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 give students an integrated view of the processes that build, shape, and erode mountains
  • To emphasize connections and feedbacks between tectonic, geomorphic, hydrologic, and atmospheric processes


  • Overview: an integrative view of mountains as sediment routing systems, importance of mountain sediment cascades in global sediment budgets, mountains and humans
  • Tectonic processes: upper crustal deformation in space and time, the earthquake cycle, patterns and rates of rock uplift, isostasy and flexure, feedbacks between erosion and deformation
  • Orography and mountain hydrology: mountain climates, atmosphere/topography interactions and orographic effects, feedbacks between climate and topography
  • Processes of erosion and sediment transport: weathering and climate feedbacks, sediment production, landslides, debris flows, steepland channels, bedrock channel incision and network development, the role of the biosphere, fan development and basin filling, and landscape evolution
  • Reading and quantifying the landscape: erosion rates at a range of temporal and spatial scales, sediment yield and sediment budgets, topographic metrics, the signature or 'fingerprint' of various processes on the landscape

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • demonstrate a basic understanding of active tectonic processes and their role in generating and sustaining mountain topography
  • describe the key processes that govern sediment production and transport in mountain landscapes.
  • describe the primary feedbacks between erosion, crustal deformation, and climate
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • apply practical tools and techniques for quantifying and analysing mountainous topography
  • relate general physical principles to specific geomorphic settings and landforms
  • be able to 'read' a mountainous landscape and recognize the processes that have shaped it
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • assess and interpret material presented in lectures and practicals
  • extract patterns from secondary data and observations
  • demonstrate basic competence in spatial analysis and GIS
  • understand appropriate numerical analysis and presentation techniques
  • perform simple calculations and run simple models in both lectures and practicals
  • present logical written arguments
  • practical work and hands-on application of concepts discussed in lectures

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

  • The module will be delivered mainly through weekly lecture and discussion sessions interspersed with practicals.
  • Lectures will provide the breadth of coverage required by the aims and learning outcomes. These will be supplemented where appropriate by specified reading which will extend the information in the lectures.
  • A short quiz will be set each week to mark progression and understanding of the lecture material. These will be formatively assessed and answers will be provided upon submission in Learn Ultra.
  • Week-to-week learning will be supported via the module discussion board, and viaface-to-face discussion in lectures. The opportunity for discussion session provides two opportunities: to address questions raised by the students on that week’s material, and to go through the quiz answers in more detail, so that students can build upon and consolidate their understanding. The lecture will also look ahead to the next topic.
  • Practical exercises will enable students to gain 'hands on' experience with some of the tools and techniques in quantitative geomorphology. They will also have the chance to apply the concepts introduced in lectures to solve real-world problems. Practicals will be self-guided using step-by-step written instructions posted on Learn Ultra. Practical support will be provided by (1) a 2-hour face-to-face support session, using staff and demonstrator support, and (2) the module discussion board
  • Assessment of the practicals will consist of both the answers required by the exercises, and a brief abstract of the problem and results, giving the students experience in summarising research results while providing the opportunity to demonstrate their comprehension of the practical analysis.
  • The unseen examination will provide the students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of mountain landscapes and process geomorphology, and their capacity for critical evaluation of the concepts introduced in the course

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures and discussion 16 Terms 1 & 2 1.5 hours 24
Practical support sessions 4 2 per term 2 hours 8
Student Preparation & Reading Time 168
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Practical exercises Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Practical exercise 1 (practical session answers and abstract) 50%
Practical exercise 2 (practical session answers and abstract) 50%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Online 24 hour unseen examination 2 hours (recommended) 100%

Formative Assessment:

Weekly quizzes (answers provided in Learn Ultra on completion, and discussed in lecture sessions) Two practical exercises (solutions and model answers posted on Learn Ultra)

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