Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The aim of this course is to provide knowledge on process and Quaternary geomorphology, with a focus on mountain environments. The course examines aspects of sediment supply and sediment transfer, including hillslope-channel interactions, the role of hydro-meteorogical forcing on the intensity and typology geomorphic transport processes. It also deals with sediment management in the Anthropocene, including the impacts of in-channel engineering infrastructures and landcover changes. Sediment yield and sediment storage in natural and regulated systems are also discussed, as well as the role of Pleistocene glaciations on the present spatial organization of geomorphic processes and sediment fluxes. In this context, the course further examines dating landforms and constraining denudation rates at millennial time scales. The lab-based component introduces students to expert-based mapping of sediment sources and channel changes, as well as glacial and periglacial landforms on remotely-sensed images to build georeferenced databases for geo-hazard assessment. The field-based component illustrates techniques for field-based mapping, characterizing channel bed texture, as well as monitoring water and sediment fluxes. The discussion is fostered by a literature review on selected topics that will vary from year to year. Finally, analysis of data collected in the field is performed by groups of students, in peparation of a short technical report.

Course contents

The course is limited to a maximum of 12 students on a first come first serve basis. The only prerequisite is a demonstrated basic knowledge and experience with the software ArcGIS.


1. Introduction to mountain drainage basins

2. Colluvial sediment sources and the compilation of landslide inventories

3. Glacigenic deposits and the upland sediment cascade

4. Mountain stream channels and methods for monitoring sediment transport

5. Landscape sensitivity to change: the significance of hillslope-channel coupling and sediment connectivity

6. Fluvial environments and human-induced historical channel changes

7. Sites of sediment storage and geomorphic barriers

8. Geomorphic process domains in relation to landscape history

9. Climate change in high mountain environments: glacier retreat and permafrost degradation

10. Sediment yield and denudation rates: from contemporary to postglacial millennial time scales


Lecture notes and selected readings

Teaching methods

- Fieldwork activities

- Lectures and advanced GIS labs

- Discussion on selected sets of readings

Assessment methods

Group project on data collection and analysis (50%)

Individual oral presentation and discussion leadership on a selected set of readings (20%)

Open book, written final exam (30%)

Teaching tools

Power point presentations of lectures and GIS lab exercises

Office hours

See the website of Francesco Brardinoni