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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Geography

Undergraduate Course: Physical Geography Year 3 Field Course (Spain) (GEGR09019)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 9 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis field trip to the Southern Spain will allow students to develop an understanding of the processes that shape landscapes, and how they evolve from the high mountains to the plains in an active tectonic and arid setting. In particular, we will assess how variations in climate (temperature, precipitation), vegetation, topography and tectonics affect the dominant processes at work on hillslopes and in rivers, and how those have changed through time.
Course description The overall aim of this course is to build on the second year Geomorphology course, 2nd year field courses, as well as the 3rd year Methods in Geography course. It will introduce the students to a range of skills needed to undertake field-based research, and give more independence compared to the 2nd year course.
The course will include a classroom-based component, where students will be introduced to the study area alongside theory and techniques for analysing landscape evolution and biogeography. Complementary surveying, GIS, remote sensing and statistical techniques will be introduced in lectures and practicals leading up to the trip. Lectures will also introduce the basics of tectonic geomorphology.
Formative assessment during this stage of the course will consist of a poster prior to leaving for the field that presents the results of analyses using GIS and remote sensing to quantify the topographic characteristics of an actively uplifting landscape. This exercise will prepare students for the assessed components of the course by offering an introduction to the study area and techniques, as well as training in data analysis in poster design.
The classroom component will be followed by a week-long residential fieldtrip to Southern Spain, where students will be introduced to a range of field techniques to enable them to study geomorphological, fluvial and biogeographical issues. The first two days of the fieldtrip will consist of an overview of the landscape including the tectonic context, and an introduction to some sedimentary deposits to understand how the landscape has changed through time. The third day will cover the biogeography of the study region. The remainder of the trip will be devoted to an independent research project that will culminate in an assessed research poster (60% of the mark). Formative feedback will be given throughout. Field notebooks will be handed in and marked (40% of their grade), but returned to students after the trip to allow them to use these for their research project write up.
In the field, a notebook will be collected (40% of the mark) and 60% of the mark will consist of a scientific poster derived from their independent project.
In the event that students cannot attend the field component due to special circumstances or because of learning adjustments, these student will undertake an individual research project that demonstrates their ability to analyse and interpret a set of field data. The alternative assessment will involve the student, under the supervision of the Course Organiser, writing a 4000 word data-analysis report using secondary data collected from remote sensing and/or fieldwork.
Should travel to Spain be rendered impossible due to travel restrictions, the field trip will be run virtually.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course will be assessed via two components:
i) a field notebook handed in half way though the trip (40%) and;
ii) a scientific poster detailing the research project at the end of the trip (60%)
If students cannot attend the trip due to special circumstances or learning adjustments, they will be assessed on a 4000 word report (100% of the mark, replacing the field notebook and poster) in which they will demonstrate the ability to assimilate and understand field data. The student will receive 3 hours of supervisor contact-time for this alternative element of the course, constituting further formative feedback, and will otherwise receive practical training and formative feedback in accordance with participating with the rest of the class on the course as described above.
This alternative assessment route will only be open to students who have a legitimate reason for not attending the residential field course, and will not be offered as a simple alternative to attending the fieldtrip.

Assessment deadlines:
Field notebook is due at the end of the 3rd day of the trip.
Poster is due at noon four working days after the return from the trip to Edinburgh (for example if the trip returns Saturday the poster is due at 12 noon the following Thursday).
Feedback Formative feedback: Students will be encouraged to meet teaching staff and demonstrators before and after the trip, as they progress through their analyses and progressively gain knowledge about the study area. Students will receive feedback on the poster they will submit before they go in the field: this feedback will help students improve their data analysis and poster presentation skills, which will be assessed at the end of the trip. In the field, feedback will be provided on demand on a one-to-one basis and while students are working in groups; this will happen in the field and during the evening activities. Feedback will also be provided on notebooks in day 2.
Summative feedback: feedback will be provided on the report and notebook, highlighting the strengths and potential improvements.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Ability to apply a range of specialised techniques (field techniques, remote sensing) to physical geography problems
  2. Ability to autonomously develop research questions related to the course topic
  3. Ability to critically assess and integrate material from a range of sources (data, literature) to solve physical geography problems
  4. Ability to work independently and in groups
  5. 5. Ability to effectively communicate one┬┐s findings via reports and oral presentations
Reading List
Anderson R.S. and Anderson S.P. (2010), Geomorphology: the mechanics and chemistry of landscapes, Cambridge Univ. Press, ISBN 0-521-51978-6.
Bierman, P.R. and Montgomery D.R. (2014), Key Concepts in Geomorphology, published by W. H. Freeman, ISBN 9781429238601 (strongly recommended).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course will further the development of the key attributes typically acquired during field trips, in particular: (1) research and enquiry to identify and creatively tackle geomorphological problems; (2) personal and intellectual autonomy to critically evaluate ideas and evidence; (3) team work; (4) communication (oral and in writing). Specific skills and knowledge include: the use of a range of advanced techniques (GIS, field surveys) to assess processes in landscapes; knowledge of the processes driving landscape evolution, and how various factors such as elevation, climate, and vegetation affect their effectiveness.
KeywordsGeomorphology,field techniques,erosion,landslides,hillslopes,rivers,arid regions
Course organiserProf Simon Mudd
Tel: (0131 6)51 9090
Course secretaryMiss Eloise Hepburn
Tel: (0131 6)50 9847
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