Module Catalogue 2019/20

GEO2229 : River Catchment Dynamics

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Matthew Perks
  • Lecturer: Professor Andrew Russell
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
GEO1020Introduction to Physical Geography
Pre Requisite Comment

Students need to be familiar with key concepts introduced in GEO1020 (Introduction to Physical Geography).

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



Rationale: Water is naturally transferred and circulated between stores in the earth’s atmosphere, across the earth’s surface, within the pores of soil, and through geological structures. This circulation of water is a global phenomenon known as the hydrological cycle, and is key in driving not just the movement of water, but also dissolved constituents, pollutants, and solid material from the earth’s surface to terminating environments (e.g. seas and lakes). The movement of these materials affect the climate, availability of water resources, aquatic pollution, and propensity for flood related hazards. These are all critical issues for sustainably managing natural resources and mitigating against water-related hazards in the 21st Century.

Aims: This module aims to: (1) introduce you to catchment science, the movement of water and associated material across the earth’s surface, and to demonstrate how this drives river systems; (2) provide an understanding of how human activity can modify catchment processes and river response (e.g. land-use change, dam construction, flood management); and (3) provide first-hand experience of field techniques used to measure catchment processes, and the analysis of catchment fluxes.

This module provides students with the theoretical background relating to river catchment processes. The module is designed to: (a) explore catchment processes in significantly greater depth than material introduced in GEO1020 (Introduction to Physical Geography); (b) provide an essential knowledge base and practical and field skills for compulsory field modules in Stage 2; (c) provide essential theoretical background for students undertaking dissertation research on hydrological processes, complementing the GEO2127 dissertation planning module; (d) provide a background for students wishing to undertake Stage 3 modules relating to hydrology and global water resources.

Outline Of Syllabus

The Syllabus will cover a wide range of catchment processes including:

Hydrological processes
• The hydrological cycle
• Precipitation and evaporation
• Infiltration and soil moisture
• Groundwater flow
• Runoff mechanisms      
• Water conveyance and attenuation
• Regional hydrological case studies: Arid and meltwater environments

Geomorphological controls
• Catchment structure
• Drainage network development
• Landscape connectivity

Resource Management
• Land-use change and intensification
• Catchment management and restoration
• Aquatic pollution
• Fine sediment transfer
• Management and protection of aquatic habitats
• Managing extremes: Floods and droughts
• Future adaptation

• 2 x non-residential single-day field trips to either the River Eden (Cumbria) or Coquet (Northumbria).
• Field trip briefing
• Post field data analysis workshops
• Computer practical’s (pre- and post- fieldwork)

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

1.       Knowledge of key physical processes occurring across a river catchment.
2.       Knowledge of the importance of catchments and rivers within the global climate system and as a conveyor of water and eroded materials.
3.       Knowledge of interactions between humans and catchment systems and how this can affect the sustainability of natural resources, the health of aquatic species, and generate or mitigate hazards.
4.       Awareness of contested knowledge in the field of catchment science.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1.       Reading – independent research
2.       Field note-taking and organisation
3.       Field measurement using a variety of equipment and techniques
4.       Analysis of primary and secondary data sets using GIS and software packages
5.       Written report presentation skills
6.       Team work during field data collection

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion160:0060:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture82:0016:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1100:00100:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical42:008:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork28:0016:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will introduce key concepts across a range of catchment process themes, and present case studies. Fieldwork will enable students to be trained in the use of specific field data collection techniques which will allow the interpretation of catchment processes. Practical classes will allow students to gain direct experience of analysing both primary and secondary data sets thereby developing skills relevant to the investigation of river systems.

Attendance at practicals and field trips are compulsory. Attendance registers will be taken for all practical sessions and field days. In the absence of mitigating circumstances non-attendance will result in zero for missed components.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A5090 minute exam- answer 2 questions from 6.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M502000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The synoptic exam will examine the lecture-based knowledge gained by students. Lectures, supplemented by student reading, impart the essential knowledge base for this and other follow-on modules (fieldtrips, dissertation) and it is appropriate to formally test this knowledge base.

The report assesses the ability of students to analyse and present a range of primary and secondary field data. The report assesses their ability to relate field results to literature and their development of critical argument. Over all the field report assesses written communication skills and report writing style.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2019/20 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2020/21 entry will be published here in early-April 2019. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.