Geography is the science of place and space. We use high-tech tools and scientific methods to discover and explain spatial patterns in the natural and human worlds. Geographers are active in the study of environmental issues, natural hazards, globalization, homeland security, rural and economic development, business analytics, disease outbreaks and much more. Geography encompasses both natural science and social science as it examines people and their environment and serves as a bridge between the physical and cultural worlds.

Individual geographers focus on different aspects of the discipline. Some specialize in physical geography studying the natural environment, including the analysis of climate, vegetation, soils and landforms. Others concentrate on the spatial associations of the human environment that result from the political, social and economic activities of people. The constantly changing physical and human landscapes on the Earth’s surface challenge the geographer to provide continuing interpretations of all parts of the world from a spatial point of view. We use cutting-edge technology to analyze physical, cultural, economic and social phenomena which can be communicated through digital maps and interactive representations. Modern geographers tackle real-world problems with marketable career skills that put them at the forefront of the global society.

UNI Beta chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon International Honor Society in Geography is among the first five founding chapters (est. in 1931) and is the second senior chapter in the GTU worldwide system.


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Geography State-of-the-art labs

The UNI geography department has several state-of-the-art laboratories students utilize during their academic careers. We have two environmental science labs as part of its physical geography program. The facilities house a variety of equipment including a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy system for elemental analysis, a hyperspectral camera imaging system, an X-ray diffractometer, a laser particle size analyzer, a spectrophotometer, water quality instrumentation and a tree ring analysis station. The GIS labs include the computer lab, field equipment and data archives. These contain a wide range of GIS and remote sensing data, fixed-wing and rotary-wing unmanned aircrafts, a spectroradiometer, spectrometers, thermal radiometers, a total station, and GPS survey and mapping equipment. 

Hands-on experience
Hands-on experience

About 50 percent of undergraduates participate in funded collaborative research with faculty. Students are employed through a variety of sources, including faculty grants, GeoTREE Center contracts, the Geographic Alliance of Iowa and Iowa Space Grant Consortium fellowships. The department fast-tracks student colleagues into deeper, more meaningful research and outreach activities through mentorship designed to empower the students to become equal partners and leaders.

Landmark institution for women geographers

Geography Professor Alison Aitchison was the first woman in U.S. history to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the National Council for Geographic Education, the highest award for geography educators. Three out of 24 top women-geography educators of the 20th century featured by the NCGE worked at UNI.


96% of last year's graduates are either continuing their education or employed



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Mark Welford
Department Head and Professor
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