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GEO2233 : Humans vs Nature in the Netherlands (Netherlands Field course)

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Maarten van Hardenbroek van Ammerstol
  • Lecturer: Dr Christopher Hackney, Dr Louise Callard, Dr Seb Pitman
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 35 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


The Netherlands are one of the most densely populated parts of the world and the physical landscape has been heavily adapted by humans. This makes it an ideal location to study how coastal processes and river dynamics in the delta of the rivers Meuse and Rhine have been changed to make them suitable for safe habitation by humans. The module will provide insight into how people have initially been fighting against nature and more recently have been working with nature to ensure the long-term safety of places to live and produce crops. The module will look at issues of flooding, land subsidence, water quality, and biodiversity loss and how these have to be balanced. Students will be stimulated to think critically about how it is possible to balance the demands of different stakeholders in this highly complex landscape that requires detailed and long-term planning.
1.       To give the student advanced first-hand experience of geomorphological and biogeographical processes within a dynamic environment and to further extend and enhance understanding of human-landscape interactions.
2.       To develop advanced fieldwork focused skills, including research design, data collection techniques and data interpretation, which can applied to other modules, particularly the dissertation (GEO3099).
3.       To facilitate students making the linkage between knowledge gained from the literature and classroom-based learning, with field based research. This includes the limitations and challenges faced when translating theoretical ideas into practical fieldwork.
4.       To give students the opportunity to build on the skills and knowledge gained from the GEO2137 (Key Methods in Physical Geography), through targeted primary data collection and landscape-scale interpretation.
5.       To enhance teamwork and interpersonal skills, through working together and planning fieldwork in a complex and potentially challenging environment.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus involves 3 introductory lectures, 2 introductory seminars, followed by a residential field trip. The proposed structure is as follows:

Introductory lectures/seminars
Lecture 1: Introduction to Human-landscape interactions in the Rhine/Meuse delta and the Dutch coast. Outline of field course structure, locations and logistics.
Lecture 2: Natural coastal geomorphological processes (in The Netherlands)
Lecture 3: Evidence of Long-term human presence in the landscape, and overview of (modern) interventions for safe habitation.

Seminar 1: Introduction to student-led projects, students design their projects in small groups.
Seminar 2: Students design their projects in small groups.

Field course
Includes overnight ferry Newcastle-IJmuiden and travel to Texel.
There will be several days with staff-led activities at various sites focusing on human interactions with natural coastal processes and flood defence. Staff will introduce and develop key concepts and illustrate different elements of the landscape and students will get training on field techniques.
This will be followed by days when students work in groups of 4-5 to collect relevant data for their student-led group projects. Data collected during student-led projects will form the basis of oral presentation by each group on last day and individual final report.

Post-field sessions
Seminar 3: Students work in groups to discuss key findings made by their groups
Computer practical 1: Students work individually on data analysis
Drop-in session: a Q&A session will be available to ask advice on for the field report.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture32:006:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical12:002:00Computer practical
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching32:006:00Seminar
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork55:0025:00Staff-led field activities
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery11:001:00Q&A session about report
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1160:00160:00Preparing, doing, presenting field research. Preparing final report
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures and staff-led field days introduce, develop and illustrate the environmental history of the study area and the key geomorphological concepts relevant to the field course.
2. Fieldwork provides opportunities for student-led design and planning of geomorphological research as teams of 4-5 students and to collect data. Training in fieldwork techniques and assistance in project design will be available from staff.
3. Post-trip seminar and computer practical aimed at analysis, interpretation and integration of data, with two additional scheduled drop-in sessions for questions about final written assessment.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation202M25Group presentation of field project
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report2M75Individual field practical write-up (2,500 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

There will be group presentations (25% of overall module mark) during the fieldtrip, allowing the students to present initial results and to reflect on the development and execution of small-scale research projects. This will enable them to develop their thinking in advance of the field reports and to critically evaluate their work and approach, which will be beneficial for future projects, particularly the dissertation. It will improve their capacity to present information orally and visually and to work effectively as part of a team. The presentations will be carried out on the last evening of the fieldtrip. This is to ensure that the students have the maximum amount of time in the field and time in the evenings to process and collate their field data, but also trains the students to prioritise and work efficiently in limited time available.

A field report is used as main assessment type (75% of overall module mark) as it assesses the key skills and knowledge outcomes we wish to achieve during the course, specifically it allows students to:
1. Demonstrate their research design for the field data collection.
2. Show that they have selected and understood appropriate methodologies.
3. Synthesise and interpret their field results, in relation to the published literature.
4. Critically evaluate their field approaches and the literature.
5. Demonstrate understanding of the main processes operating in a complex landscape where humans have strongly impacted natural coastal and riverine processes, and the tensions between different components and stakeholders in this landscape.
6. Show their capacity to write concisely, effectively and scientifically and to use appropriate graphics (e.g. graphs and maps) to support their argument.

A seminar, a computer practical, and a drop-in sessions are also scheduled after return from the fieldtrip to provide guidance and training in analysing, interpreting, and integrating results from the fieldtrip in the individual reports.

Reading Lists