38:169/170 How Earth Works

Note: There are two versions of this course that are taught concurrently: one is called How Earth Works: Fundamentals of Physical Geography (course number 38:169) and the other is How Earth Works: Applied Physical Geography (course number 38:170). Students enrolled in either course attend the same lectures and write the same exams. The difference is that the applied course 38:170 has a required laboratory component, whereas the 38:169 version of the course does not have a required lab, but a required project/assignment instead. The most important difference is that the lab version of the  course (i.e. 38:170) is the one that is required as a prerequisite if you plan to take any additional upper level geography courses in the future.

Instructors:  Lecture, Dr. Dion J. Wiseman – 38:170 Laboratory, Ms. Wenonah van Heyst
Office: Brodie Room 4-07
Office Hrs: Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 11 – 12 PM; or by Appointment
Phone: 727-9774
Email: wiseman@brandonu.ca

Required Text:

Arbogast, Ford, and Dagesse. Discovering Physical Geography, 1st Canadian Edition. John Wiley and Sons, 2018. Available through the BU bookstore as either a loose-leaf text or in electronic format. Another option is to rent the textbook for just the semester; more information is available here.

Course Description

Physical Geography is the study of the physical components and processes operating within Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. This course will introduce basic geographic concepts and examine a variety of these systems in a spatial context. Topics discussed include coordinate systems, maps, and map projections; GIS, remote sensing, and GPS technology; solar energy and radiation balances; weather and climate; volcanism, earthquakes, and plate tectonics; weathering and mass movements; fluvial, eolian, coastal, and glacial land forms and processes; and soils.

Tentative Course Outline

Topic  Description Chapter(s)
1 Introduction, Earth Four Sphere, and the Systems Approach 1
2 Basic Concepts, Location, and Geospatial Technologies 2
3 Earth Sun Relations and the Reasons for the Seasons 3
Test I Friday, October 2nd
4 Solar Energy and the Global Energy System 4
5 Structure of the Atmosphere and Temperature Controls 5
6 Atmospheric Pressure and Global Circulation Patterns 6
Test II Friday, November 6th
7 Water in the Atmosphere, at Earth’s Surface, and Subsurface 7 (to Humidity) & 15
8 Earth’s Internal Structure, Tectonics, and Volcanism 12 & 13
9 Weathering and Mass Movements 14
10 Fluvial Processes and Landforms 16
11 Glacial Processes and Landforms 17
Final Saturday, December 19th,  9 AM

Grading Scheme


(No Lab)



Letter Grades

Term Test I 25%* Term Test I 20%* > 90% A+ 70 – 72% B-
Term Test II 25%* Term Test II 20%* 85 – 89% A 67 – 69% C+
Final Exam 25%* Final Exam 20%* 80 – 84% A- 63 – 66% C
†Discovery Asgmt. 25% ‡Laboratory 40% 77 – 79% B+ 60 – 62% C-
Total 100% Total 100% 73 – 76% B 50 – 59% D
*Book Review 5% *Why Geography Matters 2% < 50% F

* Variably weighted, best exam vs. worst exam +/- 5 percent.

38:169 Discovering Physical Geography Assignment:

This is a required assignment in the 169 version of the course in which you will create a Wikipedia style entry describing five selected topics covered in this course for a Place of your choice. Your best strategy is to work on this project over the entire term; the deadline is the last day of the semester. (DUE END OF DAY, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9TH)

‡38:170 Laboratory:

The laboratory is required of the 170 version of the course. Lab assignments will be assigned by the lab instructor, Ms. Wenonah van Heyst each week. There will also be two lab quizzes included in the laboratory component of the 170 course.

* Optional Extra Credit Assignments:

A book review OR short essay on “Why Geography Matters” may be submitted at any time before the last day of class for extra credit. (DUE END OF DAY, SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19TH)