91449 - Geomorphology (8 CFU)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Geological Sciences (cod. 8015)

Learning outcomes

Students gain basic knowledge on the mechanisms of weathering, on the geomorphic processes that shape (or shaped) the Earth's surface, and the relevant derived landforms. Specifically, students are able to: - map the main landforms in the landscape and classify them according to the formative geomorphic processes; - perform quantitative field data collection and subsequent data analysis on the morphology, geometry and the surficial materials that compose hillslopes and stream channels; - establish basic causal linkages between hydro-meteorological forcing and geomorphic response; - recognize active and relict landforms in a given setting and put them in the wider context of landscape history; - evaluate the main impacts of (past and current) anthropogenic activities on present geomorphic dynamics.

Course contents


1. Introduction to Geomorphology; 2. Basics of cartography and the main topographic variables; 3. Feedback mechnisms between climate, tectonics and earth surface processes; 4. Physical weathering; 5. Chemical weathering; 6. Introduction to Hydrology; 7. Hillslope forms and processes (part 1); 8. Hillslope forms and processes (part 2); 9. Fluvial forms and processes (part 1); 10. Fluvial forms and processes (part 2); 11. Glacial forms and processes (part 1); 12: Glacial forms and processes (part 2). 13. Permaforst and periglacial environments; 14. Geomorphology of the Anthropocene: humans as dominant geomorphic agents.


To maximize practical learning experience in the field, excursion 2 will take place in two separate shifts on different days.

Field Excursion 1 - OPTIONAL (8 hours)

COMBINED SHIFT: from Sept 29 to Sept  30, 2023.

Students wishing to join the excursion MUST send confirmation of attendance via email no later than September 13, 2023.

Alta Valmalenco (Sondrio): glacial and periglacial forms and processes. Reading the Alpine landscape in a context of rapid climatic change. Implications for geohazard assessment and water management.

Field Excursion 2 - MANDATORY (8 hours)

SHIFT 1: Friday October 20, 2023

SHIFT 2: Friday October 27, 2023

Sillaro River valley (Bologna Metropolitan Area): hillslope and fluvial forms and processes in a drainage basin characterized by clay-rich lithologies. The excursion will entail field data collection and analysis. Students will work in groups of three. Subsequently, each group will prepare an oral presentation and a short written report.


Aerial photo and Google Earth image interpretation and mapping exercises (labs - 16 hours):

1. Introduction to basic operations; 2. Extraction of river long profiles and valley cross sections; 3. Image interpretation and mapping of two study areas: glaciated (Alps) vs. unglaciated (Apennines) settings; 4. Data export into QGIS; 5. In class exercise on mapping subjectivity followed by class discussion and the drafting of mapping guidelines.

QGIS labs (8 hours):

1. Introducing QGIS, plug-ins e main commands; 2. Digital mapping of hillslope and fluvial forms; 3. Automated extraction of fluvial long profiles and valley cross sections.


Readings and presentations posted online

Teaching methods

Lectures, Field excursions and Lab sessions

Assessment methods

Cartographic and Google Earth-based image interpretation assignments and oral discussion (35%)

Group report linked to field excursion 2 (25%)

Written final exam on topics dealt with in class and in the mandatory field excursion (40%)

Teaching tools

PC-based video projections

Office hours

See the website of Francesco Brardinoni


Clean water and sanitation Climate Action

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.