Salisbury University students on campus

Geography Major - Physical Geography Track

Why specialize in Physical Geography?

Physical geographers study the earth-atmosphere system to understand the interrelated processes responsible for patterns of physical phenomena observed in weather, climate, vegetation, soils and landforms. Physical geographers integrate knowledge of the four major spheres of the Earth's system, namely the hydrosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, and atmosphere to seek to understand how it was formed, determine its current state and predict its future. Examples of questions that physical geographers try to answer are:

  • What are rocks and minerals? How do they originate?
  • Why do physical landscapes vary across the United States and the world?
  • How can we predict when and where volcanoes will erupt and the extent of damage?
  • How are mountains built and what are the origins of oceans?
  • How old is earth and how has it changed over time? Future changes?
  • Why are oceans salty? Where do the waves with the best break occur?
  • Where does the groundwater found in water wells come from?
  • Why do some thunderstorms produce tornadoes?
  • What keeps mesoscale convective systems going?
  • Why are some summers/winters hotter/colder and drier/wetter than others?
  • How can numerical weather prediction models be improved?
  • How can we improve forecasting flash floods?
  • What constitutes a drought?
  • Is global warming real?
  • Is there a relationship between global warming and hurricane intensities?

Our Alumni

Our graduates can be found working for the United States Geologic Survey, Maryland Department of Environment, engineering firms throughout the Mid-Atlantic, and in private industry as environmental consultants. Graduates have been slowing the erosion of coastal beaches along the US Gulf, and cleaning up the environment of Aberdeen Proving Ground. Our graduates have attended and received degrees from some of the finest graduate schools in North America, including Johns Hopkins School of Engineering, McGill's Geography Department and many major State Universities, including the University of Delaware, University of Maryland, College Park, and Mississippi State University.

What is the Program of Study?

Our program stresses the interaction between earth science and atmospheric science and their applications to solving environmental problems. Thus, students complete courses in both earth science as well as meteorology and climatology, as well as a common geography major core. The coursework required for this track provides a solid undergraduate knowledge of geography with an earth and atmospheric science focus which serves as a strong foundation for students continuing on to graduate studies or onto a career in earth/atmospheric science.

One key feature of our coursework in Physical Geography track is our commitment to field work and experiential studies. Our physical geography instructors take students to local farms to study soils and hydrology, Pennsylvania and New York to study the remnants of glaciation, and Assateague Island National Seashore to study coastal processes.

Visit our catalog to see the requirements for this program:

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