Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 GEOG module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This integrated module aims to provide an advanced understanding of human-environment interactions as a means of interpreting how landscapes have evolved through time. By linking an awareness of how Earth-system processes operate with and without people at different spatial and temporal scales, we can better appreciate our place in the world and our impacts on it. Students will develop both conceptual and practical skills to analyze and interpret how past and present landscapes developed their distinctive character, and what the implications are for understanding issues of resilience and sustainability. They will also develop existing skills in spatial and other data analysis and visualization and the presentation of digital data.


  • The module will use a series of thematic case studies to introduce and evaluate:
  • (i) Conceptual approaches to human-environment interactions;
  • (ii) Processes involved in landscape change; and
  • (iii) Different types of data and data analysis.
  • Themes in (i) will include:
  • Where and when is the Anthropocene
  • Resilience and sustainability
  • Spatial and temporal scales of change
  • Landscape energetics
  • Environmental determinism, environmental possibilism and adaptation
  • The importance of place and contingency
  • In (ii), geomorphic systems will be evaluated without and with the presence of human activities, and direct and indirect impacts on landscapes will be considered. What are the impacts of colonization, urbanization, and industrialization, and how are they felt differently in different places?
  • In (iii), practical techniques for reconstructing landscape morphology, climate and biota will be considered, together with archaeological, historical and archival data sources. Simple models for considering changes in water and soil movements will be integrated with agent-based models for human decision-making. Approaches to visualization and presentation of digital data will also be developed.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Understand how people interact with Earth-surface processes to produce distinctive landscapes and places
  • Demonstrate an awareness of how these interactions produce resilient or sustainable environments in some settings and not in others
  • Evaluate how the interactions may evolve through time and space causing gradual or rapid environmental change
  • Appreciate the role of geography as a subject that integrates an interdisciplinary approach to understanding complex problems
  • Critically evaluate key concepts such as the Anthropocence and resilience
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Interpret different sorts of data – both qualitative and quantitative, primary and secondary – relating to landscapes and landscape change
  • Use GIS to represent and visualize past and present landscapes
  • Use simple models to reconstruct and evaluate environments and environmental change
  • Demonstrate how human-environment interactions have developed the characteristics of a specific place based on the design and completion of a group project.
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Critically assess complex datasets and information • Work as a team during the workshops and self-paced study
  • Produce web-based materials to present the results of the project.

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

  • The module will be based on a series of lectures providing the basis for subject-specific knowledge and case studies demonstrating issues with interpretation of information and approaches from a range of sources. Practical skills will be developed during a series of workshops based on a set of group projects. Projects will enable students to develop skills in acquiring, analyzing and visualizing data from a range of sources, and to use those data to run simple environmental and agent-based models. Formative presentations will enable the group to develop an interpretative approach and integrate their results with the subject-specific knowledge from the lectures and reading. There will be an emphasis on the production of digital materials from the projects, and assessment will be in the form of a mini-website that will integrate the interpretative and visual materials produced. No prior skills will be assumed in production of web-based materials, and the focus will be on best methods of representing results and interpretations using template-based approaches (e.g. Wordpress) rather than on any coding.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Weekly 1 hour 8
Workshops / Computer Labs 8 Weekly 2 hours 16
Formative Presentations 1 2 hours 2
Webpage Q&A 1 1 hour 1
Self-directed Learning 73
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Mini-website Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Mini-website (equivalent to a six-page report) 100%

Formative Assessment:

Continual verbal feedback will be provided during the workshops and during the formative presentations. Approaches and expectations for the web-based assessment will be clearly outlined in the first lecture and practical session, with opportunities for questions in subsequent practicals. The webpage Q&A session will give formative feedback on how students are progressing from the group work to the individual web-based assessment.

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