Search type

School of Environment, Education and Development

BSc Geography and Geology with a year abroad / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Coastal Processes: Sea Level Change and Marine Hazards

Unit code GEOG31952
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course covers the physical geography of relevant, topical aspects of coastal processes.  In 2017-18 the course will focus on sea-level change.  This section will cover an understanding of the processes involved in sea-level change, past, present and future, and the science of reconstructing and predicting sea-levels. A significant field and practical element will include an investigation of an area of sea-level change (one day fieldtrip), laboratory work on the recovered sediments and a report on the long-term trend of sea-level in the area studied.  The course will also cover tsunami, estuaries, saltmarshes, coastal pollution, and approaches to coastal management.   


  • Study and explain the combined effects of both rapid and incremental processes on coasts
  • Introduce and apply a new range of field, laboratory and data-handling skills
  • Understand the science behind the current issues of sea-level change and coastal management

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, you should be able to:


·         Design and conduct research in the field of coastal change

·         Understand the combined effects of different processes on coastal landforms and sediments

·         Consider laboratory and field observations in the context of previous research

·         Analyse and present a complex data set

·         Critically analyse existing research in the area of coastal processes



Week 1:  Introduction to the course and assessment.  The coastal zone.  Importance of sea level change.  Tides and sea level (2 hour lecture).


Week 2:  Sea-level change  (2 hour lecture).

1 hour ‘Research Design’ workshop. 


Fieldwork (1 day):  The coastal zone, saltmarsh, and coring for evidence of previous sea-levels. Using borehole data to reconstruct sea-level change; precise surveying techniques.


Week 3: Sediments, microfossils and coastal geomorphology as indicators of sea level change (2 hour lecture). 

                Lab class 1: Sediment stratigraphy and diatom analysis (3 hours)


Week 4:  Lab class 2:  Laboratory analysis of microfossils (1 hour)

Submit field and lab notebook for formative assessment.


Week 5:  Future sea level change (2 hour lecture).

                Lab class 3: Data presentation and analysis (2 hours)


Week 6:  Study week


Week 7:  Tsunami (2 hour lecture)

                Coursework surgery (1 hour). Submit individual report by 2pm, Thursday 15 March 2018  


Week 8:  Tsunami (1 hour seminar)


Week 9:  Study week


Week 10: Estuaries and saltmarshes (2 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar)


Week 11:  Coastal Pollution (2 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar)


Week 12:  Coastal management theories, and course summary (2 hour lecture)

Teaching and learning methods

The course unit will be delivered via a combination of lectures, fieldwork, workshops (task-oriented), seminars (reading-based) and laboratory classes.   The approximate breakdown, depending on numbers, will be 16 hours of lectures, 1 day or 5 working hours of fieldwork, 3 hours of seminars and workshops, and approximately 6 hours of laboratory work.

Course information, lecture slides and reading (both reading lists and pdf files) will be available in blackboard.  Blackboard will also be used to enable data sharing.  Links to external websites and video clips will also be available. 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During this course unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:

  • Field skills relevant to long-term coastal change and other fields (borehole sinking and recording, precise surveying); laboratory skills (diatom analysis, particle size analysis and sediment description).
  • Handling, displaying and interpreting a large and complex data set.
  • PLEASE NOTE: you will be asked to use mathematical equations, for example using Excel and other data analysis packages.
  • Writing clear and analytical reports.

Assessment methods

1.      Assessment and comments on your field and laboratory notes, with preliminary interpretation, prior to the write-up stage (formative)

2.      Report on sea-level changes in northwest England (50%).  3000 word individual report, handed in week 7.  This report includes field results, laboratory data, analysis of pooled data and a write-up in journal-paper format.

3.   Examination (50%) in May/June, covering the whole course. 

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

·         Verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours.

·         Formative assessment of field and laboratory notebooks before the assessment write-up.

·         Detailed, personal and generic written feedback on the coursework assignment.

·         Inter-cohort feedback before the coursework submission and the examination- what the previous cohort did well and what to improve on.

Recommended reading

Key texts 

Haslett, S.K. 2008.  Coastal Systems 2nd edition. Taylor and Francis.


Masselink, G. and Hughes, M. 2003. Introduction to coastal processes and geomorphology.



Key Journals

  • Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
  • Marine Geology
  • Journal of Tsunami Science
  • Coastal Management
  • Journal of Coastal Research

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter Ryan Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Comprises of Lectures and Seminars. Please refer to course content information for further details.



Return to course details