Teach the Earth > Geomorphology > Teaching Activities > Shoreline Geomorphology Lab

Shoreline Geomorphology Lab

Briget C. Doyle
College of Charleston
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the 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: May 2, 2008


Students will observe shoreline processes, sketch and describe beach and barrier island profiles, and investigate the impact of development and shoreline control structures on beaches.

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Undergraduate elective course in geology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

- basic understanding of shoreline processes

How the activity is situated in the course

Stand alone field exercise


Content/concepts goals for this activity

- Understanding of geomorphic processes acting on the beach
- Identifying parts of the beach and beach deposits

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

- relating current shoreline processes to past beach features
- understanding how shoreline processes can impact beach front development

Other skills goals for this activity

- reading and locating points on an aerial photograph
- preparing a technical write up of the beach, a description of the processes observed, and how those processes impact shoreline development

Description of the activity/assignment

Students will travel to a local barrier island (usually Sullivan's Island) to study shoreline processes and their impact on beach front development. Students will begin on the inland side of the island, and traverse the island to the beach. Once at the beach, students will make a field profile of the area they traversed, as well as a profile sketch of the beach, showing all major parts of the beach. Students will then observe the geomorphic processes acting on the shoreline and how those processes impact the beach and beach front structures. Shoreline erosion control and protection structures will be pointed out to the students, and the impacts of the structures will be discussed. After returning from the field, the students will prepare a series of profiles of the barrier island and beach, as well as a write-up of the processes they observed and the impacts of those processes.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Uses online and/or real-time data
Uses geomorphology to solve problems in other fields

Determining whether students have met the goals

Observation of student work in the field and student participation of discussions in the field will help determine the student understanding. Additionally, the final paper submitted for the exercise with be graded to determine student understanding of the exercise.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Google Earth for imagery of the island.

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