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Unit of study_

MARS5001: Coastal Processes and Systems

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit of study explains the major coastal processes and systems of relevance to coastal zone management. These include beaches, barriers and dunes; estuaries and inlets; and coral reefs. The interactions between these processes and systems that are of most relevance to coastal management are highlighted, including coastal hazards such as beach erosion. Anthropogenic impacts are also analysed. This unit includes an introduction to numerical modeling of coastal processes and systems using state-of-the-art modeling tools. The unit is presented in lectures and field excursions, the latter enabling each system to be examined first hand.

Unit details and rules

Unit code MARS5001
Academic unit Geosciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

This unit assumes a sound understanding of scientific principles, HSC level mathematics and understanding of basic statistics

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Ana Vila Concejo,
Lecturer(s) Tristan Salles,
Ana Vila Concejo,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Numerical modelling exercises 1-3
Analyse data to solve problems.
30% Multiple weeks 1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO7 LO8 LO9
Assignment Coastal Geomorphology: field notebooks
Individual field notebooks from field trip
0% Week 03 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO11 LO10 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Online task hurdle task Peer-review surveys
Quiz. Evaluation of group work.
0% Week 07 1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO11
Presentation Coastal Geomorphology: group presentation
Oral presentation with PowerPoint
15% Week 07 15 minutes with 5 minutes of questions
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO11 LO10 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Coastal Geomorphology: individual report
Executive Summary of your project
20% Week 08 Maximum of 4 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO11 LO10 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Online task Test
Written test
35% Week 13 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO10 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
hurdle task = hurdle task ?

Assessment summary

  • Assignment 1: Coastal Geomorphology: Beach Surveying and Morphodynamics. The objective of this project is to explain the morphodynamics and, perhaps, the short-term evolution of a couple of beaches located within the Sydney area. The assignment is to be completed in the same manner as a professional research monitoring project and your finished report will be the subject of a presentation to the rest of your class.
  • Numerical modelling exercises 1-3:Students submit three practical exercises based on the numerical modelling labs, containing their data analysis and interpretation. Due weeks 10, 11 and 12
  • Exam: written exam – more details to be released closer to the date.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

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

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply subject knowledge to novel situations.


75 - 84

At D level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a solid knowledge and understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply the key ideas of the subject.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad understanding of the unit material but has not fully developed the ability to apply the key ideas of the subject


50 - 64

At P level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge of the subject.


0 - 49

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

Absent fail (AF): A student is given an absent fail mark due to non-submission of compulsory work (or non-attendance at compulsory labs, etc) as well as failure to attend an examination

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.

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 1. Beach systems and global change; Wave dominated coasts Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5
Week 02 2. Waves Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Topographic data processing Tutorial (1 hr) LO2 LO7
Week 03 3. Beaches in estuaries and bays Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Wave climate processing Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO3 LO7
Week 04 4. Surf zone currents Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5
Independent work on Assignment 1 (teaching staff available) Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO7
Week 05 5. Morphodynamics of coral reefs Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO5 LO7
Independent work on Assignment 1 (teaching staff available) Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO7
Week 07 6. Introduction to coastal ocean observing systems Lecture (2 hr) LO4 LO7 LO8
Week 08 6. Introduction to coastal ocean observing systems Lecture (2 hr) LO4 LO7 LO8 LO9
Accessing & plotting coastal dataset 1 Tutorial (1 hr) LO7 LO8
Week 09 6. Introduction to coastal ocean observing systems Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO7 LO8
Accessing & plotting coastal dataset 2 Tutorial (1 hr) LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 10 7. Coastal evolution: physical & numerical models Lecture (2 hr) LO3 LO5 LO8
Beach profile evolution under storm condition Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5 LO8
Week 11 8. Coastal evolution: physical & numerical models Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO8
Wave sediment modelling at regional scale Tutorial (1 hr) LO5 LO7 LO8
Week 12 8. Coastal evolution: physical & numerical models Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO8
Wave sediment modelling at regional scale Tutorial (1 hr) LO5 LO7 LO8

Attendance and class requirements

Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance requirements for this unit of study have been amended. Where online tutorials/workshops/virtual laboratories have been scheduled, students should make every effort to attend and participate at the scheduled time. Penalties will not be applied if technical issues, etc. prevent attendance at a specific online class. In that case, students should discuss the problem with the coordinator, and attend another session, if available.

COVID allowing, this unit will run in HY-FLEX, allowing campus and remote students to learn simultaneously. Please keep on checking CANVAS for announcements,

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.

Required readings

There is no prescribed text for MARS 5001. Rather, students are expected to read a number of sections in textbooks and some scientific papers.

Some recommended books include:

  • Short, A.D. and Woodroffe, C.D., 2009. The Coast of Australia. Cambridge University Press, 288 pp.
  • Davis, R.A. and FitzGerald, D.M., 2004. Beaches and coasts. Blackwell Pub.
  • Masselink, G. and Hughes, M.G., 2003. Introduction to Coastal Processes and Geomorphology. Hodder Arnold Publishers, London, 354 pp.
  • Davidson-Arnott, R., 2010. Introduction to coastal processes and geomorphology. Cambridge University Press, 456 pp.
  • Short, A.D., 1999. Handbook of Beach and Shoreface Morphodynamics. Wiley, 379 pp.
  • Woodroffe, C.D., 2003. Coasts. Cambridge University Press, 623 pp.
  • Ciavola, P. and Coco, G. (2017) Coastal storms: processes and impacts. Edited by P. Ciavola and G. Coco. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. doi: 10.1002/9781118937099.

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. analyse beach systems and evaluate the controlling mechanisms that define the characteristics of a given beach
  • LO2. understand the importance of coastal geomorphology for coastal management
  • LO3. estimate coastal processes using data and numerical models
  • LO4. design a coastal management project to effectively assess coastal change in sandy coasts
  • LO5. understand the effects of climate change on coastal areas and the related coastal response and management
  • LO6. efficiently keep a field notebook
  • LO7. learn techniques for data analyses and representation
  • LO8. setup, run and analyse data using a numerical model
  • LO9. understand scientific writing & basic programming
  • LO10. demonstrate proficiency in scientific presentation
  • LO11. learn to scientifically discuss the work of your peers.

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.

The content and assessments of this UoS change yearly following students' feedback.

The Learning Centre ( offers a wide range of courses intended to develop the generic skills required for success at University, and was established to assist students achieve their academic potential. They also offer workshops for undergraduate students from non-English speaking backgrounds.

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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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