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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.
Course description This course is based in one of the finest areas of the world for the study of the processes and landforms of glaciation, volcanism and human impacts on the environment. 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, and can be dated in the field by reference to a clearly developed layer of volcanic ash (tephra) deposited at the same time.

Iceland has the best-developed tephrochronology in the world, and this powerful dating technique offers a remarkable aid to understanding Earth surface processes, environmental change and human-environment interactions. Icelandic studies have wide significance because landscape processes active in Iceland today shaped large areas of the Northern Hemisphere during the Quaternary 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.

In our studies of environmental change, historical, cultural and economic aspects of Icelandic society are also assessed because these human dimensions are vital to the wider understanding of drivers of change over the last millenium, 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 small group project work. Groups are self-organised and you will have a very wide choice of possible research projects.

A series of structured activities are used to add deep context to the project work; these structured activities include work on a glacier, hikes on mountain trails, and a visit to the off shore island of Vestamanneyjar where we climb the crater formed by an eruption in 1973. Weather permitting, we also plan to use snowmobiles to access the summit of Eyfjallajokull, and view changes to the icecap caused by the eruption in 2010, and its subsequent recovery.

Ground transportation will be in Land Rovers and a significant time will be spent travelling on gravel roads. Accomodation at an isolated community centre is very simple, living is communal and we self-cater.


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 2018/19, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  30
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) Course Work: 100 %.
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 no more than 4,000 words in length; word limits are mandatory.

In addition, there are eight compulsory elements of formative assessment that must meet a satisfactory standard
1. Four oral group presentations:
Initial project ideas
A progress report
A group feedback statement for the local community
A final summary report

2. A whole-course group project on the glacier
3. A community statement- a two page summary of the project work for the host community
4. Initial Data report: A brief 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).
5. A field notebook: To be reviewed during the fieldcourse and 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 course handbook.
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 oral 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
  5. have the opportunity to work on extended individual and group projects. They will tackle professional level issues which contain a degree of unpredictability. They will critically identify and analyse complex problems as part of this
Reading List
Baynes, Edwin R.C., Mikaël Attal, Samuel Niedermann, Linda A. Kirstein, Andrew J. Dugmore and Mark Naylor 2015 ¿Erosion during extreme flood events dominates Holocene canyon evolution in North - East Iceland¿, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS February 24, 2015, 112, 8, 2355 2360 (Winner of the British Society for Geomorphology Chorley Award for 2018)

Fitzhugh, W.W. and Ward, E.I. 2000. Vikings. The North Atlantic Saga. Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press.

Casely, A.F. and Dugmore, A.J. 2004 'Climate change and 'anomalous' glacier fluctuations: the southwest outlets of Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland.¿ Boreas 33,108-122

Casely, A.F. and Dugmore, A.J. 2007 ¿Good for glaciers, bad for people? Archaeologically relevant climate models developed from reconstructions of glacier mass balance¿ Journal of Archaeological Science., 34, 1763-1773

Dugmore, A. J., Newton, A., Smith, K. and Mairs, K-A. 2013 ¿Tephrochronology and the late Holocene volcanic and flood history of Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland¿ Journal of Quaternary Science 28, 3, 237¿247

Dugmore, A.J. 1989. Tephrochronological studies of Holocene glacier fluctuations in southern Iceland. In J. Oerlemans, (ed), Glacier Fluctuations and Glacial Change, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 37-55

Dugmore, A.J. and Sugden, D.E., 1991: Do the anomalous fluctuations of Sólheimajökull reflect ice-divide migration? Boreas 20, 105-113

Dugmore, A.J., Buckland, P.C., Church, M.J., Edwards, K.J., Lawson, I., McGovern, T.H., Panagiotakopulu, E., Simpson, I.A., Hubbard, A., Sugden, D.E., Dugmore, A., Norddahl, H. and Pétursson, H.G. 2006 ¿A modelling insight into the Icelandic Last Glacial Maximum ice sheet¿ Quaternary Science Reviews 25, 17-18, 2283-2296Skidmore, P., and Sveinbjarnardóttir, G. 2005
'The Norse landnám on the North Atlantic islands: an environmental impact assessment' Polar Record 41, 216, 21-37

Kirkbride, M.P. and Dugmore, A.J. 2008 'Tephrochronological dating of glacier advances AD 410-1947 in Southern Iceland.' Quaternary Research. 70, 3, 398-411

Kirkbride, M.P. and Dugmore, A.J. 2006 'Responses of mountain ice caps in central Iceland to Holocene climate change, revealed by tephrochronology¿ Quaternary Science Reviews 25, 1692-1707

Kirkbride, M.P. and Dugmore, A.J. 2005 'Late Holocene solifluction history reconstructed using tephrochronology' In C. Harris and J.B. Murton (eds) Cryospheric systems: glaciers and permafrost, Geological Society of London Special Publication 242, 145-155

Kirkbride, M.P. and Dugmore, A.J. 2003 ¿Glaciological responses to distal tephra fallout from the 1947 eruption of Hekla, Iceland.' Journal of Glaciology 29,166,420-428

Kirkbride, M.P. and Dugmore, A.J.: 2001, The timing and significance of mid-Holocene glacier advances in northern and central Iceland, Journal of Quaternary Science 16, 145-153

McGovern T, H., et al., 2007 ¿Landscapes of Settlement in Northern Iceland: Historical ecology of human impact and climate fluctuation on the millennial scale.¿ American Anthropologist 109, 27-51

Nelson, Margaret C., Scott E. Ingram, Andrew J. Dugmore, et al., 2015 ¿Climate Challenges, Vulnerabilities, and Food Security¿ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS, 113, 2, 298-303

Simpson, I.A., Dugmore, A.J., Thomson, A. and Vésteinsson, O. (2001). Crossing the thresholds: human ecology and historical patterns of landscape degradation. Catena 42: 175-192.

Smith, K.T. and Dugmore, A.J. 2006 ¿Jökulhlaups circum Landnám: mid to late First Millenium AD floods in south Iceland and their implications for landscapes of settlement.' Geografiska Annaler 88A (2): 165-176

Streeter R.T. and Dugmore A.J. 2014 ¿Late-Holocene land surface change in a coupled social-ecological system, southern Iceland: a cross-scale tephrochronology approach.¿ Quaternary Science Reviews 86 (2014) 99-114

Streeter, R. and Dugmore, A. J. 2013 ¿Anticipating land surface change¿: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - PNAS. 110, 15, 5779-5784

Kirkbride, M.P. and Dugmore, A.J.: 2001, be used to date the 'little Ice age' glacial maximum in Iceland? Climate Change 48, 151-167. Can lichenometry

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 organiserProf Andrew Dugmore
Tel: (0131 6)50 8156
Course secretaryMiss Carry Arnold
Tel: (0131 6)50 9847
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