G. Richard Whittecar

Old Dominion University
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs


In this course we explore many of the major geomorphic systems, especially those that have affected Virginia. Landform processes and surficial materials related to tectonics, weathering, soil formation, stream action, coastline dynamics, and glacial fluctuations form the core of course topics. Additional topics (e.g. karst and periglacial processes) are covered on the field trip to the Appalachian physiographic provinces. Every class session involves group exercises that use hands-on or discovery-based learning.

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Course Context:

This is an upper-division course required for students in the Geology or Earth Science Education tracks in the Ocean and Earth Science major program. It serves as the writing intensive course for students in these tracks. The course meets twice a week for 2.5 hours and combines lecture and lab activities throughout that time. It has a required 2.5-day trip to the mountains, and a 1-day trip to the barrier islands.

Course Goals:

This course is designed around three principal objectives:
1. Students should be able to use common maps and aerial photographs to identify landforms and describe the materials they are likely to contain.
2. Students should be able to use these tools and their knowledge of geomorphic processes to evaluate a parcel of land for common geologic hazards.
3. Students should be able to organize and write a report that describes and explains these landforms, materials, and hazards to a non-geologist.

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

Skills Tests will review basic techniques learned in earlier courses related to rock identification, use of map scales, contouring elevation data, constructing topographic profiles, and using stereoscopes with aerial photographs. Lab Tests will evaluate how well students learn to identify landforms on topographic maps and aerial photographs, extract information from soil survey maps and reports, and to interpret the geologic materials present within landscape features. Lecture Tests evaluate student ability to explain the processes that generate landforms. The sequence of writing assignments lets students practice developing the illustrations and text needed to explain their analysis of potential environmental hazards at a real piece of property in western Virginia.


I assess student learning in a variety of ways. Lecture tests are a collection of multiple-choice, short answer, and essay questions. Lab tests are short answer questions based on interpretation of maps and aerial photographs. Student writing


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 35kB Apr30 08)

Other Materials (Microsoft Word 33kB Apr30 08)