Surface Sculpting Waters

Initial Publication Date: October 23, 2012


This learning module and related laboratory exercise exposes students to surface water erosion due to rivers and deltas and their evidence on the Martian landscape. Students will use modern analogs to assess the hypothesis that both rivers and deltas existed on Mars.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate comprehension of fluvial styles and processes as well as delta formation through comparison of Earth-analog environments and Mars imaging.
  • Gain experience with contour maps on both Earth & Mars.

Context for Use

This learning module is meant for adaptation in an introductory Earth science course and/or planetary science course. If you desire to use the In-Class Activity 1: Stream Table and Mars, provide exposure to fluvial processes and styles prior to the activity.

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework

In-Class Activity


Teaching Notes and Tips

  • If you have access to a stream table conduct the "Stream Table and Mars" In-Class Activity in the stream table lab.
  • For larger classes (>20 students) in the "Stream Table an Mars" In-Class Activity use the video link provided in Resources and ask for volunteers to sketch out fluvial events on the board for others to explain and discuss. Encourage all students to participate and turn in their sketches for a participation grade.
  • All images required for activities/homework are available in Resources in PowerPoint format.
  • Acquire red/blue glasses to view HIRISE red-blue anaglyph images.


Each In-Class Activity and Homework has its own measure of Assessment.

References and Resources

  1. Image File: Surface Sculpting Waters (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 11MB Oct16 12)
  2. Stream Table: meandering river-
  3. Boggs, S., 2001. Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, 3rd ed. Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0-13-099696-3, 726p.
  4. Mars Global Surveyor image & Video of Martian delta:
  5. Red-blue glass anaglyph glasses:
  6. Ehlmann B., et al. 2008. Clay minerals in delta deposits and organic preservation potential on Mars, Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo207.
  7. Bhattacharya, J., and Giosan, L., 2003. Wave-influenced deltas: geomorphological implications for facies reconstruction, Sedimentology, v. 50, p. 187-210.
  8. Water flows on Mars presented by Alfred McEwen (choose the video under "Possible Water Flows on Mars"):