Physical Geography Iceland Field Trip

Module titlePhysical Geography Iceland Field Trip
Module codeGEO2307A
Academic year2017/8
Module staff

Dr Alastair Graham (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The physical geography field trip is an essential part of the Physical Geography degree programme at Exeter. The Iceland field trip provides an opportunity for you to develop and apply your research skills in a real world environment. Lying at the edge of the Arctic Circle, Iceland presents a unique environment in which to study geomorphology and past climate change.  Its position at 60o North on the Mid Atlantic Ridge in the North Atlantic Ocean has led to the development of a spectacular landscape which records contemporary and ongoing glacial, volcanic and fluvial processes. This field trip focuses on these processes at field localities in the southeast of Iceland at the edge of the Vatnajökull Ice Cap.

It normally consists of two main parts:

  • Pre-trip preparation: this involves a mix of lectures, group presentations and self-directed study that provide you with the necessary background information and data to successfully undertake the field class.
  • The trip itself lasts six full days (plus travel) and consists of a mix of staff-led days and student project days.

Content on the trip will assume some knowledge of material in GEO2228 Cold Climate Geomorphology and you will benefit from having done this module.

The trip will involve walking up to several kilometres a day over uneven ground, so a minimum level of fitness is required. The weather can be expected to be wet and very cold, so suitable clothing and footwear is required.

Geography FCH students may elect to take this module if they are taking 60 or more credits in Geography at stage 2 including GEO2330 Research Methods for Physical Geography (15 credits) and GEO2331 Research Design in Physical Geography (15 credits). If a trip is oversubscribed priority will be given to students based on Stage 1 grades, priority to students for which GEO2307 is a compulsory module and availability of other trips.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The field trip has the following main aims:

  • To provide you with an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained through lecture-based modules to field-based geographical study
  • To enable you to acquire skills in measurement techniques and research design.
  • To help you to develop and extend your awareness of the importance of taught, learnt and observational skills, in strengthening employability potential.
  • To develop transferable skills, including effective communication, time management, presentation skills.
  • To give you further preparatory training for undertaking your dissertation (GEO3321/GEO3322), especially in experimental design and execution of a research project.
  • To conduct a complete research project from start to finish (developing numerous skills including, project planning, management, data analysis).

The field aspects of the module aim to develop the following graduate attributes:

  • Leadership and group co-ordination through team-based field research
  • Confidence in assessing the robustness of scientific evidence and in generating and delivering verbal presentations
  • Problem-solving through quantitative data collection and analysis
  • Critical assessment of appropriate methods for scientific data collection and processing.

The teaching contributions on this module involve elements of research undertaken by the module convenor, such as work on glacial sediments, landforms, and reconstructions of glacier change through time.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe selected field-based methodologies and techniques used in collecting, analysing and presenting geographical information within the specific context of field based geographical research, and apply these with limited guidance
  • 2. Identify, formulate and evaluate questions or problems
  • 3. Design, execute and report on a short research project (with due consideration of safety and risk assessment)
  • 4. Discuss specific case studies and examples relevant to specific themes relating to the field class
  • 5. Describe and explain the results of practical fieldwork and relate results to existing bodies of geographical knowledge
  • 6. Apply, interpret and use with limited guidance numerical and statistical (geographical) information
  • 7. Take a systematic approach to accuracy, precision and uncertainty

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 8. Identify a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding
  • 9. Apply geographical concepts in different situations
  • 10. Outline the nature of change within physical environments
  • 11. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments
  • 12. Explain the significance of spatial relationships as influences upon physical environments

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 13. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written, oral and visual means
  • 14. Use technologies effectively and appropriately and with limited guidance to select, analyse, present and communicate geographical information
  • 15. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment
  • 16. Work as a participant and leader of a group and contribute effectively to the achievement of objectives
  • 17. Reflect on the process of learning and evaluate personal strengths and weaknesses

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The trip will visit Vatnajokull in southeast Iceland. The syllabus will be delivered in a series of site visits and field lectures. You will have 1.5 days to conduct an independent group project. Topics covered by this module include:

  • Glacial geomorphology
  • Glacial outburst floods (jökulhlaups) and drainage
  • Global positioning systems,
  • Relative dating techniques (lichenometry and Schmidt hammer analysis)
  • Sedimentology
  • Volcanology

Details of specific locations, activities, and content of the fieldtrips will be issued during the previous semester.

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 Teaching5Preparatory lecture sessions – background and group presentations
Scheduled Learning and Teaching54Field trip – directed learning in the field and small group projects, evening discussion, analysis sessions, group discussions, student-led presentations
Guided Independent Study91Reading, research and completing coursework


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation 1 on the fieldtrip, presenting your research aims and methods10 minutesAllOral
Group presentation 2 on the fieldtrip, presenting your findings allowing you to receive feedback before writing your reports20 minutesAllOral

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 presentation2510 minute presentation plus 5 minutes for questionsAllWritten and oral
Individual field report752000 words1-15, 17Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentationSubmit a powerpoint (15 slides) presentation and office hour discussion1-15, 17August Ref/Def
Individual field reportIndividual essay (2000 words)1-15, 17August 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 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 submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Reading lists appropriate to each field trip will be issued during the previous term.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Field trip

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites

GEO2330 Research Methods for Physical Geography and GEO2331 Research Design in Physical Geography

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date