Teach the Earth > Sedimentary Geology > Sedimentology, Geomorphology, and Paleontology 2014 > Course Descriptions > Geomorphology


Les Hasbargen,
SUNY College at Oneonta


The course explores the shape of the land, and the various processes and influences which are responsible for that shape. These include tectonic activity, climate, rock types, biological processes, chemical processes, erosional processes of wind, waves, flowing ice (glaciers) and running water (from overland flow to rivers and drainage basins).

Course Size:

Course Format:
Integrated lecture and lab

Course Context:

This is a junior-senior level undergraduate course with a sophomore level geology course as a pre-requisite. Students who take the course are majors in Geology, Environmental Hydrogeology, Earth Science Education, and Environmental Science.

Course Content:

The course begins with hillslopes and hillslope processes, and moves to rivers and drainage basins and the main controls on these geomorphic features. The course provides an introduction to coastal processes and landforms, eolian environments, and karst. The course includes numerous field trips to local sites to investigate land form and process, utilizes computers to access classic geomorphic settings online.

Course Goals:

  • Students will learn to recognize mass transport processes.
  • Students will learn to recognize geomorphic features, such as drainage basins, floodplains, hillslopes, channels, terraces, kames, cirques, moraines, landslides, etc.
  • Students will utilize GIS software to visualize and analyze landforms.
  • Students will develop skills making field observations and taking field notes.
  • Students will integrate online data sources with field investigations.
  • Students will generate hypotheses and test them against observations.
  • Students will develop expertise in writing field reports.

Course Features:

The course is project oriented, with 10-12 lab and field exercises which serve as the main tool for learning. Each exercise involves data collection, analysis, and synthesis–usually with an eye toward testing hypotheses between landscape form and process.

Course Philosophy:

The course is taught in Fall semester in upstate New York. Students seem to learn more in field settings where they must collect data, so I take students out to map landslides and hillslope features, fluvial features, karst and glacial features. I supplement the projects with lectures, though I try to limit lecture time as much as possible. Several of the goals for course include the development of skills in data collection, both in the field and in a GIS environment. Projects which incorporate these activities are the best way to foster the skills and goals for the course.


I identify several components for each project for evaluation. I implement rubrics to standardize assessment and provide feedback to students about their performance. In addition to projects, there are two mid-term examinations and a final examination. Questions on the exams ask students to identify land forms, and provide explanations for how the land form has been generated.


geomorphology_syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 38kB May28 14)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Process Geomorphology, by Ritter, Kochel, and Miller, 5th edition, Waveland Press, Inc. ISBN-13: 978-1-57766-669-1.
The text provides substantive background on the main topics of the course. I cannot, nor do I attempt, to verbalize in lectures all of the material in the text. Instead, I focus on fundamental pieces of information which help students understand and explain geomorphic features.

I write all of my own labs.

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