Geomorphology of the Eastern Snake River Plain

David A. Franzi, SUNY Plattsburgh
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Initial Publication Date: June 6, 2014 | Reviewed: July 21, 2015


This two-week long laboratory exercise examines the linkages between the endogenic (tectonic and isostatic) and exogenic processes that created the Eastern Snake River Plain (ESRP) landscape. The landform analysis portion of the exercise focuses upon recent basaltic volcanism and the Menan Buttes, the St. Anthony dunes and the fluvial drainage patterns that developed in the region.

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The activity is designed for mid-level undergraduate geology and environmental science students. It is a required course for the BS environmental science program and an elective for the geology and other environmental science curricula. The student audience generally consists of 60-65% environmental science and 30-35% geology majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Geomorphology requires only physical (introductory) geology as a prerequisite. The lab activity uses Geographic Information Systems software but the GIS applications are straightforward so an introductory GIS course is not required.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a two-week long laboratory exercise that is part of a series that examine different physiographic regions of the US.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The exercise combines traditional topographic map and aerial image analysis and GIS technology with process-oriented regional geomorphology.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students bring together data from multiple landform analyses and answer questions that address geomorphic system function and landscape evolution.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students are required to use GIS software

Description and Teaching Materials

The exercise requires students to review some published literature on the region's geology. A bibliography of the required and some additional literature is provided at the end of the lab exercise document.

Geomorphology of the Eastern Snake River Plain (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 7.6MB Jun13 14)

Teaching Notes and Tips


Students are evaluated on the overall quality of their responses to questions posed in the exercise as demonstrated by their level of preparation (literature review), breadth of comprehension and the quality of the graphic elements. Each question or task is evaluated four-point scale i.e.; 4 = exemplary, 3 = proficient, 2 = satisfactory and 1 = unsatisfactory; the grading rubric is attached to the exercise document.

References and Resources