Land Use

Land use investigates the human use and modification of natural environments, whether for agricultural, technological, industrial, residential, or other uses.  The pattern of land use is often influenced by various physical and cultural controls.  As shown above, land use patterns for Shippensburg's Burd Run Watershed are strongly controlled by the distribution of soil types (see the roll over image).

Understanding the pattern of land use change, and the reasons for these changes is critical for geographers and earth scientists.  As global populations grow, so too does the demand for natural resources for infrastructure development to support the human population.  Major land cover changes include deforestation, urban sprawl, extension of impervious surface areas, soil erosion, soil degradation and salinization, desertification, etc.  These changes result in modification of critical ecosystems, and environmental changes that impact our access to resources, and ultimately our own health and safety.

  The department of Geography and Earth Science offers a B.S. degree in Geography with a concentration in Land Use.  Several courses and research experiences are available for both undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in this topical area. 



Geography Courses (GEO)

GEO 244- Land Use 
This course reviews the relationship of people to the land and how technological advances and expanding population have put increasing pressure on lean resources and have created a variety of complex land use dilemmas which affect persons at all levels of society. Rural to urban migration, energy-consumptive settlement patterns, urban sprawl, private land ownership and control, and federal, state and local land use regulations will be studied. Spatial approach of land and the interaction of the physical and cultural environment in the decision-making process are emphasized.

GEO444- Environmental Land-Use Planning 
This course investigates the spatial pattern of land-use development in rural and urban areas and interactions between urbanization and the environment. It also examines the physical and cultural requirements of environmental land-use planning including the study of the land-use classification, planning and zoning procedures, economic activity, and the city as an ecosystem. City planning techniques, land-use mapping, and field study of the local region are utilized.

GEO 594- Special Topics: The Chesapeake Bay and the Science of Land Use ChangeThe Chesapeake Bay estuary was once one of the most productive estuaries in the world. Today this ecosystem is on the verge of collapse because of pollutant loads from its 167,000 km2 watershed. This course uses examples from the Chesapeake Bay watershed to study land use and land cover change, but the concepts and methods that students learn are broadly applicable to other fields and geographic locations. The goals of this class are to 1) recognize linkages between land use/land cover and the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay, 2) understand and recognize drivers of land use/land cover change, and 3) to learn how to quantify and analyze land use/land cover patterns and land use/land cover changes using GIS and spatially explicit computer models.

Resources and Research Opportunities: