Geography 3300 – Spring 2017

Process Geomorphology

Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences

Valdosta State University


Instructor: Dr. Donald M. Thieme               Meeting Time: 1:00-1:50 MWF Nevins 3041

Office: 2046 Nevins Hall                               Web Page:

Phone: 229-219-1345                                    E-Mail:

Office Hours: M 2:00-4:00;  W 1:00-3:00 or by appointment



Bierman and Montgomery, 2013 (1st Edition).  Key Concepts in Geomorphology. Macmillan Learning.


Course Purpose and Overview

Geomorphology is the study of the “form” or surface of planet Earth. The descriptive part of geomorphology consists of mapping, measuring, and identifying “landforms.” Most of you will already be familiar with this material from our introductory course, GEOG 1113K. In “process” geomorphology, we delve more deeply into the driving forces which shape the Earth’s surface. We will cover mass wasting transport on hillslopes as well as fluvial, coastal, aeolian, glacial and periglacial processes. Simple mathematical equations will be used to relate many of these processes to fundamental physical forces.


The laboratory exercises for GEOG 3300 build upon map reading and map making skills developed in GEOG 1113K and taught in other geography courses. Applying geomorphology to real world examples now requires familiarity not only with paper maps but also with computer programs for working with maps (ArcGIS, SURFER, AutoCAD). At least one of the laboratory exercises will therefore be completed using the department computer lab. Recent advances in geomorphology are also closely linked to the development of new techniques for estimating the age of landforms and the deposits which result from surficial processes. Isotopic dating methods covered in this class will include 14C, K/Ar, U disequilibrium, and exposure ages based on cosmogenic nuclides such as 10Be, 26Al, 36Cl, and 3He. Other radiogenic, chemical, biological, and correlation techniques are also introduced.


Course Content and Attendance

Although I will not be taking attendance after the first couple weeks of classes, I do regard your attendance at both my lectures and labs as an important indicator of your commitment to learning in my class. I will draw upon my own research as well as outside readings to provide some material that is not in your book. I will also require you to  participate in our critical discussion of seminal papers from primary research literature, held every week and usually on Friday. If you miss any of these then you will required to submit a short summary of the article and answer some study questions about it.

I will take a survey of class interests during the first week of the semester in order to guide my selection of topics to emphasize. If you have already begun a senior thesis project, please talk to me about how we might work out some readings and a paper topic so that you can integrate your own research with the material covered in this class. My office hours are listed at the beginning of the syllabus in case you need to talk about a lab assignment, your term paper, or anything else regarding the course,. I will also be glad to meet with you at another time if my posted hours do not work for you. Feel free to stop by whenever I am in my office.



There will be three hour-long exams (100 points each) during the semester and a final exam (200 points) given at the course’s completion.  The final exam will include approximately 100 points of material covered after the third lecture exam and 100 points of comprehensive material.  Make up exams will only be given in the case of extreme circumstances.  Illness will only be considered a valid excuse for missing an exam if you can provide a doctor’s note stating that you were too ill to attend the test.


All students will be required to write a 10-page term paper (100 points). There will be three possible options in terms of the topic and style of the term papers, and the criteria which I use in grading them will be slightly different. One option will be a paper explaining a technique or method currently being applied in geomorphology. Either a method for dating surficial deposits or a computer model would be an excellent choice here. Another type of paper topic would be one in which you interpret a sequence of surficial deposits in terms of one or more of the processes covered in this class. Finally, you may want to write a paper describing some consequences for human society of a hazardous process which we cover in this class. This could either be a recent event covered in newspapers and on television or an ancient event recorded in historical documents or archaeological findings.


A total of 100 points will be earned from the "critical discussion" activities. You will earn a maximum of five points for each of the 15 discussion sessions that you attend or complete the assignment for. You will also be responsible for leading a discussion on one of the 15 papers, and you will earn 25 points for that.


There will be two (2) one-day fieldtrips on a Saturday, and every student must attend at least one of these in order to pass the course. I am still planning these fieldtrips, and I will let you know the details within the next two weeks. These will each be worth 40 points and you have the option of earning a maximum of 40 extra credit points by going on both trips. You can also earn those 40 extra credit points by going on the Florida/Georgia trip along with the GEOL 1121 students. I will have a special assignment for those of you on the Florida/Georgia trip, emphasizing surficial processes evident at the stops.


The laboratory section of the course is required of all students. There will be 13 lab exercises completed during the semester, and the lab write-ups will always be due one week after the lab has been completed. At 20 points each, the 13 exercises will be worth 260 points total. Late labs will be deducted 10% per day late.


A total of 1000 points will be possible during the course of the semester (500 lecture tests, 100 term paper, 100 critical discussions, 40 field trip, 260 labs). Final grades will be based on the following scale:





90 – 100

80 – 90

70 – 80

60 – 70

< 60





< 600







Disability Policy

Students requiring classroom accommodations or modifications because of a documented disability should discuss this with me so we can make reasonable accommodations. If you have not yet done so, you should also contact the Access Office located in Farber Hall and register with them.


Plagiarism and Cheating

Students are allowed to work in groups on labs, but other assignments are individual assignments. Any student who copies, plagiarizes, or otherwise cheats on an individual assignment will be given a zero for that assignment. There will be no exceptions and no opportunity to re-do the assignment.


Tentative Lecture Schedule and Readings:


Topics and Important Dates



January 9-13

History of Geomorphology,

Basic Concepts

Ch. 1, p. 36-41 and   p. 20-30



January 16-20

January 16th ML King Day, no school

Geosphere, Rocks and Minerals

1st Critical Discussion on January 20th

Ch. 1, p. 9-12’

Ch.3, p. 48-64;

Clayton, 1971


January 23-27

Weathering and Mass Wasting

2nd Critical Discussion on January 27th

Ch. 4, p. 86-109;

Hack, 1960


Jan 30 - Feb 3

Hillslope Form, Slope Evolution

 3rd Critical Discussion on February 3rd,

Exam #1 on February 6th

Ch. 4;

Schumm and Chorley, 1964


February 6-10

River Channels

4th Critical Discussion/Term Paper Title due on February 10th

Ch. 6;

Leopold and Maddock, 1953


February 13-17

Drainage Basins

5th Critical Discussion on February 17th

Ch. 7;

Leigh, 2006


February 20-24

Karst Processes and Landforms

6th Critical Discussion on February 24th

Ch. 4, p. 133-136;

 Rodriguez et al, 2014


Feb 27 – Mar 3

Tectonic Geomorphology

7th Critical Discussion/Term Paper Outline due on March 3rd

Ch. 12,

Pinter and Brandon, 1997


March 6-10

Dating Methods, Geological Time Scale, Quaternary Stratigraphy

8th Critical Discussion on March 8th

Exam #2 on March 10th

Ch. 2, p. 43-59;


Rittenour, 2008


March 13-17


Spring Break, no class



March 20-24

Climatic Geomorphology

9th Critical Discussion on March 24th

Ch. 13,

p. 425-439; Grove, 2001


Mar 27-31

Wind Processes and Landforms

10th Critical Discussion on March 29th

Ch. 8; McFadden et al., 1987


April 3-7

Glaciers and Glacial Erosion

11th Critical Discussion on April 5th

Ch. 9, 10; Gustavson and Boothroyd, 1987


April 10-14


Glacial Deposition, Periglacial Landforms

12th Critical Discussion on April 10th,

Exam #3 on April 12th

Ch. 10, 11

Berthling et al., 2013


April 17-21

Coastal Processes and Landforms

13th Critical Discussion on April 21st

Ch. 13; Burdette et al., 2010


Apr 24-28

 Human Impacts

14th Critical Discussion on April 28th

Final Exam Review

Chapter 3, p. 45-50; Handout;

Hooke, 2000


Final Exam: Friday, May 4th at 2:45 pm




*All readings are in Bierman and Montgomery (2013) except for the 15 papers for critical discussion, which will be posted online with links from BlazeVIEW.