Geography Program

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About Geography

What is Geography?

Geography is the science of place and space. Geographers ask where things are located on the surface of the earth, why they are located where they are, how places differ from one another, and how people interact with the environment.

There are two main branches of geography: human geography and physical geography. Human geography is concerned with the spatial aspects of human existence — how people and their activity are distributed in space, how they use and perceive space, and how they create and sustain the places that make up the earth's surface. Human geographers work in the fields of urban and regional planning, transportation, marketing, real estate, tourism, and international business.

Physical geographers study patterns of climates, land forms, vegetation, soils, and water. They forecast the weather, manage land and water resources, and analyze and plan for forests, rangelands, and wetlands. Many human and physical geographers have skills in cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Geographers also study the linkages between human activity and natural systems. Geographers were, in fact, among the first scientists to sound the alarm that human-induced changes to the environment were beginning to threaten the balance of life itself. They are active in the study of global warming, desertification, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, groundwater pollution, and flooding.

How do You Know if You Want to be A Geographer?

If you answer yes to a majority of these questions, you have a bright future in geography.

  1. Are you curious about places?
    If so, geography channels this interest into a rigorous study of the makeup of places and what makes them tick.
  2. Do you like to study maps?
    The geographer's first inclination is to put information on a map in order to see how it looks spatially.
  3. Do you prefer the window seat on airplanes?
    Geography tries to explain the constantly-changing patterns of human activity and natural phenomena on the landscape.
  4. Are you interested in foreign areas?
    Many geographers specialize in a particular part of the world such as Latin America, Europe, Asia, or Africa.
  5. Do you like to work outside?
    Many geographers obtain their basic data from field investigation in environments that range from wilderness areas to cities.
  6. Are you a problem solver?
    As scientists, geographers are naturally curious about how the world is arranged. They ask lots of questions about why things are located the way they are and then they try to answer those questions.
  7. Are you good at seeing connections among seemingly unrelated processes?
    One of geography's strengths is its ability to integrate ideas about human behavior, social institutions, and the natural environment.
  8. Can you adapt to rapid technological change?
    Geography has been buffeted by monumental changes in technology. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have revolutionized the way geographers collect, store, analyze, and present spatial information.
  9. Do you try to see the big picture?
    Something about geographers' minds causes them to look for the way places fit together, interact with one another, and are influenced by larger, more global forces. Geographers think big!
  10. Are you interested in connections between humans and the environment?
    Geographers see the world as the human habitat, one that we have transformed and that has transformed us.

Source: Association of American Geographers (AAG)

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

If you would like more information about geography at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact

Dr. Edwin Romanowicz, Director
Office: Hudson Hall 132
Phone: (518) 564-2028
Toll-Free Phone: (877) 554-1041
Fax: (518) 564-5267