Lisa Tranel,
Illinois State University


This class investigates the surface processes that shape the earth's landscape features. Through our discussions and lab activities, we will evaluate how erosion or deposition of materials creates new features in the landscape. We will use topographic maps, computer programs and a field trip to study at these features.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Linked but separate lecture and lab, students enroll in one course, both taught by me

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is an elective course for geology undergraduate and hydrogeology masters students. The only prerequisite for the class is an introduction to geology or physical geography. Sophomore through senior undergraduate students may take this class. Occasionally undergraduate students from geography or biology will also take this class.

Course Content:

This Geomorphology course includes erosional and depositional mechanisms of surface processes including weathering, mass wasting, fluvial, glacial, wind and karst. Students complete lab assignments using paper topographic maps, digital topographic maps, Google Earth and digital elevation models in GIS. Students also complete activities and make observations from the stream table available for the class.

Course Goals:


  • Students should be able to identify features in the landscape and the specific surface processes that formed those features in the field and with topographic and digital maps.
  • Students should be able to evaluate how features change over time as a result of changes in surface processes and climate.


  • Identify landscape features with topographic maps
  • Analyze landscape features with digital elevation models
  • Review geologic literature
  • Work collaboratively on a group project

Course Features:

Lab assignments using topographic maps, satellite images, and photographs of features help students see examples of the processes that are discussed and view changes that occur on the earth's surface. The stream table allows students to interact with stream, observe changes and test hypotheses.

Course Philosophy:

The current model of the course is set up to provide information through lecture or demonstrations in class. Then students use what they learned from lecture to interpret landscapes viewed in maps and satellite images. Early labs introduce students to using different resources to observe the landscape. Later labs become more complex and have students investigating more in depth questions why the landscape evolves as it does related to the topics in the current unit. Next time I teach this class I hope to incorporate a new level of investigation by having students collect their own data from digital maps and in the field to complete a small research project and report in the last three weeks of the semester.


  • Weekly reading assignments will be evaluated through in class discussion participation or quizzes.
  • Weekly or biweekly lab assignments will be collected and graded for completion.
  • Three short-answer exams will cover three units.
  • The final project will be evaluated based on completion, correct compilation and interpretation of results, and depth of analysis and supporting information.


Geomorphology Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 68kB May28 14)

References and Notes: