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


Anne Carey,
The Ohio State University


This course provides a basic introduction to the principles and methods of geomorphology by investigating concepts of landscape development; interpretation of materials, processes, types, and evolution of landforms produced under diverse climates. This course serves the uses of students interested in geomorphology from the point of view of geophysics, geochemistry, geochronology, physical geography, and even atmospheric sciences. This course will treat new areas including tectonic geomorphology and cosmogenic radionuclides as age-dating tools in surface processes.

Course Size:
less than 15

Course Format:
Students enroll in one course that includes both lecture and lab. The lecture is taught by the professor and the lab is taught by TAs.

Course Context:

This is a sophomore-junior level course that is part of the core curriculum in the Earth System Sciences track of the BS major in Earth Sciences. The course is an elective in the other tracks in the major (Geological Sciences, Petroleum Geology, Geophysics). The course is also required by students majoring in Physical Geography and serves as a technical elective for students in Civil Engineering and Agricultural Engineering.

Course Content:

This course has three lectures and one laboratory weekly. Lecture covers topics such as climate and geomorphology, tectonic geomorphology, geologic time and age-dating, weathering, glaciers and climate, mass movement, the role of water in landscapes, sediment transport, aeolian landforms, karst, coastal processes and landforms, landscape evolution and ecology, and humans as geomorphic agents. Laboratory experiences include weathering, soils, maps, landslides, stream evolution, and a field experience at a first order stream near campus.

Course Goals:

Students should understand the processes that shape Earth's surface and the timescales of which those processes occur.
Students should be able to interpret maps and remotely sensed images.
Students should be able to read and interpret the geomorphology literature.
Students should be able to interpret and manipulate geomorphic data and to make conclusions about data.

Course Features:

Each student gives a 15-minute presentation during the last few lecture periods on a topic of current research interest in geomorphology chosen from a list provided by the instructors. To do this, students read the geomorphology literature, interpret it, and present specialty topics to their classmates and instructors. Topics are chosen to allow students to present on a topic of his or her individual interest and so include such options as geomorphology and geoarcheology, role of water and ice in the geomorphology of Mars, terroir, and modern cities as geomorphic agents.

Course Philosophy:

Course design is primarily patterned after the course taught formerly by the now-retired glacial geologist who taught geomorphology for years. Course format also follows the typical format in our major of 3 lectures and 1 lab weekly. Labs were completely re-designed to include a variety of hands-on experiments (e.g., slope stability, weathering, stream processes) and computer labs (satellite imagery interpretation and simulation programs).


We have three in-class examinations, weekly graded lab exercises, and the final presentation, all of which contribute to the final grade. Some years I have brief, short quizzes to see what the students learned from the previous day's lecture or from the current readings.


Syllabus for Geomorphology at Ohio State (Microsoft Word 113kB Jun12 14)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Paul Bierman and David Montgomery (2013) Key Concepts in Geomorphology, W. H. Freeman.
This newly published text seemed to be at a better level for undergraduate students than the too-advanced Anderson and Anderson (2010) text used for several years in this class, and to have more current topics presented than the Dale F. Ritter et al. (2012) Process Geomorphology, 5th edition used last year.

No lab book is used. We provide lab exercises weekly.

I provide the students with access to pertinent literature on topics of the lecture.

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