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Earth Environments: Land and Water

Course Code: GEOG 1120
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Credits: 4.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab, Field Experience
Typically Offered: Fall, Summer, Winter
course overview

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

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.

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.

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.

curriculum 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 schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.