Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 Geography module


  • NONE

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • NONE


  • To provide students with an understanding of the interrelations between form and process in rivers, and the implications for how channels adjust to various kinds of forcing


  • Flow in river channels: fluid motion, turbulence, flow resistance, secondary circulation, forces on the bed, variation in space and time
  • Sediment transport: characterisation of river sediments, entrainment, transport rates, selective transport and sorting
  • Case studies of variations in channel form (e.g. armouring, downstream fining, bedforms) and reach-scale behaviour (e.g. sediment budgets, aggradation & degradation) including effects of selected kinds of direct or indirect interference. Case studies can include: gravel-bed rivers, bedrock channels, mountain streams, laboratory flume models, numerical models, and vegetation in rivers.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Explain the basics of fluid motion and sediment transport.
  • Distinguish characteristic types of channel sediments and morphology
  • Understand how the dynamics of rivers can be modified by direct and indirect impacts
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Relate general principles of river dynamics to specific applications including case studies of channel change / modification
  • Be aware that river behaviour varies according to time and space scales, and can affect and be affected by direct and indirect human activity
  • Measurement of hydrological and sedimentological data in a river
Key Skills:
  • Analysing flow and sediment measurement
  • Perform simple hydraulic and statistical calculations
  • Error and uncertainty analysis
  • Advanced literacy, numeracy, graphical presentation
  • Scientific report writing
  • Measurement of flow and particle size

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

  • Lectures will help students understand basic principles and get to grips with the recommended reading selected from the scientific literature. Some will be case studies, to reinforce students' understanding of basic principles and show how they can be applied
  • Students will be required to undertake field work to collect hydraulic and sedimentological data
  • Students will be required to submit a report on the analysis of river flow measurements for summative assessment
  • The written examination will complement the practical-based assessment by assessing student understanding of basic principles and generic types of channel behaviour, and their ability to explain things clearly and support their argument with appropriate reference to the appropriate literature, examples and case studies

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture (inc field H&S briefing) 1 Once 2 hours 2
Lecture 17 Weekly 1.5 hours 25.5
Field Class 1 Once 8 hours 8
Data Analysis Clinics 4 Term 1 2 hours 8
Formative Tutorial 1 End of Term 2 2 hours 2
Student Preparation & Reading Time 154.5
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% None
Component: Data Analysis Report Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Data analysis report 5 x pages A4 100% None

Formative Assessment:

Discussions during lectures and on the field day. Discussion in data analysis clinics. Reading assignment and formative tutorial.

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