38:169 How Earth Works

Note: This course does not count toward a geography major or minor and cannot be used as a prerequisite for upper level courses in geography or other areas. Students who are considering a degree in geography or a related field should take 38:170 Introduction to Physical Geography; which includes a required laboratory component.

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

Required Text:

Christopherson, et al. (2016) Geosystems, 4th Canadian ed.: Pearson

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; remote sensing, GIS, 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 landforms and processes; soils; ecosystems; and biomes.

Course Outline

Topic  Description Chapter(s)
1 Basic Geographic Concepts, Location, Coordinate Systems, and Maps 1
2 Earth Sun Relations, Solar Energy, and Seasons 2
3 The Atmosphere and Energy Balances 3 & 4
4 Global Temperature, Atmospheric Circulation, and Climate Systems 5, 6 & 10
Test I Date TBD  
5 Water in the Atmosphere, Earth’s Surface, and Subsurface 7 & 9
6 Earth’s Internal Structure and Plate Tectonics, Earthquakes, and Volcanism 12 & 13
Test II Date TBD  
7 Weathering and Mass Movements 14
8 Fluvial Processes and Landforms  15
9 Glacial Processes and Landforms 17
10 Soil Genesis and Classification 18
Final Date TBD

Grading Scheme

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

Wiki Assignment: This is a required assignment in which you will create a Wiki style entry describing five selected topics covered in this course for any 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. Please submit a hard-copy of your final assignment in class on or before Wednesday, December 6th.

Wiki Marks

 * Optional Extra Credit Assignments: A book review OR contribution to “Why Geography Matters” may be submitted at any time before the last day of class for extra credit.


Schedule of Workshops on How To Write Multiple Choice Exams