Introduction to Earth Sciences

Humanities & Social Sciences
Geography and the Environment
Course Code
GEOG 1120
Semester Length
15 Weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Field Experience
Course Designation
Industry Designation
Typically Offered


Course Description
This Earth Environments course focuses on land and water. It is a Physical Geography course examining the processes and materials that shape the land surface. Topics include rivers, glaciers, coasts, permafrost, landslides, plate tectonics, rocks and minerals. Human impacts on systems are also examined. Practical and theoretical concepts will be explored through lectures, labs, and field trips.
Course Content
  1. Introduction
    • Physical geography
    • Geographic spatial analysis
    • Scientific method
    • Systems theory and its application to physical geography
  2. Minerals
    • Mineral families
    • Diagnostic properties
    • Mineral identification
  3. Rocks
    • Rock Cycle
    • Igneous rocks, their characteristics and rock-forming environments
    • Sedimentary rocks, their characteristics and rock-forming environments
    • Metamorphic rocks, their characteristics and rock-forming environments
    • Rock identification
  4. Geological Time and Principles
    • Geologic time scale
    • Earth science principles of original horizontality, superposition, cross-cutting relationships and faunal succession
  5. Plate Tectonics and Structural Landforms
    • Development of, and evidence for, plate tectonic theory
    • Plate boundary types, interactions and resulting patterns of tectonic landforms and phenomena
    • Volcanism
    • Crustal deformation processes and resulting landforms
  6. Topographic Maps
    • Projections
    • Map elements: scale, locational coordinate systems, direction indicators, and legends
    • Contour line construction, interpretation and analysis
    • Topographic profile construction and analysis
    • Calculation of vertical exaggeration and gradients
    • Landform measurement, analysis and identification
  7. Weathering and Soils
    • Chemical weathering types, causes, and characteristics
    • Physical weathering types, causes, and characteristics
    • Influences on rates of weathering,
    • Products of weathering
    • Soil characteristics: pedons, profiles, horizons, properties
    • Canadian system of soil classification
  8. Mass Movement
    • Slope processes
    • Influences of slope stability
    • Mass movement characteristics and classification
  9. Fluvial and Groundwater Systems
    • Hydrology
    • Drainage basin morphology
    • Channel morphology
    • Fluvial erosional and depositional processes and landforms
    • Groundwater processes
    • Karst processes and landforms
  10. Glacial Systems
    • Glacial development and classification
    • Glacial mass balance
    • Glacial erosional and depositional processes and landforms
  11. Coastal Systems
    • Components of the coastal environment
    • Coastal sediment transport mechanisms
    • Coastal erosional and depositional processes and landforms
    • Types of coastlines
  12. Aeolian Systems
    • Geographic distribution of aeolian environments
    • Aeolian erosional and depositional processes and landforms
  13. Periglacial Systems
    • Geographic distribution of periglacial environments
    • Permafrost processes and landforms
    • Thermokarst processes and landforms


Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:  lecture, labs, field work, analysis and interpretation of graphs, maps and air photos, multimedia, individual and/or team projects and small group discussions.

Means of Assessment

The evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria during the first week of classes. 

Laboratory Assignments


Laboratory Exams




Field Work


Term Project



Note:  This course received a standing variance from Education Council in June 2016 to allow up to a 20% lab exam during the final 14 calendar days of the semester.  This is not a final exam; it is an assessment of student learning of lab work performed in the second half of the semester.

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, the successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe and use the frameworks of science applicable to first-year physical geography.
  2. Analyze and interpret minerals, rocks, sediment and soils to identify their environment of origin.
  3. Describe and explain the processes that occur within earth’s lithosphere and hydrosphere, as well as their interactions with the atmosphere.
  4. Think critically and examine geomorphological issues in a scientific context at local, regional and global scales.
  5. Communicate effectively using the language, graphical presentation methods and quantitative methods employed in physical geography.


Textbook Materials

Texts will be updated periodically. A typical example is:

  • Christopherson, R.W. Birkeland, G.H., Byrne M-L., and Giles, P. (2020). Geosystems: An Introduction to Physical Geography, 4th Canadian Media Update Edition.   Toronto: Pearson Canada Inc.
  • Open Textbook Resources




No prerequisite courses.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for GEOG 1120
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU GEOG 112 (4)
Coast Mountain College (CMTN) CMTN GEOG 160 (3)
Coquitlam College (COQU) COQU GEOG 102 (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG GEOG 1190 (3)
Okanagan College (OC) OC GEOG 121 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) DOUG GEOG 1110 (4) & DOUG GEOG 1120 (4) = SFU EASC 101 (3) & SFU GEOG 111 (3) & SFU GEOG 1XX (1)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU EASC 101 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) DOUG GEOG 1110 (4) & DOUG GEOG 1120 (4) = SFU GEOG 111 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU GEOG 1000 (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU GEOG 1XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO GEOG 109 (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV GEOS 103 (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC GEOG 210 (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV GEOG 1XX (4)
University of Victoria (UVIC) DOUG GEOG 1110 (4) & DOUG GEOG 1120 (4) = UVIC GEOG 103 (1.5) & UVIC GEOG 1XX (1.5)
Vancouver Community College (VCC) DOUG GEOG 1110 (4) or DOUG GEOG 1120 (4) = VCC GEOG 1110 (3)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023

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Considered UT Lab Science for Associate Degrees.

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