Conference participants seeking stonesWestern Michigan University is a student-centered research university nationally-recognized among colleges and universities in the United States.

The Department of Geography, Environment, and Tourism advances research and creativity through the work of faculty in the following areas.

Physical and environmental geography

Climate variability and climate change

This research focuses on the impact of climate variability and change on hydrological and terrestrial ecosystems. It employs the Community Earth System Model to investigate hydrological and biogeochemical processes that are interactive with climate. Specific focus on land-atmosphere interactions, climate change and terrestrial ecosystem modeling, and soil moisture modeling (Dr. Lei Meng).

Water resources management, water hydrology and nonpoint source pollution in the United States and China

This research asks:

  • How can hydrologic models and spatial technologies be incorporated in planning processes to support watershed management and ecosystem protection?
  • How can we utilize new remote sensing, computing, modeling, tracing and mapping technologies to better observe, analyze and visualize the dynamics of water resources over space and time? (Dr. Chansheng He).
  • How does land use or cover change resulting from human and environmental interactions affect the watershed hydrologic processes over space and time?
  • How much freshwater is available to support the multiple demands for water for domestic supplies, industrial development, agricultural irrigation (the largest consumptive water use in both the United States and the world), and hydropower generation while satisfying the needs for ecosystem maintenance?


Using GIS to reduce the impact of sensitive weather on profitable crop production in the United States

The USDA is funding a million dollar research effort to use GIS to develop methods for multi-scale, multi-crop, multi-regional crop disease forecasting system and web-based delivery system. The research will benefit a variety of cropping systems throughout the United States including the leaf spot of peanuts in Georgia and northern Florida, Fusarium head blight of barley in the northern Great Plains and late blight of potato in Michigan are used as regional case studies. (Dr. Kathleen Baker)

Using satellite imagery to evaluate the quality of rice paddies in South Korea

This research uses satellite imagery to evaluate the quality of rice paddies in western South Korea that has been reclaimed from the sea (Dr. Gregory Veeck)

Students in labCommunity development and planning

Small and medium-sized city analysis

Research focuses on understanding the spatial, social, and economic dynamics of medium and small and medium-sized urban areas and their implications for community economic development and planning. Topics include growth and change in Micropolitan Michigan and size and scale in the urban hierarchy (Dr. Benjamin Ofori-Amoah).

Economic geography

Agriculture, rural development and rural environmental and ecological issues

This research examinations agricultural, rural development and ecological issues with particular reference to Asia. Topics include agricultural activities on reclaimed lands in South Korea (Dr. Gregory Veeck). 

Economic development of Africa

This research explores problems, issues and prospects of development with respect to Africa. Specific focus is on theory and practice of economic development; problems and issues in rural, urban and transportation development; and the role of the human factor in the development of Africa (Dr. Benjamin Ofori-Amoah). 


Agritourism in Southwest Michigan

This research investigates how apples, hard cider and value-added products produced through the agricultural realities of the area can lead to enhanced tourism opportunities. Additionally, many of the same products that Michigan produces are found around the world. These areas present research opportunities for geographers as well as tourist possibilities for comparisons (Dr. Lucius Hallett).

Ethnic and cultural tourism

This research focuses on tourism planning and development issues with an emphasis on ethnic tourism in China. Topics have ranged from analysis of tourism impacts, destination planning and related socio-cultural issues, tourism demand management and rural tourism (Dr. Li Yang).

Centers and institutes

The W.E. Upjohn Center

The W.E. Upjohn Center for the Study of Geographical Change provides preservation and protection of historic maps and documents and is a world class facility for digitizing large format originals at very high resolutions (Dr. Benjamin Ofori-Amoah).

Student theses

 Recent Theses