Earth Environments: Land and Water

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
GEOG 1120
Earth Environments: Land and Water
Geography and the Environment
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hrs. per week / semester Lab, Field work: 3 hrs. per week / semester
Method Of Instruction
Field Experience
Methods Of Instruction

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.

Course Description
Geography 1120 is an introduction to land and water environments of Earth. This course examines surface materials and landforms, and the processes responsible for shaping them. Topics include rivers, glaciers, coasts, sand dunes, landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes, rocks and minerals. 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 and Periglacial Systems
    • Glacial development and classification
    • Glacial mass balance
    • Glacial erosional and depositional processes and landforms
    • Periglacial distribution, 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


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.


Means of Assessment


Evaluation will include some of the following:


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.

Textbook Materials

Texts will be updated periodically. A typical example is:


  • Christopherson, R.W. Birkeland, G.H., Byrne M-L., and Giles, P. (2016). Geosystems: 4th Canadian edition.   Toronto: Pearson Canada Inc.