Methods for Physical Geography |
|Urban Field Study |
|Field Study of Buildings and Cities |
|Cartographic Representation |
|Earth System Remote Sensing |
|Web Cartography |
|Geographic Information Systems |
5-2-1 Plan or 4-2-2 Plan
Furthermore, the geography department utilizes two plans by which students can complete their eight upper division requirements: the 5-2-1 plan or the 4-2-2 plan.
In both plans, the first number represents the number of courses a student must take in their chosen specialty group, while the second number represents the number of courses they must take in the other specialty group. The third number refers to the number of methodology courses a student must take.
Here's the breakdown of each plan:
A total of 8 upper division courses, with:
- 5 courses from your chosen specialty group
- 2 courses from the other specialty group
- 1 methodology course
A total of 8 upper division courses, with:
- 4 courses from your chosen specialty group
- 2 courses from the other specialty group
- 2 methodology courses
The 5-2-1 and 4-2-2 plans are not set in stone and can be changed easily during the progression of the major. Please consult with the UMA if you have questions about changing your plan.
Academic Performance Requirements
- All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only.
- GEOG H195A/H195B, GEOG 197, GEOG 198, and GEOG 199 cannot be used to satisfy a major or minor program requirement.
- All students must complete at least one semester of residence in the major before graduation.
- Students are expected to enroll in at least 13 units per semester, with 15 units being considered a normal course load. The maximum number of units allowed per semester is 20.5; for unique situations, exceptions can be granted to exceed the maximum. Please meet with the UMA to discuss your request to exceed the semester unit cap.
- A minimum grade point average of a 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.
- Students must learn at least a C- in all courses required for the major, including lower and upper division courses.
Students are welcome to declare a minor in geography to complement their academic study in another department. The minor will be noted officially on a student's transcript in the memoranda section, but will not be included on the official diploma.
- All minors must be declared no later than one semester before a student's Expected Graduation Term (EGT). If the semester before EGT is fall or spring, the deadline is the last day of RRR week. If the semester before EGT is summer, the deadline is the final Friday of Summer Sessions. To declare a minor, contact the department advisor for information on requirements, and the declaration process.
- The geography minor is comprised of any five upper division geography courses, as long as one course is selected from each specialty group (physical geography and human geography).
- All five upper division courses counting toward the minor must be taken for a letter grade.
- At least three of the five courses must be completed at UC Berkeley.
- A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
- No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor.
- All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which you plan to graduate.
Students interested in the geography minor should schedule a meeting with the UMA in order to declare the minor.
- All undergraduate minors must be declared no later than one semester prior to a student’s Expected Graduation Term (EGT). The deadline is the last day of RRR Week during that term.
Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.
For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages.
University of California Requirements
All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley.
The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.
Berkeley Campus Requirement
All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.
College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements
The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.
The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.
In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.
College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements
The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.
120 total units
Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units
- Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.
Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.
Senior Residence Requirement
After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.
You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.
Modified Senior Residence Requirement
Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.
Upper Division Residence Requirement
You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.
Student Learning Goals
Learning Goals for the Major
- Spatial, holistic thinking at the intersections of society, space, and nature
- Phenomena in place: Explain the spatial dimensions (location, place, landscape, region, and territory) of human life and the global environment—how human and earth science phenomena “take their place” on the surface of the earth.
- Earth systems: Comprehend how the Earth functions as a complex system of interacting components and how this system applies to and is affected by humanity.
- Scales of space and time: Understand processes operating at different spatial and temporal scales in the earth system and in human histories.
- Nature and society: Recognize natural resource flows through human systems and identify social constructions of nature and vulnerabilities to natural disasters.
- Interdisciplinarity: Combine insights from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to better understand the problems of the increasingly interconnected and ecologically fragile world.
- Addressing diversity in both human and physical geography
- Peoples and places: Discuss, interpret, and explain differences of wealth, power, health, and well-being between and within societies, and the processes that create these patterns.
- Physical processes: Discuss, interpret, and explain the diversity of—and the processes responsible for—the landforms, climates, and ecosystems that constitute our planet’s physical landscapes.
- Reading landscapes: Deduce questions and hypotheses through clues in material landscapes.
- Analysis and application for students who choose the Economy, Culture, and Society track
- Role of Space: Understand the function of boundaries, territories, places, networks, and other spatial forms in the workings of human societies.
- Power and landscapes: Understand the projection, protection, and contestation of power through the production of ideas, cultures, empires, and spatial forms.
- Roles of cities: Grasp the roles and forms of cities as records and motors of modern life, and the interactions of urban areas with hinterlands and global networks.
- Food systems: Compare and contrast agrarian and industrial food supply systems around the world.
- Society-environment interactions: Understand the mutual influences and ramifications of biophysical and social processes in the dynamics of societies at scales from the local to the global.
- Analysis and application for students who choose the Earth Systems Science track
- Earth system science: Analyze interconnected environmental systems with process-based geophysical, geochemical, and biological sciences in the context of current social environmental problems.
- Modeling: Construct models of the earth as a system of interconnected components, highlighting forcings and feedbacks.
- Experiments: Formulate and apply scientific hypotheses and devise tests for them.
- Science and society: Analyze and evaluate the role of science in shaping social forces, and being shaped by them.
- Application of basic skills in research, knowledge of literature, analysis, and communication
- Write clearly: Demonstrate ability to focus and elaborate on chosen topics.
- Read critically: Critically analyze and assess arguments in professional journals, public media, and advocacy literature.
- Empirical plus theoretical: Produce work with robust empirical research (that locates, interprets, and puts together relevant and reliable sources of information) as well as intellectual and theoretical rigor.
- Use of mapping: Understand the production, interpretation, and use of mapping in all its forms and scales.
- Applying quantitative skills: Apply basic quantitative skills such as statistics, algebra, and interpreting graphs.
- Analytical ability: Demonstrate analytical ability: including the ability to identify questions, differentiate descriptions from explanations, make connections between empirical observations and arguments, and differentiate between competing explanations of a given phenomenon.
- Lifetime skills
- Continuing concern: Show continuing concern, curiosity, and zeal for geography and for applying geographical understanding.
- Representing geography: Represent the usefulness of geography and geographical points of view to—depending on the circumstances—prospective employers, educators, policy makers, resource managers, developers, engineers, the public, and acquaintances.
The Undergraduate Major Advisor is available to support students and assist them in successfully completing the geography major. The UMA is a great resource for the following:
- Declaring the geography major and understanding the major requirements
- Advice about schedule planning, including planning for study abroad
- Information about research opportunities, scholarships, graduate or professional schools, or internships and career opportunities
- Scheduling conflicts, registration holds, or other major-specific academic policies
- Information and applications for the Honors Program, supervised independent study, or field study experiences
- Advice on navigating personal issues that may impact a student's performance in the major
Students are encouraged to utilize the UMA as a resource in whatever ways they need support and assistance within the department.
Undergraduate Major Advisor Contact Information
509A McCone Hall
To schedule an appointment with Sarah Varner, please visit: https://calendly.com/svarner-geography
Faculty Advisor Contact Information
In addition to the UMA, the department has two designated undergraduate faculty advisors who can also serve as a valuable resource to students pursuing the geography major. Students are welcome to ask the faculty advisors questions about the content of geography courses, research opportunities, graduate school and career options in the field of geography.
The faculty advisors welcome students to meet with them during their office hours or by special appointment.
Professor Jeffrey Q. Chambers
Professor and Undergraduate Faculty Advisor for Earth Systems Science
519 McCone Hall
Email for an appointment: email@example.com
The geography department is committed to providing a safe, inclusive environment for all students.
Information on general College of Letters & Science requirements should be obtained from a college adviser in the L&S office in 206 Evans Hall.
Faculty and Instructors
+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.
Jeffrey Q. Chambers, Associate Professor. Forests, climate change, trees, tropical forests, remote sensing, Drought.
Sharad Chari, Associate Professor. Geography as history of the present and as Earth/world-writing, social theory, political economy, development, agrarian studies, labor and work, racial/sexual capitalism, Black radical tradition, biopolitical struggle, oceanic humanities, photography, South Asia, South Africa, Indian Ocean .
John Chiang, Professor. Climate change, climate dynamics, ocean-atmosphere interactions, paleoclimate.
Kurt Cuffey, Professor. Continuum mechanics, climate, geomorphology, glaciers, glaciology, climate history, stable isotopes, geographical thought.
William E. Dietrich, Professor. Morphology, earth and planetary sciences, geomorphology, evolution of landscapes, geomorphic transport laws, landscape evolution modeling, high resolution laser altimetry, cosmogenic nuclide analysis.
Brandi Summers, Assistant Professor. Black geographies; urban geography; race and urban aesthetics; design, planning, and architecture; cultural politics of difference.
Clancy Wilmott, Assistant Professor. Critical cartography; media geographies; critical GIS and data studies; cultural memory and landscape; politics of representation, textuality and visuality; digitalities, lived, made and inherited.
Desiree Fields, Assistant Professor. Economic geography; urban theory; financialization; digital platforms and real estate; urban social movements; constructions of markets; geographical political economy; housing justice.
You-Tien Hsing, Professor. China, geography, political economy of development in East Asia, the process of international economic restructuring, cultural and institutional configuration in the processes of Taiwanese direct investment, growth in Chinese cities, business networks.
G. Mathias Kondolf, Professor. Ecological restoration, landscape architecture, environmental planning, fluvial geomorphology, hydrology, environmental geology, environmental impact assessment, riparian zone management.
Jake Kosek, Associate Professor. Cultural politics of nature and difference, cultural geography, science and technology studies, critical race theory, critical cartography, biopolitics, human and the non-human, and environmental politics.
Laurel G. Larsen, Associate Professor. Hydroecology, geomorphology, complex systems, restoration ecology, environmental modeling, wetlands, sediment transport, environmental fluid mechanics.
Jovan Scott Lewis, Assistant Professor. Jamaica and the USA, constructions and infrastructures of poverty, inequality, race (blackness), economy, and the market.
Robert Rhew, Associate Professor. Geography, terrestrial-atmosphere exchange of trace gases, atmospheric chemistry and composition, halogen biogeochemistry, stratospheric ozone depletion issues, coastal salt marsh, chaparral, desert, tundra, boreal forest, grassland.
Nathan F. Sayre, Associate Professor. Climate change, endangered species, rangelands, political ecology, pastoralism, ranching, environmental history, suburbanization, human-environment interactions, environmental geography, range science and management, Southwestern US, scale, community-based conservation.
Harley Shaiken, Professor. Mexico, labor, globalization, education, United States, geography, work organization, issues of economic and political integration in the Americas, information technology, skill.
David B. Wahl, Associate Adjunct Professor.
Teresa Caldeira, Professor. Comparative urban studies, urbanization in the global south, social theory, ethnography, qualitative methodology.
Pheng Cheah, Professor. Nationalism, rhetoric, legal philosophy, feminism, 18th-20th century continental philosophy and contemporary critical theory, postcolonial theory and anglophone postcolonial literatures, cosmopolitanism and globalization, social and political thought.
Iryna Dronova, Assistant Professor.
N. Maggi Kelly, Professor.
Nancy L. Peluso, Professor. Political ecology/resource policy and politics/forests/agrarian change/property and access.
John Radke, Associate Professor. City and regional planning, landscape architecture and environmental planning, geographic information systems, database design and construction, spatial analysis, pattern recognition computational morphology.
Isha Ray, Associate Professor. Water and development, Gender, water and sanitation, technology and development, social science research methods .
Raka Ray, Professor. Feminist theory, gender, social movements, South and Southeast Asian studies, relations between dominant subaltern groups in India, womenÂ´_s movements in India.
Diana Negrin da Silva, Lecturer.
Peter Ekman, Lecturer.
Melanie Feakins, Lecturer.
John Isom, Lecturer.
Ann Laudati, Lecturer.
Seth R. Lunine, Lecturer.
Paul Groth, Professor Emeritus. Architecture, vernacular architecture, urban geography, suburban America, cultural landscape studies, housing (US) .
Gillian P. Hart, Professor Emerita.
Michael Johns, Professor Emeritus. Latin America, development, geography, culture of cities.
Beatriz Manz, Professor Emeritus. Latin America, human rights, peasantry, migrations, social movements, political conflict, Mayan communities in Guatemala, issues of memory, grief.
Norman Miller, Professor Emeritus. Hydroclimate modeling and assimilation and analysis, climate change impacts to sociology-economic and ecological sectors.
Richard Walker, Professor Emeritus. Race, environment, urbanism, politics, geography, resources, economic geography, regional development, capitalism, cities, California, class.
+ Michael J. Watts, Professor Emeritus. Islam, development, Africa, social movements, political economy, political ecology, geography, South Asia, peasant societies, social and and cultural theory, US agriculture, Marxian political economy.
Department of Geography
507 McCone Hall
Undergraduate Major Advisor
509A McCone Hall
Undergraduate Faculty Advisor (Human Geography)
Desiree Fields, Ph.D.
555 McCone Hall
Undergraduate Faculty Advisor (Physical Geography)
Jeff Chambers, Ph.D.
519 McCone Hall
Robert Rhew, P.h.D.
539 McCone Hall