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Module DXX-3018:
Rivers, Coast and Oceans

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Lynda Yorke

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To provide a foundation and conceptual framework in which to understand fluvial, coastal and deep marine environments, including intrinsic and extrinsic processes operating within such systems.
  2. To understand the main hydrodynamic and sedimentary processes operating within and characterising the channel, floodplain, coastal and marine environments.
  3. To provide an overview of the external (climate change, human activity, tectonics and base-level change) and internal controls on river systems and examine the associated river responses at a range of spatial and temporal scales.
  4. To present the climatic and oceanographic controls on open coast and deep sea sediments and sedimentary environments.
  5. To introduce students to the current debates and literature in this field and discuss the relevant application to present-day management of fluvial and marine environments.

Course content

This module takes a catchment to marine basin approach, focusing on riverine, coastal and deep marine environments. The module will provide a foundation and conceptual framework in which to understand river and marine systems, environmental change and geochronologies. Response to climate change, human activity, tectonics and base-level change during the Quaternary will be explored, along with developing an understanding of both intrinsic and extrinsic processes operating within these different but connected environments. The module will examine sediments within these environments, which are important components of key dynamic, biogeochemical and ecological systems, and have major socio-economic significance. This module examines the origin, controls, and processes that determine the properties, transport and deposition of sediments in rivers, shallow water environments (e.g. beaches, barriers, deltas, tidal flats), continental shelf and slope environments, and the deep ocean basins. The module will take both an applied and scholarly approach to the subject, introducing the students to the current debates and literature in the field.

Major themes covered

Foundation and Framework: Equilibrium, thresholds, transition, complexity, and response. External/Intrinsic Drivers (Base level change, Climate, Tectonics, Humans).

Fluvial Environments: Single (meandering) and multi-thread (braided, wandering) channels Alluvial channels, bars and floodplains Facies, sedimentary sequences, and subenvironments Importance of rivers to marine environment Cable Bay as natural laboratory Pilcomayo case study & Ebro/Rhone/Var case study

Alluvial Histories: River response to environmental change Quaternary fluvial history

Beach Environments: The coastal morphodynamic system Coastal classification: transgressive/progressive; wave/tide dominated Coastal barrier systems and the shoreface Beaches: classification, wave-driven currents, morphology, engineering applications Tidal flats

Deltaic Environments: Classification: wave/fluvial dominance Stratigraphy Continental shelf : Classification: tide/wave/storm dominated Morphological features Sediment budgets

Shelf edge and Deep Marine Environments: Processes, facies, sedimentary sequences, and subenvironments Density cascading Sediment gravity flows Submarine fans and channels and hydrocarbons Contourite drifts Pelagic and hemipelagic sedimentation

Assessment Criteria


Grade D- to C+:

Adequate knowledge of the key concepts. Presentation of appropriate examples to illustrate elements of the directly taught programme. Basic ability to describe and explain the core subject matter. Little evidence of reading beyond the taught material. Some understanding of the multidisciplinary subject matter, with a basic level of critical evaluation.


Grade B- to B+:

Clear understanding and thorough knowledge of the key concepts, with evidence of reading around the subject. Good ability to integrate the multidisciplinary subject matter. Good understanding and ability to critically evaluate the subject matter. High standard of presentation.


Grade A- to A**:

Excellent understanding, wide and thorough knowledge of the key concepts. Evidence of significant wider reading, with appreciation of recent research developments and creative potential to develop research ideas. Excellent ability to integrate multidisciplinary subject matter. Detailed understanding and explanation of concepts and principles. Critical evaluation, with well-reasoned opinion. Elegant and flowing presentation, with flair for the subject.

Learning outcomes

  1. Explain the features of ancient and modern braided and meandering river systems and sedimentary sequences.

  2. Understand the long-term dynamics of river systems and the controls operating within fluvial systems, and be able to comprehensively discuss how these condition river response to environmental change.

  3. Demonstrate knowledge of the key concepts governing fluvial behaviour in a catchment. Understand the concepts and principles which govern marine sedimentary environments (ES

  4. Understand how an interdisciplinary approach is needed to understand the nature of sediment deposits (ES

  5. Synthesise and summarise interdisciplinary information critically (ES, and critically analyse the literature.

  6. Reconstruct ancient sediment environments using data gathered through field observation

  7. Understand physical and key biological controls of sedimentation in coastal and shelf seas, and deep sea environments, and the temporal and spatial scales of variation, and anthropogenic impacts (ES

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Numerical problem sheet and write-up Task 20
Online Test 20
Graduate-level Task 40
Short answer Question 20

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Students will undertake both direct learning and private study so that they engage with the core literature. Students should use some of the time to perpare for workshops, practicals and assessments.


Lecture-based learning to deliver the core concepts and theories in this subject.


Drop-in workshop sessions to help address any problems with learning or assessments within the module.


2 day field course to the Aberystwyth area to take a source to sink approach, and ancient to comptemporary viewpoint in terms of rivers, coasts and oceans.

Practical classes and workshops

Practical sessions to work on key aspects of the module.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Awareness of the concepts of spatial and temporal scale in understanding processes and relationships.
  • Apply appropriate techniques for presenting spatial and/or temporal trends in data.
  • Preparation of effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation


Resource implications for students

Students are not expected to purchase any of the texts.

Reading list

The majority of the reading for this module is journal-based, but to provide some useful background the following texts are suggested:

Benito, G., Baker, V.R., Gregory, K.J., 1998. Palaeohydrology and Environmental Change. Wiley, Chichester. Bridge, J.S. 2003. Rivers and Floodplains: forms, processes and sedimentary record. Blackwell, Oxford. Charlton, R. 2008. Fundamentals of Fluvial Geomorphology. Routledge, London. Dronkers J.J., 2005. Dynamics of coastal systems, Hackensack, N.J.: World Scientific. Gregory, K.J., Benito, G. 2004. Palaeohydrology: understanding global change. Wiley, Chichester. Gregory, K.J., Starkek, L., Baker, V.R., 1995. Global Continental Palaeohydrology. Wiley, Chichester. Haslett, S.K. 2008. Coastal systems, New York, NY: Routledge. Leeder, M., 2011. Sedimentology and sedimentary basins: from turbulence to tectonics. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester. Masselink G. & Gehrels W.R. eds., 2014. Coastal environments and global change, Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Masselink G., Hughes M.G. & Knight J., 2011. Introduction to coastal processes & geomorphology, London: Hodder Education. Miall, A.D. 1996. The Geology of fluvial deposits: Sedimentary Facies, Basin Analysis, and Petroleum Geology. Springer, Switzerland. Miall, A.D., 2013. Fluvial Depositonal Systems. Springer, Switzerland. Reading, H.G. 1996. Sedimentary Environments: Processes, Facies and Stratigraphy. Blackwell, Oxford.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: