Soil Properties and Geomorphology

Mark Sweeney
University of South Dakota
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Compare soil data to different ages of fluvial terraces. Students enter data into Excel and interpret it themselves.

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Undergraduate course in geomorphology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Soil features, soil development, relative dating, using Excel

How the activity is situated in the course

Stand alone exercise


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Calculate soil properties, graph properties, interpret results.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Analysis of data and interpretation of soil formation

Other skills goals for this activity


Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this exercise, the students have been lectured on soil formation and on a field trip, described a simple soil within loess. Here, the students use data collected from a chronosequence to compare the relative age and amount of soil formation on a series of fluvial terraces. The students are to insert the data into a graphic program and generate specific graphs of soil properties. The students then interpret the amount of soil formation compared to the relative age of the fluvial terraces. Finally, the students assess how the 5 soil forming factors (climate, organisms, relief, parent material, and time) influenced soil formation in this setting.
Designed for a geomorphology course

Determining whether students have met the goals

The students turn in their answers, along with a copy of the graphs that they plotted. I check for accuracy of the graphs (some calculations are required) and for the quality and accuracy of their answers.

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Supporting references/URLs

This assignment is borrowed from other geomorphology lab instructors. I turned it into a homework assignment. The data is from Les McFadden's master's thesis (McFadden, 1978).