GETSI Teaching Materials >Surface Process Hazards
GETSI's Earth-focused Modules for Undergraduate Classroom and Field Courses
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Summary

Worldwide mass wasting causes hundreds if not thousands of deaths per year and billions of dollars in damages. Many of these losses would be preventable if societies prioritized landslide mitigation. In this 2-3 week module, students use a variety of geodetic and other data to analyze the natural and human characteristics of landscapes that contribute to mass wasting hazards. Most of the geodetic data sets are high resolution topography from Lidar and radar, but some InSAR data are also included. Students consider the environmental and societal impacts of mass wasting and landslides as well as the physical factors behind mass movements. Materials for student reading and preparation exercises, in-class discussions, lab exercises, small group activities, gallery walks, and a final project are provided, as well as teaching tips and suggestions for modifications for a variety of class formats. Case study sites include Peru, Italy, and a variety of North American sites from Alaska to Utah to New York.

Strengths of the Module

  • Numerous study areas are included. The module involves case studies from Italy, Peru, Southern and Northern Washington, Alaska, Utah, Upstate New York, Yosemite Valley, and Colorado. The diversity of tectonic, geologic, and climatic regimes in these study areas, as well as the societal impact of each event, provides an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast different mass wasting events. For students who live relatively close to one of the study sites, the module also offers a chance for some place-based learning.
  • Students consider the scientific and societal aspects of mass wasting and a variety of data sets. Over the course of the module, students work with topographic maps, slope and aspect maps, Lidar hillshade images, digital elevation models, InSAR data, aerial imagery, and precipitation data to analyze mass wasting hazards. An important part of the module involves a consideration of how existing populations in mass wasting-prone areas would be influenced by a mass wasting event and how anthropogenic factors such as infrastructure and land use contribute to an area's mass wasting susceptibility.
  • Activities require qualitative and quantitative analysis to interpret mass wasting hazards. A significant amount of qualitative analysis and synthesis of multiple data sets is required for students to rank particular areas within a study site as having a high, medium, or low mass wasting vulnerability. There are numerous opportunities for students to do quantitative work to characterize an area's mass wasting susceptibility. The Yosemite Valley exercise in Unit 2 involves slope calculations and construction of topographic profiles to compare mass wasting potential in different areas of the valley. In Unit 3, students consider the resisting force and driving force and use trigonometry to make predictions about how the angle and lithology of a hillside influences mass wasting potential. They calculate slide areas and velocities for the 2014 Oso, WA event in Unit 4.
  • The adaptability of activities for different class formats makes it feasible for use in both lecture and lab settings.

Great fit for introductory-level classes in:

  • geology
  • geomorphology
  • environmental science
  • Earth system science
  • natural hazards
  • structural geology
  • physics

Instructor Stories: How this module was adapted
for use at three different institutions »



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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »