at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.



at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.

site header

GEOL 106/3.0 Environmental Geology and Natural Hazards

Instructor:  Dr. Charu Sharma

Course Description

This course is an introduction to natural and man-made environmental phenomena which are regarded as hazards and catastrophes on a regional or larger scale. Understanding geological processes which underpin natural hazards will form the basis of this course.  Man-made changes to the environment, for example fracking, which cause their own hazards and sometimes amplify natural hazards, will be examined.  Hazards due to earthquakes, volcanoes, asteroids, tsunamis, landslides, subsidence, flooding, sea-level rise, fires, aridity, heating and cooling episodes, soil erosion, salinization, and extraction of mineral and hydrocarbon resources will be discussed.  By understanding the geological processes that trigger natural hazards, and man-made interference in the natural environment, the topics of climate change can be better understood.  This can enable better decision-making for mitigation, and for managing natural resources.

Expected Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, the students will:

  • Know the basic geological processes governing various natural hazards.
  • Identify the anthropogenic changes that cause environmental disturbances leading to hazards.
  • Know the key concepts of climate change.
  • Have a scientific basis for decision-making on and managing environmental hazards and natural resources.
Field Studies
  • Natural History Museum, Geology Wing: this wing displays a variety of natural hazards (included experiencing a simulated earthquake in a Japanese grocery store).
  • Cuckmere Haven, Seven Sisters Country Park (part of South Downs National Park): this trip will show how local authorities have come up with solutions to deal with sea-level rise along the coastline of southeast England.
Primary Research Expectations

The field study trip to Cuckmere Haven on the south coast of England will provide primary source data for students to interpret and write about in the form of a research report. The assignment on group presentation also provides an opportunity to access primary sources to research and prepare their presentation.

  • In-class presentation: 20%
  • Field Study 1 Report: 20%
  • Field Study 2 Report: 20%
  • Final Exam: 30%
  • Participation: 5%
  • Attendance: 5%