Source to Sink Morphology, Sedimentation, and Anthropogenic Impact: Hudson System, New York

Cecilia McHugh
Queens College, CUNY
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Application of sea-floor web resources to the undergraduate curriculum for the understanding of source to sink sedimentation of passive continental margins, associated estuaries and anthropogenic impact

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Learning Goals

Familiarize students with the morphology of passive continental margins and their associated shelf valleys, submarine canyons and estuaries, and assess the anthropogenic impact. There will be three steps to this exercise: 1) relate the geomorphology of the continental margin to its evolution within the framework of longer-term processes: glacial to interglacial climate and eustasy; 2) relate the morphology of the estuary to the local physiography to understand sediment transport and erosion; 3) show students how humans are modifying these systems and what are the consequences of these activities on the environment.
With this activity students will work in groups and make oral presentations of their results.

Context for Use

➢ The mini-lesson will be used for an introductory geology and/or environmental science classes in Oceanography.
➢ The students are geology and/or environmental science majors on their freshmen to sophomore years.
➢ This exercise will be conducted as part of a short (50 ' lecture) and longer (3 hour) laboratory where small student groups are expected to interact and exchange ideas while learning about the seafloor and sedimentation processes.
➢ The students will need to have access to computer terminals and will learn to master the use of data-bases.
➢ This activity could be easily adapted for other settings and also for other geological problems.

Description and Teaching Materials

The recent developments in imaging and visualization techniques permit to evaluate the sources of modern river systems, their coastal estuaries and the continental margins where sediments are ultimately deposited. The new technology also permits to assess patterns of sediment transport and erosion and how large cities and metropolitan regions are influencing the hydrodynamics of these systems worldwide. For this exercise, we will learn how to use global visualization GeoMapApp, a Java-based "geographic information system (GIS) focused on the marine setting, developed and maintained at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's Marine Geoscience Data System.

Description of Mini Lesson (Microsoft Word 70kB Jul31 09)
1) Download GeoMapApp onto your computer. Go to and follow the instructions for downloading.
2) Download Google Earth™ onto your computer. Go to and follow the instructions.

Activity Description (Microsoft Word 53kB May28 09)
Study area map

Teaching Notes and Tips

will complete section later


1) The projects will be discussed in class.
2) The students will be required to write a term paper or prepare a 2nd class project that applies the concepts learnt in this laboratory to a topic of their choice.
3) A power point presentation of their project or term paper will be given to the class for additional feed back.

References and Resources

Reading background from
1. The Open University "The Ocean Basins: Their Structure and Evolution". Chapter on continental margins.
2. Introductory Oceanography By Thurman. 10th Edition. Prentice Hall. Or comparable text. Chapters on tides, estuaries and environmental pollution.