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GEO8021 : Cold Environments

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Rachel Carr
  • Lecturer: Dr Louise Callard, Dr Stuart Dunning
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


The aim of the module is to:
•       Introduce students to key techniques used in contemporary cold environments research.
•       Convey the important theories and underlying knowledge relating to these techniques and how they have been applied to address different research questions.
•       Teach students to critically evaluate different methods and approaches within cold environments research, and to identify their limitations.
•       Help students to develop research ideas and questions, and to select appropriate methodologies to address these questions.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus is strongly focused on teaching practical skills that are used in contemporary cold environments research. Students are asked to think critically about these approaches and their application to other research questions. The syllabus focuses on three key topics within cold environments, delivered by an introductory lecture, followed by practical work, and a summary lecture. These themes are brought together in the student-led presentations and subsequent discussion. Each topic will have 6 contact hours, composed of 2 hours of lectures and 4 hours of practicals. The syllabus is as follows:

Topic 1: Remote sensing, GIS and Himalayan glaciers
Topic 2: Ice penetrating radar
Topic 3: Landslides and rockfalls

Student-led presentations (10 minutes per student): Students will present a research idea that utilises the approaches taught in one of the topics listed above. For this, students will need to: 1) identify a major research question; 2) clearly demonstrate the importance of the research question and justification for its selection; 3) briefly outline research conducted to date; 4) outline an appropriate methodology to address the question and acknowledge any limitations. Presentations will last for one hour and be followed by a group discussion session, were students will debate the approaches used and their ability to address the question. All students are required to stay for the other presentations and contribute to discussion / asking questions.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture61:006:00Planned for PiP, but can be delivered online if required
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical34:0012:00Planned for PiP, but can be delivered on line if required
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching12:002:00Planned for PiP, but can be delivered online if required
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study180:0080:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The modules will cover three main topic areas: 1) Glacier geophysics; 2) Remote sensing, GIS and Himalayan glaciers; and 3) Landslides and rockfalls. These will be delivered in the same format: 1 lecture, followed by four hours of practical time, followed by a one hour lecture.

The first lecture will introduce the students to the topic, including: i) the fundamentals of the approach; ii) key theories and ideas relating to the topic area; iii) its development over time; and iv) the main applications of the technique within cold regions research, including key examples and case studies. This will give the students the background knowledge required to understand the technique and how it is applied.

The practicals will give students practical skills and experience of how to apply each technique and to understand how to use it to address a specific research question. This is essential for student learning, as the techniques can only effectively be taught by the students working through the process and learning the techniques first-hand. It will also allow them to independently identify any limitations or difficulties with approaches and encourage them think about ways around problems by themselves.

The final lecture for each topic will synthesise the material covered in the practicals and discuss new, cutting edge research in the field. Students will also be asked to reflect on the issues with the methods, potential approaches to improving results and extensions to the work. This will develop skills in critical evaluation and oral communication. It will ensure that students are aware of the most up to date knowledge and applications of each technique. These lectures will also provide students with a base for writing their presentations in the final session.

The final session will involve students giving a 10 minute oral presentation on one of the techniques. This will specifically focus on how they could apply the technique to address a major research question within the field. This will enhance their knowledge of key theories and ideas relating to the topic, as they will need to read around the practical material to produce an effective presentation. It will demonstrate that they can produce high quality visuals and present effectively. The second half of the session will involve an open discussion of the topics, which will reinforce and summarise the students’ ability to critically evaluate different methodologies, and their applicability to major research questions.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation102A25Individual presentation on how one of the topics could be used to address a research question. Students are required to participate.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report2M75Students will complete a lab report for each of the three topics. Word count: 3000 (1000 words x 3).
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Practical reports will demonstrate the student’s ability to apply the techniques and approaches taught in each topic. The 1000 word summary will show that students are able to analyse the data and evaluate the effectiveness of the technique. Students will write a report on each component, to ensure they are assessed on a breadth of topics and can demonstrate knowledge and ability to use each one.

The oral presentation will develop oral and visual presentation skills and show understanding of the taught material. It will demonstrate that students are able to apply the concepts to a different research question. This will help prepare them for their research dissertation, as well as providing a valuable scientific skill. The presentation and subsequent discussion will improve students’ ability to critically evaluate different techniques and to justify their usage.

Reading Lists