Introductory spreadsheeting, graphical display, and modeling through simulation of scarp evolution

Bill Locke
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SCARP is the first in a sequence of spreadsheet modeling exercises (SCARP2, LONGPRO, and GLACPRO).

In this exercise, students use a simple arithmetic model (a running mean) to simulate the evolution of a scarp (escarpment) across time. Although the output closely resembles an evolving scarp, no real variables are included in the model. The purpose of the exercise, in addition to the simulation, is to develop basic skills in spreadsheeting and especially in graphical display.

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Learning Goals

The goals of this exercise are to expose students to:
  1. Simple Excel??? manipulations
  2. Basics of technical graphics, and
  3. Modeling of natural systems

By "expose", I intend this as a first, introductory activity on which additional, future activities will be based.

Context for Use

  • I use this exercise in a 3XX Geomorphology class with an enrollment of about 40 in two 20-student labs, three hours in duration. The students in the class typically represent five colleges and as many as eight majors, thus only an introductory Earth Science course is required as a prerequisite.
  • The lab has ten computers (each running Microsoft Office) in groups of two, so work is typically performed in groups of two (for this lab) or four (for more complex activities). This lab takes place in the second week of the semester in the context of class discussion of tectonic geomorphology, so it emphasizes fault scarps although it is relevant to all slope evolution. This is intended to be the first of four or five spreadsheet modeling exercises of increasing complexity. This exercise requires 2-3 hours with instructor/assistant oversight.

Description and Teaching Materials

Link to Student Instructions (Microsoft Word 44kB Jul7 05)

Link to SCARP Excel spreadsheet (Excel 20kB Jul7 05)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Link to Instructors notes and tips for SCARP (Microsoft Word 564kB Jul7 05)


Suggestions for assessment are included in the Instructors notes.

References and Resources

Bucknam, R. C. and R. E. Anderson, 1979, "Estimation of fault-scarp ages from a scarp-height - slope-angle relationship". Geology, v. 7, p. 11-14.