Cartography and GIS Concentration


Generating maps and storing map-related information through the use of computers has emerged as geography’s fastest growth area in recent years. Geographic information systems are at the heart of this growth. In this concentration, students learn the history, skills, techniques, and applications of some of geography’s most powerful and exciting tools.

Cartography in its most basic sense is map-making. Cartographers continue to generate maps of all sorts for a variety of industries. Increasingly, these maps are computer generated, making use of advanced graphic software. The U.S. government continues to hire cartographers for several of its agencies, namely the U.S. Geological Survey, the Census Bureau, and the Defense Mapping Agency. The private sector, too, employs cartographers for the production of a wide range of maps and atlases.

Remote sensing involves the interpretation and analysis of aerial photographs and a growing body of satellite imagery. Especially when grounded in a firm understanding of earth science (physical geography, geology, and biology), remote sensing analysis provides rapid and accurate information on vegetation, soils, erosion, tectonics, transportation, and land use. Due to the widespread use of remotely sensed images in small-scale mapping, there is a natural overlap with cartography.

Geographic information systems (or GIS) are perhaps the newest and most revolutionary tools available to the geographer. Put simply, a GIS is a computer application that combines an information database with mapping capability, allowing for the storage, display, analysis, and printing of spatial information. With a GIS, the geographer can view and compare various data layers (demography, economics, ethnicity, soils, vegetation, hydrology, highways, etc.) with spatial references, finding, for instance, suitable locations for landfills or businesses. GIS, rather than being a subfield of geography itself, finds application across the discipline, with heavy use in environmental management, land use planning, business geography, medical geography, and urban geography. Even cultural and political geographers are finding GIS valuable in their work.

This concentration is intended for students interested in graduate work or employment in GIS, remote sensing, cartography, environmental impact assessment, land use analysis, surveying, or with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Census Bureau, or the National Park Service.

Geography Courses

Both of the following:
GEO 101: World Human Geography
GEO 102: Globalization and Development

Two of the following:
GEO 200: American Ethnic Geography
GEO 201: Economic Geography
GEO 210: Current Themes in Geography (when appropriate)
GEO 215: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
GEO 225: Digital Cartography and GPS
GEO 230: Remote Sensing
GEO 280: Geography of Cyberspace

All of the following:
GEO 320: Urban Geography
GEO 321: Urban and Regional Planning
GEO 420: Rural Geography

One of the following:
GEO 415: Advanced Geographic Information Systems
GEO 430: Advanced Remote Sensing
GEO 460: Data Analysis
GEO 470: Political Geography
GEO 475: Culture, Nature, Landscape
GEO 486: Internship in Geography
GEO 490: Selected Topics in Geography (when appropriate)
GEO 492: Research in Geography

GEO 104: Geomorphology
GEO 215: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
GEO 260: Environmental Conservation
GEO 474: Historical Geography of the United States
GEO 495: Independent Study

Recommended Complementary Courses:

ECON 335: Urban Economic Problems
HIST 327: History of Chicago
POLS 220: State and Local Politics in the United States
POLS 320: Politics of Urban and Metropolitan Areas.
POLS 361: Public Policy
SOC 325: Urban Sociology
SOC 347: Race and Ethnic Relations

Minors/Second Majors

Students selecting this concentration should consider a minor or second major in mathematics, computer science, or physics.

Up-to-date course descriptions and course prerequisites can be found in the University Catalog.