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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Geography

Undergraduate Course: Physical Geography Fieldwork: Iceland (GEGR10072)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course builds on second year course work and fieldwork to develop the practical aspects of Physical Geography through the study of environmental change. It is based in one of the finest areas of the world for the study of both the processes and landforms of glaciation and volcanism. Uniquely within the Old World the timing and cultural context of the first human settlement, by the Norse in the ninth century AD, is known in detail. Iceland has the best-developed tephrochronology in the world, and this powerful dating technique offers a remarkable aid to understanding both environmental change and human-environment interactions. Icelandic studies have wide significance because processes active in Iceland today shaped large areas of the Northern Hemisphere during the Pleistocene glaciations. In addition the characteristics of the island's biota provide fundamental tests for theories of island biogeography and glacial refugia, that are in turn important to the understanding of evolution and continental scale biogeographical patterns. Historical, cultural and economic aspects of Icelandic society are also assessed because these human dimensions are vital to the wider understanding of environmental change, and offers unique insights into the interplay of culture and environment in marginal areas. Ten days is spent in the field, five of which are devoted to project work.
Course description Introductory lectures and meetings take place in Semester 2 of the preceding year at which time students formulate their own research projects with guidance from staff. The field course itself is divided between days in which students conduct their own research projects and those in which a variety of field-based talks, tutorials and exercises are used to introduce the principle landscapes and processes operating in Iceland, and to consider key theories and concepts. In the following Semester, there are follow-up lectures to discuss report writing and individual project group tutorials to assist with data analysis, interpretation and report formulation.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: The Nature of Geographical Knowledge (GEGR09012) AND Research Design in Geography (GEGR09011) AND Quantitative Methods in Geography (GEGR09004) AND Qualitative Methods in Geography (GEGR09005) AND Geography Fieldwork: Foundations (Physical) (GEGR09009)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs 495
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  31
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Fieldwork Hours 100, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 94 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Class assessment: As outlined in course handbook

Degree assessment: The assessment is in the form of a research report that should be an individual write up of the research project carried out during the project days of the field trip. The report should follow the format of a paper in the natural sciences and details of appropriate formatting and style are given in the course handbook. the text has to be 4,000-5,000 words in length; word limits are mandatory.

In addition, there are two compulsory submissions that must meet a satisfactory standard:
- Initial Data Report: a two-page summary of the research project' with additional data tables, diagrams and maps, that defines each group members' contribution and the data collected. This is a group submission by each project group (normally 3 people).
- a field notebook
(to be submitted with the Research Report).
This book should contain complete and legible notes that form a record of your scientific activities during the field school.
Further details on these elements are given in the cours ehandbook.
Feedback - During the project formulation stage students choose a general subject to tackle; detailed feedback and guidance is given on the initial project outline as it evolves during introductory meetings.
- During the field course, students are required to make two intermediate presentations and one final presentation about their projects; feedback is given on work progression and ways the project can be further improved at each of these.
- A number of detailed individual project meetings are held in the field centre, and in the field. These provide students with the opportunity to reflect on project design and progress.
- Detailed written feedback is given on the initial data report, and this is followed up by individual project-group tutorials that discuss this.
- Detailed written feedback if given on the final individual report.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. develop a detailed understanding and knowledge of the processes and landforms of glaciation and volcanism
  2. develop the ability to analyse environmental change through the study of system behaviour, including assessments of feedback loops, internal and external linkages, thresholds, sensitivity, rates of change and recovery
  3. learn how the practical aspects of physical geography are developed through detailed study of a glacial system from the accumulation zone to the outermost limits of its Holocene fluctuations, catastrophic jokulhlaups, or human-environment interactions at the margins of settlement
  4. practise the valuable transferable skills of team working, project design and implementation, and autonomy and initiative
Reading List
Benn, D and Evans D, 2010, Glaciers and Glaciation, Arnold, 2nd edition 731pp
Butlin R, and Roberts N (eds), 1995. Ecological Relations in Historical Times Blackwell, London, 344pp
Fitzhugh, W.W. and Ward, E.I. (2000). Vikings. The North Atlantic Saga. Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press.
Jokull 29, 1979, Special issue: The geology of Iceland
Maizels J M, and Caseldine C J (eds), 1991. Environmental Change in Iceland, Past and Present Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht 332pp
Stotter J, and Wilhelm F (eds), 1994 Environmental Change in Iceland (II), Munchener Geographische Abhandlungen () B12, 1-308
Self, S. and Sparks R.S.J. (eds) 1981. Tephra Studies, Dordrecht, Reidel
Williams M, Dunkerley D, De Decker P, Kershaw P and Chappell J, 1998. Quaternary Environments (Second Edition) Arnold, London 329pp
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements Only available to students registered on 4th year MA Geography, BSc Geography and MA Geography with Environmental Studies programmes.
Additional Class Delivery Information 3 x 2 hour lectures plus tutorials and a seminar series. 10 days field work in Iceland during the summer vacation
Course organiserDr Nick Hulton
Tel: (0131 6)50 2531
Course secretaryMiss Sarah Mcallister
Tel: (0131 6)50 4917
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