Course Unit Page


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

Clean water and sanitation Climate Action

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

General understanding of the processes that shape and have shaped the Earth's surface and the main resulting landforms. Interpretation of topographic and geomorphological maps, including the ability to conduct basic QGIS operations and conduct mapping on Google Earth Imagery.

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 comply with COVID-related restrictions, students during the excursions will be subdivided in two separates groups.

Field Excursion 1 - OPTIONAL (8 hours)

TURNO UNICO: Friday October 22, 2021

Valmarecchia (Rimini): the San Leo landslide and the Marecchia River canyon. The excursion will focus on the interrelations between antropogenic activities and geomorphological processes, as well on the countermeasures taken for risk reduction and sustainable river sediment management.

Field Excursion 2 - MANDATORY (8 hours)

TURNO 1: Friday October 29, 2021

TURNO 2: Saturday October 30, 2021

Sillaro River valley (BO): 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 1 (20%)

Written final exam on topics dealt with in class and in the mandatory field excursion (45%)

Teaching tools

PC-based video projections

Office hours

See the website of Francesco Brardinoni