Geomorphology : surficial processes, landforms, and Earth's Quaternary history Fall 2014
Geology 247, 4 credits                                                                                             link to: course schedule and Sakai page
David Harbor at Washington and Lee University
My contacts: A223 Science, ph x 8871 or 463-3444 home,
Lecture: MWF 11:05, Lab/Fieldtrip:  Mon: 1:25-5:35 pm
Office Hours: see my door or this link or by chance, any time you can find me......

Class Objectives

     Broadly-defined, Geomorphology is the study of landforms, surficial processes, and late Cenozoic geologic history. But a study of these fields necessarily involves critical reading, observation, collecting field and map data, making computations, and learning about geologic time and phenomena.  Your learning objectives for this course are as follows:

     At the very least, I hope you will always take interest in the landscape as you travel the country and world! The course has the following components:

  1. lectures and discussions, where I will introduce you to landscapes and we will discuss geomorphic processes, landforms, maps, and the Quaternary
  2. labs and field trips where you will measure and identify geomorphic processes and forms
  3. in-class exercises covering scientific readings, problem sets and other activities
  4. a research project that involves the collection of field or experimental data.

Field Trips

    Weather permitting for the first 6 to 8 weeks, I plan to take you on field trips to see the landscape and measure what we can about the processes and forms.  Most of the trips will result in a short write up, in most cases after some lab or mathematical analyses.  The hillslope and fluvial processes trips result in a longer write-up,but others are shorter.  Field trips without writeups will require some literature review and an image/map searches. If you're interested, we can together attempt to plans to take a weekend field trip to study the glacial landscape of northwestern Pennsylvania, or the Appalachian Plateau, a Virginia barrier island. We'll discuss this soon in class.


    Science education can devolve into the assembly of dry and unmemorable names, facts and procedures.  To combat this unfortunate circumstance, each student will practice the stuff of science on a small scale by completing a limited, original research project examining a geomorphic process or landscape element.  Limited means that you can collect the data for your project in less than an afternoon and that you will compare your data to a few papers from the literature rather than prepare an exhaustive review of the literature.    A less-than-1/2-page proposal stating your question or hypothesis and the data collection methodology is due on Wednesday Oct 29.  You must have an approved, written proposal before beginning your work; and having it approved by the deadline will constitute 10% of the project grade.  Following a search of the literature, a briefly annotated list of the literature (5 or more sources, preferably peer-reviewed journal articles) pertinent to the study is due Friday Nov 7. The report is due 5 PM Friday, November 21 (before Turkey Break) and will contain a maximum of 4 pages of double-spaced, typed 12-pt text (tables, graphs, maps, etc are extra). Reports will be critiqued and returned, with the possibility of rewriting.  Final reports are due on the last day of class. The final project grade is determined by a combination of proposal (10%), literature search (20%), effort applied to first draft (30%), and the final version (40%).


10% two in-semester exams.
50% lab reports, map/photo projects, in-class projects and discussions, participation, etc
20% research project
20% final exam (The final will be comprehensive and cover all material from lectures, labs and outside reading.  It will be based in part on interpretation of maps and photos)

  Midterm exam will proceed as scheduled, whatever our progress through the lecture topics.


Here's the schedule:  It's pretty tentative more than two weeks ahead, knowing me and marginalia.

In-class problems/assignments may include:
An introduction to critical reading in science
Mathematical modeling of hillslopes
hypothesis testing using stream-table experiments
• hillslope stability calculations

Please note: "Washington and Lee University makes reasonable academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. All undergraduate accommodations must be approved through the Office of the Dean of the College. Students requesting accommodations for this course should present an official accommodation letter within the first two weeks of the (fall or winter) term and schedule a meeting outside of class time to discuss accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to present this paperwork in a timely fashion and to follow up about accommodation arrangements. Accommodations for test-taking should be arranged with the professor at least a week before the date of the test or exam."