Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2017/18 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This is a science-based module aimed at students wishing to develop postgraduate level knowledge about the discipline of sea-level science, including methods of reconstruction, large scale processes which cause sea-level change and the latest research into forecasting future sea-level changes.


  • Global models of past sea-level change
  • Methods of sea-level measurement
  • Future sea-level rise scenarios and predictions
  • Effects of abrupt events such as tsunamis and earthquakes
  • Coastal responses to future sea-level rise

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understanding of the mechanisms causing sea-level change; past, present and future
  • Critical evaluation of proxy and direct methods of measuring sea-level change
  • Critical appraisal of predictions of future sea-level change
  • Understanding of how coastlines respond to sea-level change
  • Understanding of different types of abrupt sea-level changes, mechanisms which cause them and how we may anticipate future events.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Geomorphological mapping
  • Surveying
  • Field sediment analysis
  • Use of tidal surveying equipment
  • Laboratory sediment analysis techniques
  • Examination of quantitative data sources including large datasets
  • Use of quantitative and conceptual models of sea-level change
Key Skills:
  • Critical evaluation of published data
  • Technical skills in the field, laboratory and in effective use of IT
  • Development of research skills – formulating research objectives, logistical planning and measuring outcomes against these objectives

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The first module aim is concerned with understanding sea-level changes in the geological past. We will use a science-based approach to examine global, regional and local changes in sea level from the last glacial maximum to the present. This will follow a hands-on approach with methods and techniques of sea-level reconstruction learnt through a 3-5 day residential field class and associated workshop, followed by four practical classes involving laboratory work (2) and analysing quantitative datasets (2). In addition there will be 5 lectures and a summative poster in this section. The second module aim focuses on the instrumental era (~ last 100 years) in recording sea-level changes and future predictions of sea-level change. Again this take a hands on approach with 4 lectures followed by 2 practicals on handling and analysing instrumental data, field classes examining evidence for current and future coastal change and a project resulting in an individual summative poster and oral defence of the poster examining the potential impacts of future sea-level change on local coastlines. The project will have an associated workshop (surgery).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Varies 2 hours 20
Practicals 6 Varies 3 hours 18
Workshops 2 Varies 3 hours 4
Field class 4 days Varies 8 hours per day 32
Self-directed learning 226
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: 2 scientific posters and oral defence of poster (2) Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Scientific poster (1) Poster size A0 50% Yes
Scientific poster (2) Poster size A0 30% Yes
Oral defence of scientific poster (2) 10 minutes 20% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Feedback on field notebook developed during the field class and subsequent practicals in term 1. NB: formative work is a compulsory part of this module.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University