We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

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.

No such Code for prog: LMV1
No such Code for prog: LMV2
No such Code for prog: QRV0
No such Code for prog: QRVA

Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 24 Location Durham
Tied to F800 Geography
Tied to F803 Geography with Year Abroad
Tied to F805 Geography with Placement Year
Tied to CFG0 Natural Sciences
Tied to FGC0 Natural Sciences
Tied to CFG1 Natural Sciences with Year Abroad
Tied to CFG2 Natural Sciences with Placement
Tied to LA01 Liberal Arts
Tied to LA02 Liberal Arts (with Year Abroad)
Tied to LMV0 Combined Honours in Social Sciences
Tied to LMV1
Tied to LMV2
Tied to LMVA Combined Honours in Social Sciences (with Year Abroad)
Tied to QRV0
Tied to QRVA
Tied to X1F8 Education Studies - Geography
Tied to X2F8 Education Studies - Geography (with Year Abroad)
Tied to X3F8 Education Studies - Geography (with Placement Year)




  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules



  • The aim of this module is to provide advanced level theoretical and practical training in the understanding of hazards in dynamic mountain environments. Students will engage in the analysis and interpretation of field data as part of enquiry into mountain hazards, their assessment and mitigation. As a Level 3 module, it is intended to build upon basic grounding in relevant substantive material from Years 1 and 2, but to expand and apply this knowledge through direct experience of, and undertaking, investigation in a mountain environment. The fieldtrip location in Nepal reflects the current research interests of the relevant teaching staff in Geography, and is designed to inspire the next generation of researchers in this topic.


  • This module is a field-based examination of environmental hazards in mountain regions, with a particular focus around hazard mechanisms, their mitigation and management. The aim is to provide students with an overview of the range of issues that face people in mountain environments and the manner by which management decisions are made to reduce risks. We aim to give direct experience of undertaking research in such environments, as well as training in a range of relevant field research skills.
  • The module starts with context lectures, background literature reviews, and group project preparation in Terms 1 and 2 of Level 3, prior to a residential fieldtrip during the Easter vacation. The field trip will last approximately two weeks, during which time students will learn about hazards in mountain environments and implement the preparatory work undertaken earlier in the academic year.
  • Topics normally covered in the module include: earthquake impacts; hillslope processes; landsliding; post-earthquake risk assessment; disaster risk reduction; landslide impacts; tectonics and faulting; stress-strain behaviour of rocks; the role of precipitation and seismicity in triggering landslides; secondary hazards, including landslide dams and rock avalanches (runout mechanisms, valley blocking); rockfall; debris flows and hillslope-channel connectivity; fluvial sediment transport and evolution in steep mountain setting; monitoring, warning systems and community awareness; engineering geomorphology; hazard mapping; hillslope design and mitigation; hydro-power and sediment management.
  • In visiting overseas partner organisations and in conducting projects within rural mountain communities, the fieldtrip importantly offers students an opportunity to reflect upon issues of research ethics in the context of the Global South, risk and disasters, and will allow students to consider the importance of the emerging agenda around decolonising the geosciences.
  • Students will benefit from direct interaction with government, the development and humanitarian community, industry and academics, who study and manage dynamic mountain landscapes.
  • During the field trip, students will generate and analyse new data to support and develop their chosen project, with support on data handling and interpretation from the module staff.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Develop skills in the transfer of results of theoretical and conceptual models to understanding of real-world data on mountain hazards
  • Gain a basic understanding of the current state of the art in understanding mountain hazards
  • Consider the role of earthquakes and landslides in the wider evolution of mountainous regions and the rapid social and environmental changes ongoing
  • Describe and explain approaches to hazard mitigation and management
  • Apply knowledge to problem solving based upon a series of real-world case studies focused upon mountain hazards
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Relate general principles of geomorphology to specific situations where Earth surface processes pose a hazard to people
  • Plan, design, execute and report geographical research both individually and as part of a team
  • Analyse the complex interactions between geology, geomorphology and the social environment
  • Undertake effective field work with due regard for safety and risk assessment, and research ethics
  • Apply a range of analytic skills to understand processes that causes hazards in steep mountain regions
  • Evaluate the relative need & contribution for physical and social science in mitigating risks from hazards
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Perform interpretations explained in lectures and extract patterns from environmental data collected in the field
  • Summarise the state of knowledge and understanding of complex environmental topics via a review of published literature
  • Present logical written and oral arguments
  • Undertake critical analysis and interpretation of data and text
  • Solve problems and make reasoned decisions in the field
  • Undertake field-based research-led appraisals of landslide mechanism, hazard and mitigation strategies

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

  • Briefing lectures and small group discussions before the field trip will help students to divide into groups of similar mutual research interests, and to formulate the field-based project that they will undertake. Lectures and seminars in the field will be used to impart basic facts and information necessary to fulfil the aims of this module, introducing students to both the landscape, and people who are tasked with managing the hazards.
  • Project design will require students to demonstrate that they can take background materials from a complex literature, synthesis those materials, and use them to formulate a realistic project building on a wealth of published literature and data. Computer-based workshops in Term 2 will provide support in the development of the projects. This process will culminate in a summative literature review completed in Terms 1 and 2 that provides vital foundational knowledge for students prior to the field trip. This culminates in the preparation and submission of a policy facing ‘2-pager’ at the end of Term 2 to help focus student projects on end user needs.
  • The field trip will be used to allow the students to learn key skills, and to use these to acquire the data that they need to complete their group project and to inform their answers in the examination. In the field, students will be trained in good practice in field based research projects (to include: field note taking and data collection, advanced measurement techniques, time and project management, division of responsibilities and tasks) which will be assessed in the summative field notebook. They will also be given training in relevant mountain hazards and the decision making processes in the management of such landscapes, which will provide a central focus of the assessment throughout the module.
  • Continuous assessment will end with presentations of the group projects at the end of the field trip which will build on the policy facing 2-pagers previously submitted. In Term 3, students will be asked to draw upon their experiences in the field, their learning from the literature, and their reflections on their own data, in order to compete an online 24 hour unseen examination.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Pre-field Health & Safety briefing 1 Term 1 2 hours 2
Tutorials 3 Term 1 1 hour 3
Lectures 2 Term 1 & 2 2 hours 4
Workshops 3 Term 2 2.5 hours 7.5
Seminar (presentation) 1 Term 2 3 hours 3
Fieldwork 1 14 days 8 hours per day 112
Preparation and Reading 68.5
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 15%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Policy-focussed, group-based assignment 2 pages A4 100%
Component: Field note book Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Individual field notebook 100%
Component: Group presentation Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Group presentation. (Slides and presentation) Typically 20 minutes 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Online 24 hour unseen examination 2 hours (recommended) 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback will be provided in the following ways: on the initial group project development and presentation at the end of Term 2; during the field trip on student field notebooks and after the presentations in the field; contact time with staff throughout the module.

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.