Skip to main content

Study information

Landscape Systems Management

Module titleLandscape Systems Management
Module codeGEO3223
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Rolf Aalto (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module you will actively learn the practical skills needed to solve real-world challenges by running your own analyses of the impacts of very real events on environmental systems. Lectures and reading cover important aspects of how hillslope-fluvial landscape systems function, all of which are relevant to the applied exercises covered in the practicals, which are focused in areas of Exeter staff and student research. Your mark will come from two professional-style reports similar to those expected beyond university, with the second report (60%) due in Term 3 (to minimise interference with your dissertation). The experience of writing professional reports and presenting them well is an invaluable skill. Student and alumni surveys routinely rate this module as highly relevant for their employability. If you enjoy working with GIS and environmental data, solving problems actively, and have the disciplined work ethic needed to complete technical practicals, then through this module you will have produced substantial reports to show for your efforts!

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module teaches you applied skills for investigating how environmental conditions (climate change, geology, vegetation, land use, and engineering) modulate flooding, erosion, sediment transport and biogeochemical fluxes through drainage catchments – from hillslopes to channel-floodplain systems to coastal depositional centres. Emphasis is placed on analysing how geomorphic and hydrologic processes respond to the integrative effects of environmental change, from source to sink, both spatially and temporally, with implications for catchment response dynamics and the evaluation and management of landscape systems (using industry standard analytical methods that interface with ArcGIS). GIS and environmental modelling/managing abilities are developed in the practicals, with the goal of increasing employability for Geography students interested in spatial skills.

The lectures and practicals draw on Exeter research. Specifically, the HEC-RAS river modelling component focuses on flooding problems along the Sacramento River that are researched by Prof Aalto (and a number of Exeter students). You will find this module attractive if you:

  • possess significant interest/skills for working with spatial data
  • can organise your schedule to complete the first practical while you attend to other academic obligations (the 2nd practical is due in Term 3), and
  • seek the challenge of immersive, high-reward, skills-based active learning judged by professional-style reports for environmental management.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss landscape processes and morphology
  • 2. Describe and quantify integrative response to perturbations across space and time
  • 3. Employ models and ArcGIS to investigate spatial and temporal data to quantify change, impact, and risk using standard professional models
  • 4. Explain controls on material fluxes on Earth's surface
  • 5. Assess, synthesise and quantitatively evaluate various scenarios of environmental risk
  • 6. Understand and analyse skills for how humans can affect, manage, and restore fluvial systems
  • 7. Use industry standard ArcGIS-based models for evaluating runoff hydrology, flooding, and integrative catchment response to a range of environmental changes
  • 8. Develop and demonstrate the above transferrable skills in professional-style reports

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding, particularly in regards to environmental models
  • 10. Outline a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding, with a focus on landscape processes and environmental change
  • 11. Evaluate and apply a diverse range of specialised techniques and approaches involved in collecting geographical information used to inform environmental models
  • 12. Describe, apply and evaluate the diversity of specialised techniques and approaches involved in analysing geographical information
  • 13. Assess rigorously the nature of change and system interconnectedness within physical environments demonstrated through professional-style analyses
  • 14. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments
  • 15. Explain quantitatively the significance of spatial relationships and the temporal distribution of physical processes on physical and human environments

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 16. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written means with supporting professional diagrams analytical results in professional-style reports
  • 17. Develop a reasoned and quantitatively supported arguments
  • 18. Formulate and evaluate questions and identify and evaluate approaches to problem-solving that meet professional standards
  • 19. Identify, acquire, critically evaluate and synthesise data from a range of sources using robust, industry standard quantitative techniques
  • 20. Explain the spatial and temporal characteristics of environmental perturbations appropriately to describe how this change will affect future landscape response
  • 21. Effectively and appropriately interpret and use physical theory, environmental data, and statistical information to make a well supported argument
  • 22. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (especially time management and scheduled use of computer resources, library use and website investigation) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment over longer time periods
  • 23. Reflect on the process of learning and evaluate personal strengths and weaknesses

Syllabus plan

Topics covered include:

  • Morphologies of change, risk management, and environmental restoration
  • The Source: a summary of hillslope characteristics and processes
  • Climate, geology, weathering, topography, and soil production
  • Land cover, runoff, mass wasting, and erosion within upland catchments
  • The Sink: dynamics of rivers, floodplains, and fluvial dispersal systems
  • Transport, recycling, and storage of water and sediment in the fluvial system
  • Scaling up: integrative effects of magnitude, frequency, and changes in flux
  • Modelling integrative impacts in ArcGIS/ArcHydro/HEC-RAS/HEC-HMS

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching18Lectures (9 x 2 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching16Practicals (8 x 2 hours)
Guided Independent Study8Practical extension (8 x 1 hour)
Guided Independent Study60Computer work in support of practicals
Guided Independent Study20Reading and research, Library
Guided Independent Study24Reading and research, online

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Feedback during practical sessions3 x 3 hours 3, 5-7, 15-22Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Lab practical report 1 401600 wordsAllWritten and oral
Lab practical report 2602400 wordsAllWritten

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Lab practical report 1 Lab practical report 1 AllAugust Ref/Def
Lab practical report 2Lab practical report 2AllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Montgomery, D.R. 2007. Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. Univ. California Press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Articles and practical guides will be distributed electronically, sourced from leading journals such as:

  • Science
  • Nature
  • Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
  • Water Resources Research
  • Hydrological Processes, and
  • JGR Earth Surface.

Extensive lecture slides and supplementary material are also provided by the instructor (this provides material and summaries for further reading).

Key words search

Rivers and hillslopes, ArcGIS, systems analysis, practical reports

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

GEO2320 Applied GIS for Physical Geographers

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date