Fall 2023 - GEOG 412W D100

Glacial Processes and Environments (4)

Class Number: 3638

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Fri, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 12, 2023
    Tue, 12:00–3:00 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Jonathan Cripps
    Office: TBD
    Office Hours: TBD
  • Prerequisites:

    60 units, including GEOG 213; GEOG 313 and EASC 201 recommended



An examination of glacial processes and environments emphasizing landscapes and sediments resulting from the movement of ice, water, and sediment; application of field techniques. Writing.


Glacial ice covered most of Canada, and many other areas, during the last glacial period, around 20,000 years ago. This ice left behind a complex record of its extent, movement and decay in a huge variety of sediments and landforms. Using this landscape record, we can piece the glacial history together, and in doing so learn about the processes by which modern glaciers and ice sheets might change in response to changing climate.

This course examines the interactions between climate, glaciers and ice sheets, and the landscapes, landforms and sediments they produce, with particular attention on meltwater processes. We will explore the glacial history of Canada, and BC in particular. The course will also develop and test critical thinking, evidence-based reasoning, field research and scientific writing skills.

Course structure

  • Weekly 2-hour lecture, with additional 2-hour lectures for first 2 weeks.
  • 3 seminars/workshops to develop sedimentology, writing and mapping skills
  • Weekend (3-day) overnight field trip to Interior BC (Merritt, Clinton, Kamloops).            

Field trip details:

There is a mandatory 3-day field trip for this course over the weekend of September 22-24. Attendance of this trip is required, and leads to completion of the first written assignment. If you are unable to attend this trip, consider delaying taking this course. Your mandatory supplementary course fee covers part of the transportation costs for this trip. Additionally, students should expect to pay up to $100 to the Geography Department to cover transportation (partial) and accommodation costs; the fee will be confirmed in the first 2 weeks of classes. Students will be responsible for their own food costs throughout the trip. Expectations and considerations regarding safety, student conduct, required equipment, meals and accommodation will be discussed in class prior to trip. Be aware that during the field trip there will be periods of hiking, crossing roads and railroads, and working around sediment exposures; students must follow all instructions from teaching and support staff. Weather conditions will be highly variable; appropriate footwear and clothing must be worn. Students must at all times remain compliant with all student responsibilities, regulations, and policies as outlined in the current Academic Calendar, as well as relevant regulations and policies as outlined in the SFU Policy Gazette. This includes, but is not limited to, expected student conduct and the maintenance of appropriate medical insurance coverage. Students will sign a field activity plan to acknowledge the trip activities and risk, and an Assumption of Risk (waiver) form.


  • Writing Preparation: Produce a short piece of writing (c. 200 words) describing and interpreting a sediment section a short walk from SFU Burnaby campus. 5%
  • Assignment 1: Field Sedimentology*: Describe and interpret a sediment exposure visited on the field trip. Discuss your interpretations with regards to competing models of the deglaciation of the last ice sheet over BC. 20%
  • Assignment 2: Scientific Journalism*: Read and synthesise a scientific journal article and summarise the article for a general audience in the form of a piece of scientific journalism. Provide a short critical review of the article. 15%
  • Assignment 3: Remote Mapping*: Produce a geomorphic map of a small area of glacial landforms based on air photographs and/or LiDAR data. Summarise the glacial history of the area based on this mapped evidence. Provide some hypotheses and suggest some field research that could test your reconstruction. 20%
  • Final exam: 3-hour exam, comprising 20 multi-choice questions, choice of 5 from 10 short answer questions, and a long essay question. 40%
  • Extra Credit - Writing Improvement: You may be awarded a maximum of 5% additional marks for Assignment 3 based on your incorporation of comments and feedback provided in previous assignments to improve your academic writing. 5%
  • Extra Credit - Class/Field trip participation: Additional marks may be awarded for productive and enthusiastic participation in the course, including: contributions to discussions in class and on the field trip; engagement with group activities; respectful interactions with classmates. 5%


Completion of all major assignments (*) and the Final Exam is required for a passing grade. Failure to submit a reasonable attempt of any major assignments will result in an Incomplete (N) grade.

Your final grade (maximum 110/100%) will be the highest of:

                Assignments (60%) + Final Exam (40%) + Extra Credit (10%)

                Assignments (40%) + Final Exam (60%) + Extra Credit (10%)

Grade boundaries

A+: >90%             A: 85-89%            A-: 80-84%

B+: 77-79%          B: 73-76%            B-: 70-72%

C+: 67-69%          C: 63-66%            C-: 60-62%

D: 50-59%            Fail: < 50%

Late Submissions and Academic Dishonesty

Students are responsible for submitting work to posted deadlines. Short extensions for reasonable requested may be provided if discussed at least 24 hours in advance with the course instructor. Unexcused submissions after the posted deadline will receive a 10% penalty per day, or part thereof, up to a maximum of 5 days. Reasonable complete attempts at the assignment submitted after 5 days will receive a maximum 50% penalty. Incomplete or substandard attempts at the assignment submitted after 5 days may receive a mark of 0 and/or be counted as incomplete.

Students are responsible for upholding a high standard of academic integrity for all course submissions. Examples of academic dishonesty include plagiarism, collusion, resubmission, fabrication of data, uploading or downloading from homework sharing websites, use of notes in a closed-book examination, use of AI/LLM-generated responses, etc. Any examples of academic dishonesty will receive penalties as per SFU policy and procedure S 10.01. This may include warnings, being required to resubmit the assignment, reductions in assignment marks and/or failure of the assignment.



Required Materials

  • Access to CANVAS (SFU’s online learning management system) required for access to course material and submission of assignments.
  • PDF viewing software.
  • Access to Google Earth Pro (online or via desktop download) and/or GIS software (ArcMAP, QGIS; available for download from SFU website, or on SFU computers).


  • Some additional/supplementary lecture videos will be posted, requiring an internet-enabled device capable of viewing YouTube videos.


  • Warm, windproof, waterproof clothing and sturdy footwear
  • Waterproof or appropriately protected (e.g. Ziploc) notebook and pen/pencil
  • Camera or smartphone


Bennett, M.R. and Glasser, N.F. 2009. Glacial Geology: Ice Sheets and Landforms, 2nd Ed.  Wiley


Good introduction to fundamental concepts in the discipline. Lacks some detail, but sufficient for this course.

Alternative Textbook:

Benn, D.I. and Evans, D.J.A. 2010. Glaciers and Glaciation, 2nd Ed. Hodder Arnold

More detailed discussion across the whole field. Good introductions to all concepts with extra detail: useful for extending your knowledge and understanding beyond the course requirements.

Copies of both books are available in the Bennett Library; self-purchase is optional.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.