Karen Gran

University of Minnesota Duluth
University with graduate programs, primarily masters programs


This is an undergraduate geomorphology course, designed to introduce students to landforms and the processes that form and shape them.

Course URL:
Course Size:


Course Context:

This is a lower-level elective course, designed for students who have had introductory physical geology. Students include a mix of majors from environmental studies, environmental science, teaching in the life sciences, teaching in the earth sciences, and geological sciences. The course has a required 2-hour lab each week plus one outside field trip.

Course Goals:

By the end of the course, students should be able to...
  • Interpret landscape features from topographic maps, air photos, satellite imagery, and field observations.
  • Link landscape features to the major processes by which they formed.
  • Apply skills to determine the processes responsible for forming our local landscape.
  • Map out geomorphic terrains from a DEM
  • Describe a soil column and be able to explain how water movement and landscape position affects soil development.
  • Survey a river cross-section.
  • Identify active floodplain in field, calculate discharge of different frequencies, and relate flood frequency to risk
  • Be able to explain the relationship between river velocity and the erosion, deposition, and transport of sediment.
  • Make measurements of slope and identify slope materials (including stratigraphy),
  • Read signs in the landscape indicating downslope movement of material
  • Evaluate the role of climate and erosion on tectonics and mountain building
  • Calculate slope in the field and off of a map and link slope to sediment transport and slope stability
  • Determine where glaciers erode vs. deposit and the effects this has on the landscape
  • Explain the geomorphic history of the Duluth-Superior area.
  • Recognize local geomorphic hazard zones, how they impact humans, and why certain activities should be restricted there
  • Be able to explain the role humans have on geomorphic systems.
  • Read a scientific paper and discuss the results.
  • Conduct an independent research project and present the results.

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

Students took two exams covering course content. They had weekly lab write-ups that dealt with specific field and lab skills and analyses. They also had a group research project that they wrote up and presented to the class.

Skills Goals

Working in groups.



Syllabus (Microsoft Word 63kB Apr30 08)

[file 'Other Materials']