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Physics of the Earth: Surficial Processes

Author Profile
Jeff Clark
,
clarkj@lawrence.edu

Lawrence University
a
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate
.

Summary

In this course, we explore the physical and chemical processes responsible for moving sediment and water from mountaintop to ocean bottom. For most of the course we will use a simple balance between driving and resisting forces to determine movement. In most environments rivers are the primary agents of landscape formation, so we will focus on these processes. We will also consider how anthropogenic activities modify natural processes.

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Geomorphology
Resource Type: Course Information:Goals/Syllabi
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Course Type: Upper Level:Geomorphology/Surface Processes
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-division course that is required for the major in Geology. It has Introductory Geology, Low-Temperature geochemistry, and one term of physics as prerequisites. This course has weekly 3-5hr labs (we sometimes combine lecture and lab). Typically >75% of the students are geology majors. The remainder are typically environmental studies students. We typically take a weekend long field trip.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to make inferences based upon careful observation, data collection, and data analysis.
Students should be able to apply the basic concept of a balance between driving and resisting forces to landforms and surficial processes.More specifically, students should be able to determine if movement will occur based upon an analysis of driving and resisting forces.
Students should be able to present their findings in a logical, cogent, and compelling written document.
Students should be able to infer past depositional environments based upon sedimentary rock properties (e.g. sorting , grading, imbrication, cross beds, etc.)


How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The goals stated above are reinforced with field (laboratory) activities and problem sets. Assessment takes place both actively in the field and through evaluation of formal reports and problem sets. Labs gradually build in complexity from simply answer a few questions, to guided inquiry, to open ended field problems.

Skills Goals

Scientific writing
Working in groups
Quantitiative skills
Field note taking
Field skills and technology (mapping, sampling, GPS, GIS, etc.)


How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Group work and inter-group collaboration is a part of every lab. Labs write ups gradually build in complexity from simply answer a few questions to a formal scientific lab report. Individual problem sets build quantitative skills. Review of field notebooks, use of electronic field notebooks, and in-field assessment of field techniques help improve field skills and note taking.

Attitudinal Goals

Develop students appreciation for anthropogenic influences on earth surface processes.


How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Examples in lecture, problem sets and some labs.

Assessment

Review of laboratory and problem sets. Examinations.

Syllabus:

Syllabus (Microsoft Word 43kB May5 08)

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