Skip to main content


GEO2229 : River Catchment Dynamics

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Matthew Perks
  • Lecturer: Professor Andrew Russell, Dr Christopher Hackney
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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 experience of techniques used to measure and model catchment processes, and in 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 essential theoretical background for students undertaking dissertation research on hydrological processes, complementing the GEO2127 dissertation planning module; (c) provide an essential knowledge-base for students wishing to undertake Stage 3 modules relating to hydrology or fluvial geomorphology.

Outline Of Syllabus

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

Part 1: Fundamentals of the catchment system
•       The hydrological cycle
•       Precipitation and evaporation
•       Infiltration and soil moisture
•       Groundwater
•       Runoff mechanisms
•       Water conveyance, connectivity, and attenuation
•       Regional hydrological case studies: Arid and meltwater environments
•       Catchment response to extreme disturbance

Part 2: Catchment change
•       Land-use change and intensification
•       Catchment management and restoration
•       Aquatic pollution
•       Fine sediment transfer
•       Deltaic catchments
•       Managing extremes: Nature-based and engineering solutions

Practical activities
•       1 x single-day field trip.
•       Simulating runoff processes
•       Simulating drainage basin dynamics
•       Detecting changes in pollutant concentrations over time
•       Data analysis

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture62:0012:00PIP Lectures
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials30:301:30Pre-recorded lecture materials (introduction to practical’s)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion220:0040:00Completion of 2 x 2000-word essays/reports
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical52:0010:00Computer practical sessions
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1125:30125:30N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork18:008:00Non-residential, one-day fieldtrip
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time31:003:00Online synchronous lecture
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will introduce key concepts and theories across a range of catchment process themes along with case studies which are used to illustrate their occurrence.

The first series of computer practical classes will allow students to gain experience of investigating the processes occurring across river catchments. These are designed to facilitate higher-order cognitive behaviour such as assessing and evaluating interactions between multiple variables. Each practical session shares a theme with a lecture and these pairings enable students to delve deeper into the concepts and theories introduced. Prior to each of these practical sessions, a 30-minute lecture is provided to introduce the task and the learning objectives.

The second series of computer practical classes will allow students to gain experience of analysing secondary datasets. These data have been collected to enable detection of changes in catchment processes over time. Completion of these practical sessions will provide students with the opportunity to develop their skills in mapping (GIS) and statistical analysis.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M502000 words
Report1M502000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The synoptic essay 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.

The report assesses the ability of students to analyse and interpret secondary field-data. The report assesses their ability to relate field results to literature and develop an informed and critical argument. The field report assesses formal written communication skills and report writing style.

Reading Lists