Physical Geography B.Sc.

Physical Geography is an Earth Systems Science that weaves together studies of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere to investigate our environment in the critical zone; the powerful natural forces and events that influence our lives; and the many ways we are altering Earth’s systems. A firm grasp of biophysical processes and patterns is crucial to an informed stewardship of our planet....

Physical Geography's BSc major and honours programs provide students with a broad Earth Systems Science education built on the fundamentals of physical science and emphasizing field-work, practical problem solving and analytical techniques. At the upper division students have the freedom to focus on the areas of relevance to their career choices or their specific interests. Upon completion of the program, students are prepared for careers in many aspects of environmental geoscience.  Among them: atmospheric science; soil science; climate science, forest geoscience; environmental monitoring; terrain mapping and evaluation; resource management (e.g., forests, water); land use planning; the application of GIS to environmental issues; technical writing and public relations. Alternatively, students may use this degree as the pathway to professional practice as a Professional Geoscientists  or Professional Agrologist, or to further career development in graduate school. There are three streams:

1. Biogeophysical Science: allows students to take a broad range of earth system science courses with a focus on Earth System Dynamics.

2. Geoscience: targets the academic requirements for registration as a Professional Geoscientist (P.Geo.) (Environmental Geoscience) in Canada. As such, this stream is recommended to students interested in focusing their P.Geo. academic program on earth surface processes and spatial and geographic information science.

3. Physical Geography and Spatial Information Science: allows students to focus on the linkages between earth system science and spatial information science. Students completing this stream may also apply to receive a Certificate in Spatial Information Systems.

Students participate in practical, experience-based learning opportunities, such as field trips and student research projects.  Students also have opportunities for co-op placements and faculty mentoring. Please refer to the SFU calendar for program and course details. We offer a major, honours and minor in Physical Geography.

Subdisciplines and courses


Biogeography deals with the factors that control the distribution and functioning of the world’s ecosystems and their constituent organisms:

GEOG 215 Biogeography
GEOG 315 World Ecosystems
GEOG 316 Global Biogeochemical and Water Cycles


Climatology is the study of the envelope of air that surrounds the Earth and is founded upon observation, description and explanation of the physical properties and processes of the atmosphere:

GEOG 104 Climate Change, Water and Society
GEOG 214 Climate and the Environment
GEOG 314 The Climate System
GEOG 414 Advanced Climatology


Geomorphology is the scientific study of earth surface landforms and the processes that have led to their formation:

GEOG 213 Introduction to Geomorphology
GEOG 313 River Geomorphology
GEOG 412 Glacial Processes and Environments

10 Reasons why Geomorphology is important (PDF)


Hydrology is the science of water, its distribution, circulation, its physical and chemical properties, and interaction with the environment:

GEOG 311 Hydrology
GEOG 411 Advanced Hydrology

Soil Science

Soil Science deals with soil as a natural surface layer capable of supporting living plants:

GEOG 317 Soil Science
GEOG 417 Advance Soil Science