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Durham University

Faculty Handbook 2022-2023

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run each academic year.

Department: Geography


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To give students an integrated view of the processes that build, shape, and erode mountains
  • To emphasize connections and feedbacks between tectonic, geomorphic, hydrologic, and atmospheric processes


  • Overview: an integrative view of mountains as sediment routing systems, importance of mountain sediment cascades in global sediment budgets, mountains and humans
  • Tectonic processes: upper crustal deformation in space and time, the earthquake cycle, patterns and rates of rock uplift, isostasy and flexure, feedbacks between erosion and deformation
  • Orography and mountain hydrology: mountain climates, atmosphere/topography interactions and orographic effects, feedbacks between climate and topography
  • Processes of erosion and sediment transport: weathering and climate feedbacks, sediment production, landslides, debris flows, steepland channels, bedrock channel incision and network development, the role of the biosphere, fan development and basin filling, and landscape evolution
  • Reading and quantifying the landscape: erosion rates at a range of temporal and spatial scales, sediment yield and sediment budgets, topographic metrics, the signature or 'fingerprint' of various processes on the landscape

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • demonstrate a basic understanding of active tectonic processes and their role in generating and sustaining mountain topography
  • describe the key processes that govern sediment production and transport in mountain landscapes.
  • describe the primary feedbacks between erosion, crustal deformation, and climate
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • apply practical tools and techniques for quantifying and analysing mountainous topography
  • relate general physical principles to specific geomorphic settings and landforms
  • be able to 'read' a mountainous landscape and recognize the processes that have shaped it
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • assess and interpret material presented in lectures and practicals
  • extract patterns from secondary data and observations
  • demonstrate basic competence in spatial analysis and GIS
  • understand appropriate numerical analysis and presentation techniques
  • perform simple calculations and run simple models in both lectures and practicals
  • present logical written arguments
  • practical work and hands-on application of concepts discussed in lectures

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will follow a flipped-classroom format. Material for each weekly topic will be provided in advance of face-to-face sessions in the form of recorded lecture segments and quizzes, while face-to-face sessions will be used for discussion and guided activities.
  • Lecture segments will provide the breadth of coverage required by the aims and learning outcomes. These will be supplemented where appropriate by specified reading which will extend the information in the lectures.
  • A short quiz will be set each week to mark progression and understanding of the lecture material. These will be formatively assessed and answers will be provided upon submission in Learn Ultra.
  • Week-to-week learning will be supported via the module discussion board, and a one-hour weekly face-to-face discussion session. The discussion session has three functions: to address questions raised by the students on that week’s material, to work through a guided exercise, and to go through the quiz answers in more detail, so that students can build upon and consolidate their understanding. The session will also look ahead to the next topic.
  • Practical exercises will enable the students to gain 'hands on' experience with some of the tools and techniques in quantitative geomorphology. They will also have the chance to apply the concepts introduced in lectures to solve real-world problems. Practicals will be self-guided using step-by-step written instructions posted on Learn Ultra. Practical support will be provided by (1) a 2-hour face-to-face support session, using staff and demonstrator support, and (2) the module discussion board
  • Assessment of the practicals will consist of both the answers required by the exercises, and a brief abstract of the problem and results, giving the students experience in summarising research results while providing the opportunity to demonstrate their comprehension of the practical analysis.
  • The unseen examination will provide the students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of mountain landscapes and process geomorphology, and their facility for critical evaluation of the concepts introduced in the course

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures and quizzes 16 In Terms 1 & 2 1 hour 16
Discussion sessions 16 In Terms 1 & 2 1 hour 16
Practical support sessions 4 2 per term 2 hours 8
Student Preparation & Reading Time 160
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Practical exercises Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Practical exercise 1 (practical session answers and abstract) 50%
Practical exercise 2 (practical session answers and abstract) 50%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Online 24 hour unseen examination 2 hours (recommended) 100%

Formative Assessment:

Weekly quizzes (answers provided in Learn Ultra on completion, and discussed in discussion sessions) Two practical exercises (solutions and model answers posted on Learn Ultra)

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University

If you have a query about a specific module or degree programme, please contact the appropriate department.

If you have a question about Durham's modular degree programmes, please visit our FAQ webpage. If you have a question about modular programmes that is not covered by the FAQ, or a query about the on-line Faculty Handbook, please contact us using the Comments and Questions form below.