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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Geography

Undergraduate Course: Geomorphology (GEGR08002)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course on the principles of geomorphology looks at the relationship between processes and landforms at a variety of scales in space and time. It examines endogenic processes originating within the earth, exogenic processes occurring at the earth atmosphere ocean interface and the way they interact to create landforms.
Course description The course will discuss the historical development and present use of major concepts in geomorphology such as uniformitarianism and catastrophism, magnitude and frequency of geomorphic events, ideas of landform equilibrium and evolution and the importance of temporal and spatial scales. We will also consider the nature of chemical and physical weathering and the concept of the Critical Zone. The importance and impact of soil erosion will also be considered. The course covers the properties and behaviour of materials and the forces acting on slopes, mass movements and case studies of slope instability.
Hydrology is discussed through drainage basins, spatial and temporal variations in channel discharge, runoff generation, and the nature of open channel flow, fluvial erosion and sediment entrainment, fluvial sediment transport and deposition. We will also discuss drainage basin morphometry, the cross-sectional and plan form of river channels, depositional and erosional fluvial landforms and variations in fluvial activity. A consideration of river flooding rounds off this part of the course.
The morphology and behaviour of glaciers and ice sheets will also be studied, including the mechanisms and products of glacial formation, the concept of mass balance, the mechanisms of glacial flow, erosion and deposition; fluvioglacial erosion and deposition and the geomorphological landforms created. We also explain how studying landforms helps us to understand past processes, reconstruct former glacial environments and also inform us of contemporary glacial systems.
On a larger scale, the course covers global geomorphology and its relationship to isostasy and tectonic processes. We will also discuss the range of processes which create mountains and how the erosion of these mountains accelerates uplift (isostasy). The final lecture in this part of the course concerns rates of landscape change, both uplift and denudation, and will discuss the factors that control erosion and uplift and how these can be measured and dated.
The course finishes with three interconnected lectures. Firstly, we will also discuss volcanic geomorphology and look at the range of landforms created by volcanic activity on Earth. Picking up themes discussed at the beginning of the course, we will discuss the evidence for megafloods and their importance on landscape evolution on Earth. Finally, the course ends in a lecture where we apply knowledge of the geomorphology of the Earth to help understand the landscape features and processes found on Mars, where there is evidence of slope processes, rivers, megafloods and volcanic activity.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Physical Geography (GEGR08010) OR Earth Dynamics (EASC08001)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) 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 30 %, Coursework 70 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam: 30%, Course Work: 70 %

Class assessment: 1 tutorial assignment of 600 words each, submission of a degree essay outline, 1 group tutorial presentation and 1 mapping tutorial exercise.

Degree assessment: 2000 word essay = 50%, four practicals (5% each making 20% of the total), 24 hour take home exam (essay) = 30%.

Assessment deadlines:
Degree Essay: Week 8
Practical Classes: Weeks 6, 7, 9 and 10
Feedback Students will be given feedback throughout the course. Each piece of work handed into tutorials will be marked and handed back to students with written formative feedback. Tutors will also provide verbal and more generic formative feedback in the tutorials. Formative feedback will be available from demonstrators and staff throughout the practical sessions. All staff will be happy to provide formative feedback to any student during or after lectures. Summative feedback will be given on the practical submissions and the course essay, which students can collect once they have been marked. The 24 hour take home exam essay will also include constructive summative feedback.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)9:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)9:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the scope and main areas of Geomorphology
  2. Understand, classify and describe landforms in a variety of environmental settings
  3. Demonstrate a knowledge of systems theory as applied to geomorphology, specifically with regards to the concepts of feedback, thresholds, and equilibrium
  4. Demonstrate a broad understanding of the theories of Uniformitarianism and Catastrophism, the history of geomorphological research and relevance to modern research
  5. Acquire the ability to quantitatively use and evaluate geomorphological data with numerical, statistical and cartographical methods
Reading List
A variety of reading is recommended throughout the course including textbooks and academic papers. The following two textbooks are suggested as a starting point:

1. Anderson, R.S. and Anderson, S.P. (2010) Geomorphology - The Mechanics and Chemistry of Landscapes. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

2. Bierman, P.R and Montgomery, D.R. (2014) Key Concepts in Geomorphology. New York, W.H. Freeman and Company.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information The course is delivered through 22 one hour lectures, six tutorials and 4 practical classes.
Course organiserDr Anthony Newton
Tel: (0131 6)50 2546
Course secretaryMiss Leigh Corstorphine
Tel: (01316) 502572
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