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USA Field Course

Module titleUSA Field Course
Module codeGEO3443
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Karen Anderson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This field course to the USA will tackle some of the biggest geographical, environmental science and social issues facing the world today. The module will be introduced through introductory lectures in term 3 of the second year, covering both practical details about the field course (health and safety and risk assessments, travel plans) and context to the key concepts behind the phenomena that you will discover on the field course. During the field course you will gain hands-on experience of some of the most iconic environments of the USA and carry out guided field exercises and research projects to investigate these environments. Upon return to Cornwall help sessions will be provided to give you support as you write up your research project.

When participating in field courses, you will be required to cover any visa costs and, if necessary, purchase anti-malarial medication and relevant immunisations. You will also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, eg. walking boots, rucksack, mosquito net, sleeping bag, binoculars. You may incur additional costs dependent upon the specific demands of the research project chosen. Details of specialist equipment, vaccinations and visas that you must supply at your own expense are provided at

Module aims - intentions of the module

Geography and environmental science are best learned through hands-on research in intellectually stimulating environments and this module places you in some of the most inspirational environments in North America. The aim of this module is to provide you with a hands-on in-depth exploration of how we can come to understand natural and social environments through introduction to advanced geographical field techniques and theories. The intention of this module therefore is to provide direct experience of field data collection and analysis prior to the challenges of your final year (research-led modules and data analysis during your dissertation). This will build on your learning in the first two years of your degree and act as a strong foundation for your final year. Taking as its basis knowledge in contemporary environmental and physical sciences and social and cultural theory, the module positions you in the ‘real-world’ to learn how physical and social landscapes are produced. The field course connects you with expert practitioners, and encourages you to embark on an integrated programme of intensive directed and independent fieldwork, testing different research techniques and undertaking small, self-contained research projects, with limited tutor guidance.

As well as providing context and real-life experiences to complement the rest of your degree programme and research project experience prior to the majority of your dissertation work, this field course will help you develop skills in data analysis and communication, team work, project planning and management which will be directly relevant to your future career. The module specifically addresses the growing demand from environmental sectors to foster awareness and training in the way people interact with natural and social world. Led by academics who are leaders in their field, the field course provides an opportunity to work on live projects in the field, testing your problem solving skills in applied contexts.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Apply, with limited guidance, selected theories, methodologies and techniques used in fieldwork in human and physical geography and environmental sciences
  • 2. Demonstrate advanced level knowledge and understanding of specific social and physical processes and conceptual approaches
  • 3. Describe, analyse and explain the results of lectures and seminars, and library research, practical fieldwork, and relate results to existing bodies of geographical knowledge
  • 4. Draw consistent arguments and conclusions based on the results of knowledge gained on the module
  • 5. Identify shortcomings in theories and fieldwork methodologies and suggest possible solutions
  • 6. Plan, design, execute and report on a short research project with limited guidance
  • 7. Collect, interpret, evaluate and combine different types of geographical evidence and information

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of environmental science or geography
  • 9. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 10. Identify and implement, with limited guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex problems in environmental science or geography
  • 11. With minimal guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within environmental science or geography

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 12. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 13. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 14. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data and complete a range of research-like tasks with very limited guidance
  • 15. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to graduate-level professional and practical skills, and act autonomously to develop new areas of skills as necessary
  • 16. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate personal achievements
  • 17. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (ie communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

In Stage 2 after the examinations, there will be introductory lectures on:

  • Introduction to the field trip and its aims
  • Itinerary and planning
  • Health and safety in fieldwork
  • Introduction to the field area and key concepts

Details of specific locations, activities, and content of the field trip, along with reading lists appropriate to each field trip, will be issued prior to the trips.

Field trip summer (August/September prior to term 1, final year)

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching96Delivery of an intensive field trip with practical hands-on activities each day, including data collection, data analysis and synthesis/discussion sessions, including evening seminars and project help sessions
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Help sessions for project write-up
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Fieldtrip preparation lectures
Guided independent study194Additional research, data handling, reading and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation planningA4 colour handoutAllBrief written
YNP poster planningGroup discussion and feedbackAllOral
SNARL or Santa Cruz project planningGroup discussion and feedbackAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation undertaken during the field trip (marked on individual contributions)20~10 minutes (2 minutes per group member)1-10, 12-14, 17Oral on the field trip
Poster30A31-16Written on feedback sheet
Project write-up502000 words1-14Written on feedback sheet


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentation undertaken during the field tripNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
PosterNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Project write-upProject write-up1-14August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The group presentation and poster are not deferrable because of their practical nature and the need to complete the assessment task within a group. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to re-submit the project write-up. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Whitney, T. 1985, Western Forests.
  • Starrs, P.F. and Goin, P. A, 2010. Field Guide to California Agriculture.
  • Carle, D. 2006. Introduction to Air in California.
  • Asmus, P. 2009. Introduction to Energy in California.
  • Carle, D. 2009. Introduction to Water in California.
  • Carle, D. 2008. Introduction to Fire in California.
  • Carle, D. 2010. Introduction to Earth, Soil, and Land in California.
  • Davidson, J. et al 2005. Emotional Geographies. Ashgate, Aldershot.
  • Davidson, J. and Milligan, C. 2004. Embodying emotion sensing space: introducing emotional geographies. Social and Cultural Geography 5, 523-32.
  • Eagleton, T. 2003. After Theory. Penguin, London.
  • Kolkmarson-Kall,L. 2009. A being of two leaves: On the founding significance of the lived body. In Bromseth, J., Folkmarson-Kall, L. and Mattsson, K. (eds) Body Claims. Uppsala University Press, Sweden. Chapter 5: pp.110-133.
  • Leyshon, M and Bull, J. 2011. The Bricolage of the Here. Social and Cultural Geography 12(2): 159-180.
  • MacKian, S. 2004. Mapping reflexive communities: visualizing the geographies of emotion. Social and Cultural Geography 5:4, 615-31.
  • Mels, T. (ed) 2004. Reanimating Places. Ashgate, Aldershot.
  • Mitchell, K. 2003. Monuments, Memorials and the Politics of Memory. Urban Geography, 24(5): 442-459.
  • Orbach, S. 2009. Bodies. Picador, London.
  • Rose, M. 2006. Gathering dreams of presence: a project for the cultural landscape. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24: 537-554.
  • Terkenli, T and d’Hauteserre, A-M (eds) 2006. Landscapes of a New Cultural Economy of Space. Springer, London.
  • Thrift, N. 2004. Intensities of feeling: towards a spatial politics of affect. Geogr. Ann. 86B(1): 57-78.
  • Tuan, Y. 2008. Human Goodness. University of Wisconsin Press, Wisconsin.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE page: (the ELE page includes links to e-resources (key journals, e-books and online materials), as well as relevant journal articles and practical information in support of the fieldtrip).

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Geography, environmental science, USA, fieldwork, research, environmental impact, volcanic, glacial, water, human geography, identity, place

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

GEO2447 Isles of Scilly Field Course and GEO2448 Research Methods in Geography, Environment and Society

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date