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Unit of study_

GEOS2916: Earth Surface Processes (Advanced)

Semester 2, 2020 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

The surface of the planet on which you live is the product of a balance between tectonic forces and numerous agents of erosion. The landscapes in which you live and work, and from which you draw resources, are therefore the legacy of many processes operating synchronously over long time periods. It is also true that Earth's landscapes are dynamic, and constantly changing around you in response to climate, tectonics and patterns of life. The sustainable management of landscapes is strongly dependent upon an awareness of those processes and the ways that they constrain human-environment interactions. In the Advanced mode of Earth Surface Processes, you will learn how landscapes are produced, and what this means for contemporary land use. Lectures by experts in physical geography, geology, soil science and environmental science will introduce you to the planetary and regional-scale controls on landforms and landscape dynamics, and the nature and distribution of major Australian landscape types. Focussed around 'hands on' field and laboratory-based tasks, students will gain essential practical, analytical and interpretive skills in the analysis of landscapes and earth surface processes that shape them. The Advanced mode of Earth Surface Processes challenges you to create new knowledge, and provides a higher level of academic rigour. You will take part in a series of small-group practical exercises that will develop your skills in research design and execution, and will provide you with a greater depth of understanding in core aspects of geomorphology. The Advanced mode will culminate in a research-focussed Advanced Assignment. This is a unit for anyone wanting to better understand the planet on which they live, and who may wish to develop higher-level analytical and research skills in geomorphology and landscape analysis.

Unit details and rules

Unit code GEOS2916
Academic unit Geosciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
GEOS2116 or GEOG2321
Annual average mark of at least 70
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Dan Penny,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Take-home extended release) Type E final exam Final examination
Open-book take home examination. Short and long format responses
40% Formal exam period 48 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Small test Quiz (Formative)
Short formative quiz to benchmark progress
0% Mid-semester break
Due date: 09 Oct 2020 at 17:00

Closing date: 16 Oct 2020
20 multiple choice questions
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO3 LO2
Small continuous assessment Practical Reports
Small practical tasks to test skills and concepts
30% Multiple weeks Various
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO7 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Laboratory Report
Laboratory based exercises for Advanced Students
30% Week 12
Due date: 20 Nov 2020 at 17:00

Closing date: 27 Nov 2020
2,500-3,000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Type E final exam = Type E final exam ?

Assessment summary

Assessment in this unit will be both formative (for feedback) and summative (for marks). 'Formative assessment' provides feedback on your performance, and 'summative assessment' comprises marks for performance in reports, assignments and examinations, which will count towards a final unit mark.  A series of small practical reports will develop your skills and articulate concepts from the lectures with practical application.  A formative quiz will enable you to benchmark your performance during semester, while a major Laboratory Report, based on directly-supervised laboratory activities will give you practical experience in research and laboratory proceedures.  Concepts will be assessed in the final exam, which will be a take home examination with both short and long response answers.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

5% of the total possible mark per day or part thereof after the submission date and time.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction, framing concepts Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Meta controls: Climate (cretaceous to quaternary) Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Week 02 Meta controls: Climate (quaternary to holocene) Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Geochronology Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Week 03 Meta controls: Tectonics (Dynamic Topography) Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Meta Controls: Passive Margin Evolution. Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Climate and Denudation: continental flux Online class (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 04 Rock to regolith: Weathering Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Slope processes Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Climate and Denudation: channel processes Online class (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 05 Sediment transport processes Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Glacial geomorphology Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Dynamic Topography Online class (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 06 Arid land geomorphology 1 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Arid land geomorphology 2 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Passive Margins Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 07 Fluvial geomorphology Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Hydrological landscape classification Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Hydrology lab 1 Online class (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 08 Flooding is not always a disaster Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Groundwater from ancient to recent Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Hydrology lab 2 Online class (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 09 Regolith to soil Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Major pedological processes Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Soil lab 1 Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 10 Soil horizonation 1 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Soil horizonation 2 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Soil lab 2 Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 11 Soil classification 1 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Soil classification 2 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Soil Lab 3 Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 12 Conclusion and Review Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. recognise the major planetary and regional-scale geological, tectonic and climatic controls on landform and landscape dynamics
  • LO2. demonstrate knowledge of common landscape types, how they are classified, and what processes control their distribution and form
  • LO3. recognise and explain the ways that geomorphic processes influence the management of contemporary landscapes
  • LO4. demonstrate competency in field and laboratory methods for acquiring data on landform processes
  • LO5. demonstrate a familiarity in the use andapplication of software tools for spatial analysis and modelling of earth surface processes and landscape types
  • LO6. develop and apply, critical thinking and problem-solving skills to a range of tasks in the classroom, the field, or the laboratory
  • LO7. communicate effectively to a wide range of audiences, using a range of media, complex scientific knowledge, ideas and concept
  • LO8. work safely, co-operatively, and ethically, in groups or as individuals.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

We have adapted our content and delivery to online mode to allow greater flexibility, and are seeking to engage Advanced students in directly-supervised laboratory activities during semester.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances 

  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory 

  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories 

  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door 

  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory 

As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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