Teach the Earth > Geomorphology > Teaching Activities > Anthropogenic Effects on Erosion

Anthropogenic Effects on Erosion

Karen Gran
University of Minnesota Duluth
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Apr 30, 2008


This exercise investigates anthropogenic effects on erosion in two parts. The first is a discussion of a paper by Roger Hooke (2000) "On the history of humans as geomorphic agents." The second half expands on the concept of back of the envelope calculations to calculate volumes and costs of various human earth-moving activities.

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This activity was designed for an undergraduate course in geology.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have a basic grasp of fluvial, coastal, and hillslope processes.

How the activity is situated in the course

This was used as a lab exercise. However, it could easily be broken into sections and used as a classroom discussion, a problem set, and/or an in-class activity.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Calculating volumes, rates, and costs
Estimating volumes, rates, and costs from sparse data

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Setting up quantitative problems
Critical evaluation of paper from literature

Other skills goals for this activity

Searching the internet for useful data
Working in groups
Using Google Earth

Description of the activity/assignment

This exercise focuses on anthropogenic effects on erosion. It could be run as a single lab or as a series of in-class exercises or problem sets. We discussed an article by Hooke and used it as a launching pad for a discussion of back of the envelope calculations. Students then estimate the volume moved by mountain-top removal and how long it might take a river to mobilize that sediment. They estimate the cost for beach nourishment along Florida beaches. They estimate the contribution of local construction projects and road gravel to stream sediment loads. This activity gives students a chance to formulate a problem, make simple measurements, estimate unknowns, and calculate volumes, rates, and costs of various human earth-moving activities.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Addresses student fear of quantitative aspect and/or inadequate quantitative skills
Uses geomorphology to solve problems in other fields

Determining whether students have met the goals

I had students present to each other the results of the different problems. There was no formal write-up.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Hooke, R., 2000, On the history of humans as geomorphic agents. Geology, v. 28, n. 9, pp. 843-846.

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