Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide an understanding of glacier systems
  • To provide an understanding of the erosional and depositional landforms and sediments produced by glaciers
  • To provide an understanding of how glaciers interact with the ocean-climate system
  • To develop skills in identifying, mapping, modelling and analysing glacial landforms and deposits


  • The global distribution of glaciers and ice sheets
  • Glacier flow
  • Glacier systems and mass balance
  • Water in glaciers
  • Marine glaciers and ice shelves
  • Glacial erosion and deposition
  • Glacial sediments and landforms
  • Glacier retreat and its causes
  • Past glacier change
  • Future glacier change

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understand how glaciers and ice sheets are distributed around the globe.
  • Understand how glaciers develop in response to climate and how they flow.
  • Understand how glaciers erode and deposit material and the landforms and landscapes that result.
  • Consider how future predictions of glaciers and ice sheets can be made.
  • Show that they can interpret landscapes and sediments to understand former ice sheet behaviour.
  • Show the ability to integrate evidence for glacier behaviour from a range of sources.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Demonstrate skills on morphological mapping using air photos or satellite imagery.
  • Apply field-mapping to ground-truth morphological mapping.
  • Experience in stratigraphic logging and interpretation.
  • Gain working knowledge of how to run a Matlab-based glacier model constrained by mapping.
  • Ability to read scientific literature relating to the past, present and future cryosphere.
  • Conveying knowledge about the cryosphere in relation to issues such as global climate change and sea-level rise.
Key Skills:
  • Abstracting, analysing and interpreting information from multiple sources.
  • Presenting written, graphical and map-based information in a concise report.
  • Understanding experimental design using numerical models.

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

  • Lectures will provide students with an outline of key debates in the topic area, to discuss the literature that students should explore, and give examples and case studies at a range of different spatial and temporal scales.
  • The student reading time is devoted to the general and specific reading suggested by staff in lectures.
  • The fieldwork considers the effects of the last ice sheet and the Loch Lomond Stadial and is followed by a multiple-choice test.
  • The project allows students to acquire and practice skills that may include the analysis of air photographs, field mapping and glacier modelling.
  • The fieldwork, tutorial and practicals all provide opportunity for discussion on all aspects of the module.
  • The end of the year examination is a summative test of students' knowledge, understanding and analytical skills

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 14 Weekly 2 hours 28
Tutorials 1 Term 2 1 hour 1
Practicals 4 Term 2 1 hour 4
Fieldwork 2 Term 2 8 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 147
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Online 24 hour unseen examination 2 hours (recommended) 100%
Component: Project Report Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Project report, with maps, tables and figures 5 x sides A4 (excl maps etc.) 100%
Component: Multiple choice timed test Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Multiple choice timed test based on fieldtrip teaching 30 minutes 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback is provided throughout the module via discussion of topics during the lectures, practicals and tutorials. Ahead of the summative assessment, students will be required to produce a draft map of a field area. Formative feedback will be provided on this map during the practicals and fieldtrip.

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