38/42:278 Geomorphology

Instructors: Lecture, Dr. Dion J. Wiseman
Offices: Brodie Room 4-07
Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 11:00 am – 12:00 pm; or by Appointment
Phone: 727-9774
Email: wiseman@brandonu.ca

Course Resources

Recommended Text: Bierman & Montgomery (2020) Key Concepts in Geomorphology, 2nd ed. Macmillan.

Additional Readings: 1) Ritter, et al., Process Geomorphology, 4th ed., McGraw-Hill.  2) Easterbrook, Surface Landforms and Processes, 2nd ed., Prentice Hall 3) Trenhaile, Alan S. Geomorphology: a Canadian Perspective 4th ed., Oxford.

Course Description

 Geomorphology is the study of landforms and the processes that create and reshape them. The objectives of this course are to understand why landforms and landscapes look the way they do and what processes are responsible for their formation. Landscapes can be studied at different scales, so we will look at processes that impact large continental-scale areas such as mountain building due to plate tectonics, as well as much more local and regional-scale processes such as mass wasting events on hill slopes. Landforms evolve in response to a combination of natural and anthropogenic processes and every landscape is a representation of its history.

 Grading Scheme

Midterm* 30% > 90% A+ 70 – 72% B-
Final* 30% 85 – 89% A 67 – 69% C+
Presentation 20% 80 – 84% A- 63 – 66% C
Assignments 20% 77 – 79% B+ 60 – 62% C-
Total 100% 73 – 76% B 50 – 59% D
var. wt. +/- 5% < 50% F


There will be three to five relatively short practical exercises assigned throughout the course. They will include activities such as map and/or air photo, or using Google Earth to measure, quantify, and describe various landforms and/or landscapes discussed in class.

Tentative Course Outline

  1. Introduction
    • What is Geomorphology?
    • Historical vs. Process Oriented
    • Systems and Equilibrium
    • Complex Systems and Scale
  2. Basics Concepts
    • Equilibrium, Driving and Resisting Forces
    • Thresholds and Complex Responses
    • Linkages
    • Time
  3. Endogenic & Climatic Effects
    • Primary External Controls
    • Tectonic Geomorphology
    • Climatic Geomorphology
  4. Weathering and Soils
    • Physical & Chemical Weathering
    • Rates of Weathering
    • Basic Pedogenic Processes
    • Soil Horizons and Formation Factors
  5. Slope Stability and Mass Wasting
    • Forces Acting on a Slope
    • Types of Mass Wasting Events


  1. Fluvial Processes
    • Discharge, Laminar vs. Turbulent Flow
    • Slope, Friction, Roughness and Velocity
    • Erosion, Transport and Deposition
  2. – Fluvial Landforms
    • Drainage Basins and Drainage Patterns
    • Meandering vs. Braided Streams
    • Graded Alluvial Channels
    • Floodplains, Alluvial Fans, and Deltas
    • Stream Terraces
  3. Eolian Processes and Landforms
    • Entrainment and Transport
    • Erosional Landforms
    • Deposition, Dunes and Sand Sheets
  4. Glacial Processes
    • Types of Glaciers
    • Formation of Glacial Ice
    • Glacial Movement and Mass Balance
    • Erosion, Transport and Deposition
  5. Glacial Landforms
    • Erosional & Depositional Landforms
    • Stagnant Ice Landforms
    • Proglacial Lakes & Spillways
    • Pleistocene Deglaciation

Final Exam – Saturday, December 16th, 2 pm


 Each student will be required to give a 10-minute annotated poster presentation on a topic of their choice (approved by the instructor) or a topic selected from the list provided below. A topic sign-up sheet will be posted. There will be no duplication, however, it may be possible for students to work in groups of two.

  1. Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene History of Glacial Lakes Souris-Hind
  2. Paleochannels of the Assiniboine River
  3. Origin of the Brandon Hills
  4. Development of Large Meltwater Channels on the Northern Plains
  5. Glacial Lake Agassiz (Origin of, Beaches, Drainage, Deltas, etc. )
  6. Eolian Landscapes of the Canadian Prairies
  7. Origin of the Lauder Sand Hills, Carberry/Brandon/Sprucewoods Sandhills
  8. The Elbow of Capture on the Souris River
  9. Karst Landforms of Manitoba
  10. Channel Formation and Abandonment on the Assiniboine River
  11. Mass Wasting on the Manitoba Escarpment
  12. Periglacial Landscapes of the Hudson Bay Lowlands
  13. The Riding Mountain Uplands
  14. Terraces of the Assiniboine River
  15. Origin of Linear Striations in the Red River Valley
  16. Something on Types of Glacial Till
  17. Meandering vs. Braided Streams
  18. Geomorphic Systems and Equilibrium Theory
  19. Climatic Influences on Geomorphic Development
  20. Weathering and Soil Formation
  21. Anthropogenic Influences on Geomorphic Systems
  22. Hazards and Geomorphic Processes
  23. Where Do Streams Begin?
  24. Dating Techniques
  25. Geomorphic Cycles: a Review
  26. A Landform(s) in or around your hometown.
  27. Other selected topics from the textbook.
  28. One of the virtual fieldtrip stops.

 Microsoft Teams

In addition to the course website, I will use Microsoft Teams to manage the course. This includes distributing lecture notes prior to class, posting and receiving assignments, giving tests, and responding to questions outside of class time.  I will provide you with an access code and instructions on how to join our Geomorphology Team via your BU email prior to the first class.

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