Course Title: Geomorphology                          Course Number/Room: Geol 407 section 001 Room 3211

Instructor:    Jim Durbin                                Class Meets:            TR 9:00-10:15 AM   F 2:00-4:50 PM

Office:          Science Center Room 3211        Phone:                           (812) 465-1208 (office)


Web page:

Textbooks: I have formally assigned a textbook, which is available in the bookstore.  However, I understand that sometimes financial limitations constrain your choices. The following are textbook selections I recommend should you decide to purchase a textbook at substantially reduced costs from online resellers:

Geomorphology: A Systematic Analysis of Late Cenozoic Landforms (any edition) by Arthur Bloom, Waveland Press Publishers.

Introducing Geomorphology: A Guide to Landforms and Processes (any edition) by Adrian Harvey, Dunedin Academic Press Ltd

Geomorphology (any edition- last printing was in 1985) by Richard Chorley, Stanley A. Schumm and David E. Sugden, Routledge Kegan & Paul publishers

Process Geomorphology, (any edition) by D.F. Ritter, R.C. Kochel, and J.R. MIller, Wm. C. Brown Publ. Inc. (This is the one I have required)


All of the aforementioned choices are available as used books from a variety of online resellers, typically for less than $35 (including shipping).  In addition, many public and university libraries have them as well.

Course Objectives:  The primary goal of the course is to examine geomorphic systems and the processes that shape Earth’s landscapes.  This involves looking at and understanding the interaction of wind, water, ice and gravity with the surface materials of the Earth.  Topics include soils and paleosols, fluvial systems and landforms, glacial systems and landforms, eolian and arid region systems and landforms, coastal systems and landforms, and karst terranes. 

Structure of the Course: The course consists of lectures, lab, field trips, and a semester-long field-based research project.  The lecture will be broken down into various systems and the processes and landforms associated with them.  Labs will involve identifying the landforms that result from those processes, determining other geologic circumstances, as well as going out into the field to observe the features.

Exams and Lab assignments:

Exams- Participants in the class will be evaluated on 3 exams (2 normal exams and a comprehensive Final).  Exams are curved based on the highest score in the class, up to a maximum of 10%.  That person's score becomes 100% and the rest of the class gets adjusted up by the same amount.

Lab exercises- Labs will consist of exercises designed to support landforms and processes discussed in class.  In some instances, we will have more than one week to work on lab exercises.  Some labs will encompass working on recognition of features from maps and photos before going out into the field.

The Other BIG THING!

Students are required to do a semester long project involving geomorphology.  The nature of the topic can cover any subdiscipline within geomorphology including fluvial (rivers), pedology (soils), mass wasting, glaciers, karst, eolian (wind) etc.  I will talk about the project on the first day, and what I expect of you on the project. The final product will be a paper documenting the results of the group's project, and a presentation to the class (and anyone else who comes!) the final week of classes.  Included in the project paper will be an abstract, suitable for submittal to a meeting of the Geological Society of America.  There will be several mandatory field trips over the semester to examine localities that demonstrate geomorphic systems.  They are listed on the calendar web page for the class.

Point breakdown: I evaluate on a strictly adhered to scale (listed below).  All decimal points are rounded up to the next whole number regardless of the decimal (E.G., 76.00001 would be rounded up to 77). There is ample opportunity to acquire enough points over the semester to get a decent grade if you do the work.  Late assignments will be penalized 20% of the value per day it is late.  Assignments are due at the start of the period unless otherwise instructed.  You should keep track of what your grade is (points you have acquired thus far divided by the total number of points possible) and adjust your studying habits, class attendance, note-taking skills, and exam performance so that you can achieve a grade more in tune with the amount of effort you spend on the class.

Exams are curved up to 10% of the total points.  The curve is based on the high score being set at 100% with all other exams adjusted accordingly.  Grades are based on the points accumulated over term. the following table is the points breakdown for the course:

Assignments/ Tasks
Percent of
Total points
Exam 1
Exam 2
Final exam
Semester Long Research Project

  • Participation (25% of project)
  • Oral presentation (25% of project)
  • Final Report & Abstract (50% of project)

Field trip attendance


Total for course


The grading scale is based upon points accumulated over the term. The grading scale for the class is as follows:

Points Grade Points Grade
1000 - 900 A 759 - 700 C
899 - 860 B+ 699 - 660 D+
859 - 800 B 659 - 600 D
799 - 760 C+ 599 - 000 F

I do not mind students coming late to class.  I would prefer you to come in a little late than to not show up at all.  Try not to make a lot of noise when coming in late, and do NOT to make a habit of being late to or missing class.

I do not mind students eating or drinking in the classroom, provided the University doesn’t mind and you don’t make noises when unwrapping food items or finishing your drink.  If you know ahead of time that there is a conflict with an exam date, you must see me in advance to make arrangements as to when you will make up the exam.  If for any reason you miss an exam, you must see me to see if you will be allowed to make it up.  On exam days, anyone coming into the classroom more than 15 minutes late will be allowed to start the exam at that time, but will not be given extra time to complete the exam.  Make exams are at my discretion so you had better have a good reason to miss an exam.

I have scheduled office hours during the week, and I am available for meetings to discuss projects or other matters by appointment or any time I am in my office and the door is open.

ADA Statement:
If you have a disability that requires academic accommodations for this class, you must register with Disability Resources (DR- located in the Orr Center, Room 095) to qualify for accommodation assistance. Students who already have or are granted an accommodation letter from DR are encouraged to meet with course faculty to discuss the appropriate academic accommodations within the first two weeks of the term. Students are encouraged to meet with course faculty and remind them of their need for accommodations a few days before those accommodations are needed to ensure that they will be available. Students should schedule their exams in the DR offices, including the final exam, within the first few weeks of the semester, as space is limited and timing is critical.

Title IX statement:

USI does not tolerate acts of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and all forms of sexual violence.  If you have experienced sexual misconduct, or know someone who has, the University can help.  It is important to know that federal regulations and University policy require faculty to promptly report incidences of potential sexual misconduct known to them to the Title IX Coordinator to ensure that appropriate measures are taken and resources are made available. The University will work with you to protect your privacy by sharing information with only those who need to know to ensure we can respond and assist.  If you are seeking help and would like to speak to someone confidentially, you can make an appointment with a counselor in the University Counseling Center.  Find more information about sexual violence, including campus and community resources at

I reserve the right to alter the syllabus should the need arise.  I will notify the class of any changes.

last modified 8/26/2016