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Module DXX-2011:
Catchment Processes

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Morag McDonald

Overall aims and purpose

The hydrological cycle and how it affects natural catchments Controls upon river channel morphology and the dynamics of water and sediment transport within catchments Relationships between catchment characteristics, land use and land use changes and their effects on the catchment Principles of good, participatory catchment management and their application to temperate and tropical areas of the world

Course content

This module will provide a management-oriented understanding of the factors influencing the quality and quantity of soil and water resources. The hydrological cycle and water balance in catchments; rainfall/runoff relationships; catchment characteristics; catchment structure ¿ hillslope, channel & floodplain domains; sedimentation; the role of vegetation and land-use changes in catchment stability, hydrological processes and soil erosion; water quality; temperate and tropical catchment results and case studies; degrading processes in catchments; legislation and the Water Framework Directive.

Assessment Criteria


Grade D- to D+ Adequate knowledge of catchment management. A basic multidisciplinary approach of issues. Presentation of appropriate examples to illustrate effectiveness of organisations, techniques and policy tools. Structured, accurate and relevant account. Some quantification and basic level of critical evaluation expected.


Grade C- to B+ Clear understanding and thorough knowledge of catchment management, with evidence of reading and recent developments. Multidisciplinary issues emphasised, and thoroughly described with an appreciation of scale and time. Balanced review of success and failure. Thorough quantification and critical evaluation of case studies. High standard of presentation.


Grade A- and above Clear understanding, wide and thorough knowledge of catchment management. Evidence of substantial reading, and knowledge of recent developments of different geographical and temporal scales from around the world. Multidisciplinary issues with greater social, cultural and economic emphasis. Detailed quantification and explanation of derivations. Critical evaluation with well reasoned opinion. Elegant and flowing presentation, with flair for subject.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand the key processes and forms of the catchment system and its role within the hydrological cycle.

  2. Be able to describe the controls upon river channel morphology and the dynamics of water and sediment transport within catchments

  3. Appreciate the relationships between catchment characteristics, land use and land use changes and their effects on the catchment

  4. Understand the principles of good catchment management and their application to temperate and tropical areas of the world

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Channel morphology & hydrology report 0
River Habitat Survey report 0
Exam 50
Catchment delineation report 0
Office Use 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy


24 hours of lectures


3*4 hour field practical classes

Private study

Private and guided self-study


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.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • 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

  • Awareness of the concepts of spatial and temporal scale in understanding processes and relationships.
  • Appreciation of the reciprocal nature of human-environmental relationships.
  • Apply appropriate techniques for presenting spatial and/or temporal trends in data.
  • Preparation of effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: