FSU Logo
Westcott Fountain

Top of Page

Bottom of Page

Florida State University
2015-2016 General Bulletin - Graduate Edition

Department of


College of Social Sciences and Public Policy

Web Page: http://www.coss.fsu.edu/geography/

Chair: James Elsner; Professors: Horner, Mesev, Yang; Associate Professor: Zhao; Assistant Professors: Folch, Lawhon, Pau, Pierce, Uejio; Affiliate and Adjunct Faculty: Cole, Doel, Miller, Molina, Quinton, Weisman, Winsberg

The Department of Geography at Florida State University offers graduate degree programs at the master’s and doctoral levels designed to equip students with the technical skills and intellectual creativity required in a changing labor market. Faculty and students working in the geography department investigate critical issues of society, geospatial inquiry, and the physical environment, including the linkages between global and local processes, a hallmark of geographic investigation. Within this larger set of concerns, individuals in the department study and devise methodological and theoretical solutions for specific issues ranging from cities and mobilities, hurricane activity, climate change, urban remote sensing, and space-time visualization.

The overarching focus of departmental research is on geospatial modeling, urban analysis, and environmental hazards. Current work under investigation includes transportation optimization, land use/land cover change, urban growth, population mapping, regionalization and localization theory, political ecology, environmental conflict and policy, local economic development, urban sustainability, environmental health, hurricane forecasting, tropical forests and grasslands, coastal and estuarine ecosystems, energy consumption and conservation, and resource management. The department’s foundation in geo-spatial sciences is built upon expertise in geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and spatial analysis. Faculty active in this area specialize in theoretical developments in GIScience, quantitative methods and spatial modeling. The College of Social Sciences and Public Policy hosts a GIS laboratory with microcomputers running GIS, remote sensing, and statistical software, as well as access to digital representation of satellite sensor imagery, and population statistics. A master’s degree in GIScience is popular with students intending to enter the GIS industry as program managers, systems analysts, programmers, and application directors for GIS companies or private and public opportunities, such as the EPA, and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, as well as environmental agencies, real estate, and financial institutions.

Graduate students design programs of study focusing on important social issues, geospatial techniques, and environmental problems. While in residence, funded students gain valuable experience and skills in teaching and research, as well as assisting faculty in the classroom and on study projects. By the time they graduate, PhD students will have experience as instructors holding full responsibility teaching undergraduate courses and many will have published papers in scholastic journals and presented results of their research at professional conferences.


Applicants must hold a degree in geography or a related field from an accredited college or university, a baccalaureate degree in the case of students entering the master’s program and a master’s degree in the case of applicants to the doctoral program. Individuals holding degrees in fields other than geography are welcome to apply but may need to make up deficiencies, as judged by the graduate director and major professor. Minimum requirements for admission are a 3.0 GPA and a combined math/verbal GRE score of 300. Students who native language is not English in addition to the above, must also score a minimum of 600 on the paper-based, 250 on the computer-based, or 100 on the Internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and at least 45 on the SPEAK test. Current application instructions are available from the FSU Department of Geography Web site (http://www.coss.fsu.edu/geography/). Applicants are required to submit GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a statement of intent, and a writing sample through the online Apply Yourself (AY) application portal described on the departmental Web page.

Master’s Program

Non-Thesis Option

The non-thesis option master’s program is designed as a flexible course of study allowing the student, in consultation with the major professor, to develop a specialized program tailored to the student’s interests and career goals. Students entering this program generally seek the master’s as a terminal degree. The department offers both the Master of Science (MS) and Master of Arts (MA) degrees.

The coursework for the non-thesis option consists of a minimum of thirty-two semester hours. Students are required to take three core courses (nine semester hours total) designed to provide a solid foundation for investigating geographic issues relating to social and environmental problems. Students who have taken similar courses at the bachelor’s level may petition for exemption. Students must earn a grade of “B” or better in each of the core courses:

GEO5058 Survey of Geographic Thought (3)

GEO5118C Introduction to Geographic Research (3)

GEO5165C Quantitative Geography (3)

In addition, each student selects at least eight elective courses (total of twenty-four semester hours) in consultation with the major professor.

Thesis Option

The thesis option master’s program is designed to provide for and certify a student’s mastery of the discipline. This requires both breadth of geographic knowledge, acquired through a range of coursework, and depth of experience, achieved through original research culminating in a thesis. Master’s students planning to pursue a doctoral degree should take the thesis option. The department offers both the Master of Science (MS) and Master of Arts (MA) degrees.

The coursework consists of a minimum of twenty-four semester hours (plus a minimum of six thesis hours). Students are required to take three core courses (nine semester hours) designed to provide a solid foundation for investigating geographic issues relating to social and environmental problems. Students who have taken similar courses at the bachelor’s level may petition for exemption. Students must earn a grade of “B” or better in each of the core courses:

GEO5058 Survey of Geographic Thought (3)

GEO5118C Introduction to Geographic Research (3)

GEO5165C Quantitative Geography (3)

In addition, each student selects at least five elective courses (fifteen semester hours) in consultation with the graduate advisor or major professor.

With the advice of a supervisory committee, the student prepares a written thesis prospectus that identifies a substantive geographic topic and demonstrates familiarity with the literature and methods appropriate to its solution. The prospectus is developed in consultation with the major professor. When the major professor deems it ready, the student must orally defend the prospectus. Full-time students should plan to defend the prospectus by the end of the first academic year. Once the prospectus has been accepted, the student begins the research and writing process, working with the major professor on initial drafts and drawing the supervisory committee into the process over time. The final step involves an oral defense of the thesis after the complete working draft has been accepted by the major professor. The defense is open to departmental faculty and graduate students.

Applied GISci Option

The applied MS program in Geographic Information Science (GISci) is aimed at individuals who wish to cultivate a deep understanding of geospatial technologies in mapping and data analysis rather than a broad-based understanding of geography as a discipline. Students must earn thirty-two semester hours, including six semester hours in a capstone project. This fast-track option allows students to complete their degree in twelve months if they wish.

Required Courses. Students are required to take three core courses (fourteen semester hours) designed to provide a solid foundation for investigating geographic issues relating to social and environmental problems. The capstone course, GIS 5950 (six semester hours) is required of all MSGIS students during the last semester of residence. It is designed in consultation with a faculty member and demonstrates the student’s skills by either developing an individual project or engaging in a work-related internship. It is offered only during summer terms. Students must earn a grade of “B” or better in each of the core courses:

GIS5034 Introduction to Remote Sensing (3)


GIS5034L Introduction to Remote Sensing Lab (1)

GIS5101 Geographic Information Systems (3)


GIS5101L Geographic Information Systems Lab (1)

GIS5106 Advanced Geographic Information Science (3)

GIS5950 GIScience Capstone (6)

In addition to the required courses, each student selects at least four elective courses (twelve semester hours) in consultation with the Applied GISci Program Coordinator Dr. James Elsner, 323 Bellamy or jelsner@fsu.edu, or visit the department’s Web site at http://www.coss.fsu.edu/geography/.

PhD Program

For the doctoral program, the course requirements include the three courses required of the master’s degree (if not taken previously), two additional core courses, and at least seven elective courses (twenty-one semester hours total.) All doctoral students must pass qualifying exams, including written and oral portions, for admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree. The supervisory committee determines passage or failure by a majority vote. Students who fail these exams after two attempts will be dropped from the doctoral program. A student admitted to candidacy is eligible to register for dissertation hours. Completion of the dissertation normally requires at least one year. The student prepares a written dissertation prospectus that demonstrates the potential to conduct original research making a significant contribution to knowledge. Once the prospectus is deemed acceptable to the major professor and the supervisory committee, the student begins the research and writing process. At some point during one’s doctoral study, a student must register for a total of twenty-four semester hours taken in a period of twelve consecutive months. The final step involves an oral defense of the dissertation, which is open to public viewing. During the dissertation defense, all committee members and the student must attend the entire defense in real time, either by being physically present or participating via distance technology.

Students are required to take four core courses (twelve credit hours) and earn at least a “B” in the following:

GEO5058 Survey of Geographic Thought (3)

GEO5118C Introduction to Geographic Research (3)

GEO5165C Quantitative Geography (3)

GEO6093 Professional Development Geography (3)

Financial Assistance

The department offers a limited number of graduate assistantships. These are initially awarded for two semesters and generally entail a stipend of around $16,000, with possibility of additional support for teaching summer classes. Support in following years is contingent on satisfactory performance academically and in assistantship duties, for a maximum of two years for master’s students and four years for doctoral students. Department assistantships usually include a waiver of tuition.

Department assistantships require that recipients perform instructional or research duties within the department. Students holding research assistantships are required to provide between thirteen and twenty hours of service to the department per week. Most master’s students assist faculty in the classroom or on research projects, while most PhD students have full responsibility teaching undergraduate courses, gaining valuable instructional experience. University policy stipulates that all students receiving financial assistance in a given semester must register for nine credit hours, including summers. For more information, contact the Graduate Admissions Coordinator in the Department of Geography.

Definition of Prefixes

GEA—Geography: Regional Areas

GEO—Geography: Systematic

GIS—Geography: Information Science

Graduate Courses

Note: Many courses are taught as seminars in current topics (see GEO 5934r below). Call the department for current offerings.

GEA 5195r.Advanced Area Studies (3). In-depth study of a particular world region, including Europe, Latin America, and East Asia.

GEO 5058.Survey of Geographic Thought (3). History of geography as a discipline, ranging from classical origins to contemporary philosophical schools and debates.

GEO 5115.Environmental Field Methods (3). Design, implementation and presentation of a field-based project employing sampling, GIS, GPS, and exploratory statistical methods.

GEO 5118C.Introduction to Geographic Research (3). Survey of research design and methods, strengths and weaknesses of alternative strategies, reliability and validity measures, and methods of writing.

GEO 5165C.Quantitative Geography (3). Introduces probability theory and descriptive and inferential statistics in geographic research, including chi-square tests, logit models, correlation techniques, geo-statistics, analysis of variance, simple and multiple regression, and factorial analysis.

GEO 5305.Biogeography (3). This course examines the spatial distributions of flora and fauna, vegetation dynamics, ecosystem change, and issues related to biodiversity, invasive species, wildfire policy, and debates over wilderness.

GEO 5345.Disaster Preparedness and Hazards Mitigation (3). This course deals with natural hazards such as hurricanes and earthquakes and human-made hazards such as nuclear power and air pollution. The student will acquire perspectives, tools, and information to choose rationally among public policy alternatives regarding responses to environmental hazards.

GEO 5358.Environmental Conflict and Economic Development (3). Examines controversies over the use, transformation, and destruction of nature, including political ecology.

GEO 5377.Natural Resource Assessment and Analysis (3). This course traces the historical development of policies concerning natural resources from the colonial period to the present. Current issues in conservation and environmental management are discussed.

GEO 5378.Landscape Ecology (3). Prerequisite: GIS 5101. This course offers a review of methods on analyzing geographic patterns of natural phenomena, including ecological conservation, natural resource management, landscape and urban planning, as well as human-environmental interactions and implications. Familiarity with software packages such as ArcGIS is assumed.

GEO 5414.Geospatial Data and Analysis (3). This course addresses topics in geographic theory, beginning with the history and social context of the field, including the debates over regions, urbanization, economy, population, development, and the role of markets and nation states. Each theoretical position is tied to method, both in terms of standard practices and critical challenges.

GEO 5417.Race and Place (3). This course integrates various concepts and topics concerned with the spatial construction and effects of race and ethnicity, including identity, segregation, political and cultural landscapes, and environmental justice.

GEO 5425.Cultural Geography (3). The study of the processes by which various cultural features have diffused throughout the world. Emphasis is on the contemporary cultural landscape, particularly that of the United States.

GEO 5451.Medical Geography (3). This course reviews the literature and techniques for locating, accessing, and understanding public health evidence, as well as evaluating environmental hazards that pose risks to human health and safety and policy repercussions to public health provisions.

GEO 5453.Global Health (3). This course explores and evaluates public health problems, and examines global health inequality.

GEO 5472.Political Geography (3). Examination of how political processes play out over space, from the local to the global levels. Topics include electoral geographies, nationalism and war, and current geopolitics.

GEO 5545.Advanced Economic Geography (3). In-depth examination of several themes in the analysis of economic landscapes, including input-output analysis, historical materialism, post-Fordism, services and telecommunications, and the global economy.

GEO 5555.World Systems Theory (3). Systematic interrogation of the birth and historical trajectory of the contemporary capitalist world economy, including dependency and modernization theory, and current topics in ethnic conflict and the global economy.

GEO 5704.Transport Geography (3). This course offers a review of the literature and techniques for the spatial impacts of transportation systems, including functionality, and their role on society, the economy, energy, the environment, and sustainability.

GEO 5705.Communications Geography (3). This course is an examination of the geopolitics of telecommunications, the space-shrinking impact of technologies, and their economic and social effects, including cyberspace.

GEO 5908r.Directed Individual Study (1–6). (S/U grade only.) May be repeated to a maximum of nine semester hours.

GEO 5918r.Supervised Research (1–3). (S/U grade only.) A maximum of three semester hours may apply to the master’s degree. May be repeated to a maximum of three (3) semester hours.

GEO 5934r.Seminar in Current Topics (1–3). A variety of subjects is offered on an occasional basis under the heading of “Special Topics.” Recent offerings include the Geography of Hunger, Advanced GIS, and Globalization.

GEO 5947r.Supervised Teaching (1–3). (S/U grade only.) A maximum of three hours may apply to the master’s degree. May be repeated to a maximum of three semester hours.

GEO 5971r.Thesis (1–9). (S/U grade only.) A minimum of six semester hours is required.

GEO 6093.Professional Development in Geography (3). This course reviews procedures for students to assume academic and non-academic employment arising from the attainment of a PhD in Geography.

GEO 6980r.Dissertation (1–12).

GEO 8964r.Preliminary Doctoral Examination (0). (P/F grade only.)

GEO 8976r.Master’s Thesis Defense (0). (P/F grade only.)

GEO 8985r.Dissertation Defense (0). (P/F grade only.)

GIS 5034.Introduction to Remote Sensing (3). Corequisite: GIS 5034L. This course covers remote sensing foundations and the use of remote sensing for environmental and cultural applications. Focus is on the foundations of remote sensing, aerial photography and photogrammetry, characteristics of various sensing systems, remote sensing applications, and an introduction to digital image processing.

GIS 5034L.Introduction to Remote Sensing Lab (1). Corequisite: GIS 5034. This lab provides practice with the concepts and techniques in remote sensing. Specifically, the lab covers the foundations of remote sensing, aerial photography and photogrammetry, characteristics or various sensing systems, remote sensing applications, and basic skills in digital image processing.

GIS 5038C.Advanced Remote Sensing (3). Prerequisite: GEO 5934. This course focuses on quantitative approaches to the analysis of remotely sensed data. Digital multitemporal, multispectral, multi-sensor remote sensing images acquired by a range of sensors, and the application of digital remote sensing for urban and environmental analysis will be discussed. Quantitative methods in digital remote sensing image enhancement, radiometric normalization, rectification, georeferencing, and classification.

GIS 5073.GIS Land Survey Methods (3). This course focuses on the theory and practice of techniques that locate objects in space using land survey methods.

GIS 5100.Advanced Geographic Information Systems (3). Prerequisite: GEO 5146. Students apply GIS to a problem from their own research or one supplied by a local government agency. Topics include environmental modeling, GIS spatial analysis and visualization.

GIS 5101.Geographic Information Systems (3). A hands-on course on GIS topics, including locational control, spatial data structures, spatial cartographic statistics, modeling and analysis, trends in decision support, sensors, and geographic methods.

GIS 5101L.GIS Lab (1). Corequisite: GIS 5101. Laboratory computer practice in the use of geographic information system software.

GIS 5106.Advanced Geographic Information Science (3). Prerequisite: GEO 5159. Subjects covered include any combination of the following: spatial cognition; geographical representation; spatial pattern analysis; linear modeling; spatial autocorrelation; spatial modeling and simulation; spatial interpolation; digital terrain modeling and visualization; spatial data mining and reasoning; data quality and uncertainty; mobile GIS; Internet GIS.

GIS 5111.Spatial Modeling in Geographic Information Science (3). This course introduces advanced spatial modeling theories and associated techniques in GIS. Topics addressed include spatial optimization, GIS for transportation, spatial decision support systems, and other advanced quantitative techniques. Emphasis is on fostering a broad understanding of spatial modeling and connecting spatial modeling techniques to students’ substantive domains.

GIS 5122.Applied Spatial Statistics (3). This course offers advanced spatial statistical methods and complex models applied to phenomena represented by locational data, using techniques such as spatial regression, smoothing, point patterns, kernel density estimations, and clustering algorithms.

GIS 5131.Geographic Visualization (3). This course examines the design and implementation of effective visualization of geographic data, phenomena, patterns, and processes. The theoretical basis is formed by cartography, visual perception and communication models. Emphasis is placed on the creation, analysis, and display of statistical surfaces. Students explore trends in cartography visualization methods including interactive and animated mapping techniques.

GIS 5305.Geographical Information Systems for Environmental Analysis and Modeling (3). Technical topics covered include space-time variability in environmental data, environmental data acquisition and integration, interpolating environmental data, error and uncertainty, environmental decision support systems, environmental modeling techniques, and the integration of geospatial technologies with environmental modeling systems. Applications include hydrological modeling, terrain modeling and landform analysis, landscape pattern analysis, land suitability analysis, soil erosion modeling, and wildfire modeling.

GIS 5306.Environmental Change Modeling (3). Prerequisite: GIS 4043 or GIS 5101. This course looks at various modeling techniques for simulating and understanding environmental change, and how such changes affect the human dimension. Familiarity of basic modeling packages, such as ArcGIS, is assumed.

GIS 5400.Geographic Information Systems Applications in Social Sciences (3). Practical examples from the fields of health, economic geography and real estate, housing, transportation, criminology, and others are used to illustrate how spatial analysis techniques are used to address problems in a GIS environment. Special consideration is given to the data needs of such operations, the implementation of methods in a GIS environment, and understanding the spatial assumptions and issues that underpin analyses.

GIS 5605.GIS Local Government (3). Prerequisite: GIS 5101. This course explores the professional and institutional application of GIS in government, industry and business.

GIS 5950.GIScience Capstone (6). Prerequisites: GIS 5034, GIS 5101 and GIS 5106. This course applies and demonstrates GIScience theory and techniques in a vocational environment.


see Geography; General Bulletin: Latin American and Caribbean Studies