Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • GEOG2611 Mountain Landscapes


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The overarching aim of this module is to give students an overview of the increasing body of knowledge on Mars and on the processes that shape its surface.
  • Specifically, the module aims to:
  • 1. Deliver baseline knowledge of Mars
  • 2. Discuss the latest theories and concepts of surface processes on Mars
  • 3. Make explicit links to our knowledge of terrestrial and fluvial geomorphology in order to gain a critical perspective on current Martian science
  • 4. Familiarize students with the wealth of data made freely available by NASA
  • 5. Further develop geomorphological analysis and interpretation skills


  • Basic characteristics of Mars
  • Data availability for Mars: rover missions and satellite remote sensing
  • History and Geology of Mars
  • Meteoric bombardment and chronology of Martian surfaces
  • History of water on Mars and hypotheses about Martian hydrologic cycles
  • Glaciation on Mars
  • Landslides and water-driven sediment transport processes on Mars
  • Aeolian processes on Mars
  • Likelihood of life on Mars

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will learn about:
  • Mars geology and history
  • The history of water on Mars
  • Fluvial processes on Mars
  • Landsliding on Mars
  • Aeolian processes on Mars
  • Mars map projections
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will learn how to:
  • Find and access NASA data for planetary sciences research
  • Manipulate and analyze NASA Satellite and rover data for planetary sciences resear
Key Skills:
  • Tutorials and seminars, allow students to learn how to generalise their knowledge of terrestrial physical geography in order to develop a critical perspective of current theories on the Martian system. This is assessed through an essay assignment.
  • Practicals enable students to apply their GIS knowledge in order to derive quantitative measures of areographic form and process that will allow them to test hypothesis relating to the formation of key landforms on the Martian surface. These skills are demonstrated in a laboratory report.

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

  • The 5 lectures will deliver the theoretical content in the module and introduce the students to Mars planetary sciences
  • The 3 seminars will be student-led discussions based on prior compulsory reading indicated in the lectures. These discussion groups will have a particular emphasis on bringing an earth system science perspective to some of the main concepts which currently dominate our thinking about surface processes on Mars
  • The computer practicals will use NASA data in order to re-enforce the theoretical knowledge by using remote sensing and GIS approaches. These practicals will use algorithms and methods familiar to students who have completed GEOG2611: Mountain Landscapes. These GIS and Remote sensing methods will be principally applied to data acquired by various instruments aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite
  • The final tutorial will touch on the topic of life on Mars. Students will be asked to summarize their knowledge of the planet and make testable hypotheses on the presence of indigenous life on the Red Planet

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 5 1 hour 5
Seminars 3 1 hour 3
Computer Practicals 4 2 hours 8
Tutorial 1 1 hour 1
Student Preparation and Reading 83
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative essay Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative essay on knowledge and concepts Max 5 pages A4 100%
Component: Individual GIS computer laboratory report Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Individual GIS computer laboratory report Max 5 pages A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Group submission of first GIS computer practical as a report.

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