InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society > Overview
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free 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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Instructor Materials: Overview of the Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society Course

The overarching goal of this blended and online course is to provide students with a global perspective of coastal landscapes, the processes responsible for their formation, diversity and change over time, as well as societal responses to current changes in the coastal zones around the world. Supporting course goals:
  • Develop geospatial skills and concepts
  • Explain the evolution of coastal morphology
  • Link physical and social impacts of coastal hazards
  • Evaluate engineering options to mitigate coastal risks
  • Assess vulnerability to coastal hazards
  • Create a plan for responding to coastal hazards

Course Description

Students will use real-world coastal data sets to evaluate coastal hazards such as hurricanes and tsunamis and effects on coastal populations. Coastal processes to be considered include tectonic settings, effects of glaciation, sediment supply, and wave and tidal energy. The impacts of sea level rise and its local effects on communities will be a focus. Engineering solutions to projected sea level rise impacts such as coastal flooding and habitat loss in coastal areas will also be examined. The students taking the course will participate in a student-centered active learning process, including analyzing (using geoscientific habits of mind) real data sets such as sea level rise records, shoreline erosion rates along barriers, comparison of wave data for Hawaii versus the East Coast, and other major influences affecting coastal evolution. Many of the activities will involve manipulating data in Google Earth; in addition we will use GeoMapApp and Microsoft Excel. Students will also be asked to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to real-world coastal issues that affect human populations. An example is how communities can effectively plan for emergencies such as catastrophic flooding of densely populated low-lying areas such as the Ganges Delta. Students will be exposed to Earth systems thinking including interactions between lithosphere (e.g., coastlines, tsunami generating earthquakes), atmosphere (e.g. hurricanes), hydrosphere (ocean), and anthrosphere (human populations, engineering), as well as feedbacks between these systems (for example, relative sea level rise leading to increased erosion by storms leading to more sea level rise). We will require students to reflect upon their learning via weekly blogs.

Course Outline

Section I. Introduction to the Coastal Zone: Society, Landforms, and Processes

a. The Societies and Economics of Coastal Regions

b. A Global Glance of the Geology of Coastal Landscapes

c. Coastal Systems: Landscapes and Processes

Section II. Introduction to Coastal Zone Hazards: Long- and Short-term Processes of Change and Their Impacts on Society

A. Understanding Sea Level Change

B. Coastal Catastrophes: Storms and Tsunamis

C. Impacts on the Societies and Economics of Coastal Regions

Section III. Coastal Engineering, Mitigation and Societal Response to Coastal Hazards

A. Hard Structures and Coastal Modifications through Mimicking Natural Processes

B. Managed Retreat/Multi-Layered Protection

C. Smart Building

Section IV. Society and Policy Making

A. Understanding and Assessing Coastal Vulnerability

B. Tsunami and Storm Surge Policy

C. Sea Level Rise Policy

Adapting the Course to Different Structures, Formats, and Schedules

The course may be taught in its entirety, or individual modules may be extracted for use within other courses. This course works well as a "blended" course, with the modules being completed at home and the activities being completed or presented in a weekly in-person class meeting. It could also be taught entirely online, or the activities could be used in conjunction with lectures developed by the instructor to introduce the relevant concepts in a traditional lecture-based course.

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. 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 »