Fluvial Geomorphology

Fluvial Geomorphology - Syllabus

WATS 5150 - Syllabus

Catalog Description

This course focuses on an introduction to fluvial geomorphology through teaching students to read landscapes and riverscapes. Students will develop an appreciation of riverscape diversity, in which distinctive suites of physical and biotic processes (behavior) help shape the form and character of those landscapes. Weekend field trips are required.

Semester(s) Traditionally Offered Fall
Credits: 3.000 Credit hours
Levels: Graduate, Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Hybrid Face to Face Lecture
Cross-Listed As: WATS 6150/ GEO 5150/6150
Pre-requisites For Undergraduates: WATS 3600 (Geomorphology) and WATS 4490 (Small Watershed Hydrology).


Spring 2021 WATS 5150/6150

This course will typically be taught every Fall. However, the first revamped version of the class will be taught Spring 2021 (Fall 2021 will be skipped). Wheaton has a sabbatical planned for Fall 2022-2023. So, next planned for Fall 2023.


Regular Tuition. $150 Field Trip course fee.

Course Objectives

This is an introductory course in fluvial geomorphology. Geomorphology is the study of landforms and processes that shape them. Fluvial geomorphology is a sub-discipline that focuses on fluvial processes (i.e., shaped by water) and landforms. We call the part of the landscape in which fluvial processes dominate, riverscapes.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Confidently read any riverscape and be able to map its core characteristics.
  2. Differentiate influence of external controls (e.g., climate and catchment) vs. local controls on form and process.
  3. Apply principles of geomorphic analysis to a diversity of riverscapes.
  4. Recognize the primary controls on riverscape diversity, in which distinctive suites of physical and biotic processes (behavior) help shape the form and character of those landscapes.
  5. Understand how hydrologic processes, give rise to hydraulic processes, which in local riverscapes determine the rates, magnitudes and occurece of fluvial geomorphic proceses.
  6. Appreciate that topography is a quantitative record of landforms and apply morphometric analysis can be used to map and differentiate those landforms (i.e., geomorphic units).
  7. Gain an appreciation of how geomorphic processes of erosion, deposition transport and storage of sediment shape topography and create, maintain, sculpt and destroy distinctive landforms.
  8. Understand human impacts on riverscapes and fluvial forces.
  9. Recognize how geomorphic analysis is used in practice to help manage riverscapes.

Course Resources

Required and Optional Course Resources (e.g., textbook, safety equipment, etc.).

Course Textbook

Mandatory Text - A hard copy of the required text book is strongly suggested. You can view the text digitally through the library’s Ebook Central.

Fyirs & Brierley (2013)

Fryirs KA, Brierley GA. 2013. Geomorphic Analysis of River Systems: An Approach to Reading the Landscape, First Edition. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.: Chichester, U.K.

To view through the library by Chapter:

See also the Student Companion website for the book.

Brierley & Fryirs (2005) - Optional

This is the so-called “River-Styles” text book and is a helpful follow up reference (not required)

Course Requirements

Each student will:

  1. Requirement

Evaluation Methods and Criteria

(e.g., exams, presentations, papers, performances, etc.)

Grade Scheme

The following grading standards will be used in this class:

Grade Range
A 100 % to 93.0%
A- < 93.0 % to 90.0%
B+ < 90.0 % to 87.0%
B < 87.0 % to 83.0%
B- < 83.0 % to 80.0%
C+ < 80.0 % to 77.0%
C < 77.0 % to 73.0%
C- < 73.0 % to 70.0%
D+ < 70.0 % to 67.0%
D < 67.0 % to 60.0%
F < 59.0 % to 0.0%

Course Schedule/Outline

Outline dates and assignments

Attendance and Excused Absences Policy

Insert course policy content here.

Library Services

All USU students attending classes in Logan, at our Regional Campuses, or online can access all databases, e-journals, and e-books regardless of location. Additionally, the library will mail printed books to students, at no charge to them. Students can also borrow books from any Utah academic library. Take advantage of all library services and learn more at libguides.usu.edu/rc. (Links to an external site.)

Classroom Civility

Utah State University supports the principle of freedom of expression for both faculty and students. The University respects the rights of faculty to teach and students to learn. Maintenance of these rights requires classroom conditions that do not impede the learning process. Disruptive classroom behavior will not be tolerated. An individual engaging in such behavior may be subject to disciplinary action. Read Student Code Article V Section V-3 (Links to an external site.) for more information.

University Policies & Procedures

COVID-19 Classroom Protocols

In order to continue to provide a high standard of instruction at USU, and to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic, students are asked to follow certain classroom protocols during the fall 2020 semester. These protocols are in place not only for your safety but also the safety of the rest of the campus community. You will be asked to clean your desk area at the start of each class, sit in designated seats, wear face coverings, and follow dismission instructions. There may be individual medical circumstances that prevent some students from using face coverings. These circumstances will be rare, but if they do exist, we ask that everyone be respectful. It is imperative that we each do our part so that on-campus instruction can continue.

Academic Freedom and Professional Responsibilities

Academic freedom is the right to teach, study, discuss, investigate, discover, create, and publish freely. Academic freedom protects the rights of faculty members in teaching and of students in learning. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Faculty members are entitled to full freedom in teaching, research, and creative activities, subject to the limitations imposed by professional responsibility. Faculty Code Policy #403 (Links to an external site.) further defines academic freedom and professional responsibilities.

Academic Integrity – “The Honor System”

Each student has the right and duty to pursue his or her academic experience free of dishonesty. To enhance the learning environment at Utah State University and to develop student academic integrity, each student agrees to the following Honor Pledge: “I pledge, on my honor, to conduct myself with the foremost level of academic integrity.” A student who lives by the Honor Pledge is a student who does more than not cheat, falsify, or plagiarize. A student who lives by the Honor Pledge:

  • Espouses academic integrity as an underlying and essential principle of the Utah State University community;
  • Understands that each act of academic dishonesty devalues every degree that is awarded by this institution; and
  • Is a welcomed and valued member of Utah State University.

Academic Dishonesty

The instructor of this course will take appropriate actions in response to Academic Dishonesty, as defined the University’s Student Code. Acts of academic dishonesty include but are not limited to:

  • Cheating

    using, attempting to use, or providing others with any unauthorized assistance in taking quizzes, tests, examinations, or in any other academic exercise or activity. Unauthorized assistance includes:

    • Working in a group when the instructor has designated that the quiz, test, examination, or any other academic exercise or activity be done “individually;”
    • Depending on the aid of sources beyond those authorized by the instructor in writing papers, preparing reports, solving problems, or carrying out other assignments;
    • Substituting for another student, or permitting another student to substitute for oneself, in taking an examination or preparing academic work;
    • Acquiring tests or other academic material belonging to a faculty member, staff member, or another student without express permission;
    • Continuing to write after time has been called on a quiz, test, examination, or any other academic exercise or activity;
    • Submitting substantially the same work for credit in more than one class, except with prior approval of the instructor; or engaging in any form of research fraud.
  • Falsification: altering or fabricating any information or citation in an academic exercise or activity.

  • Plagiarism: representing, by paraphrase or direct quotation, the published or unpublished work of another person as one‘s own in any academic exercise or activity without full and clear acknowledgment. It also includes using materials prepared by another person or by an agency engaged in the sale of term papers or other academic materials.

For additional information go to: ARTICLE VI. University Regulations Regarding Academic Integrity (Links to an external site.)

Sexual Harassment/Title IX

Utah State University is committed to creating and maintaining an environment free from acts of sexual misconduct and discrimination and to fostering respect and dignity for all members of the USU community. Title IX and USU Policy 339 (Links to an external site.) address sexual harassment in the workplace and academic setting.

The university responds promptly upon learning of any form of possible discrimination or sexual misconduct. Any individual may contact USU’s Office of Equity (Links to an external site.) for available options and resources or clarification. The university has established a complaint procedure to handle all types of discrimination complaints, including sexual harassment (USU Policy 305 (Links to an external site.)), and has designated the Office of Equity Director/Title IX Coordinator as the official responsible for receiving and investigating complaints of sexual harassment.

Withdrawal Policy and “I” Grade Policy

Students are required to complete all courses for which they are registered by the end of the semester. In some cases, a student may be unable to complete all of the coursework because of extenuating circumstances, but not due to poor performance or to retain financial aid. The term ‘extenuating’ circumstances includes: (1) incapacitating illness which prevents a student from attending classes for a minimum period of two weeks, (2) a death in the immediate family, (3) financial responsibilities requiring a student to alter a work schedule to secure employment, (4) change in work schedule as required by an employer, or (5) other emergencies deemed appropriate by the instructor.

Students with Disabilities

USU welcomes students with disabilities. If you have, or suspect you may have, a physical, mental health, or learning disability that may require accommodations in this course, please contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) (Links to an external site.) as early in the semester as possible (University Inn # 101, (435) 797‐2444, drc@usu.edu). All disability related accommodations must be approved by the DRC. Once approved, the DRC will coordinate with faculty to provide accommodations.

Diversity Statement

Regardless of intent, careless or ill-informed remarks can be offensive and hurtful to others and detract from the learning climate. If you feel uncomfortable in a classroom due to offensive language or actions by an instructor or student(s) regarding ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, contact:

You can learn about your student rights by visiting: The Code of Policies and Procedures for Students at Utah State University: https://studentconduct.usu.edu/studentcode (Links to an external site.)

Grievance Process

Students who feel they have been unfairly treated may file a grievance through the channels and procedures described in the Student Code: Article VII (Links to an external site.).

Full details for USU Academic Policies and Procedures can be found at:

Emergency Procedures

In the case of a drill or real emergency, classes will be notified to evacuate the building by the sound of the fire/emergency alarm system or by a building representative. In the event of a disaster that may interfere with either notification, evacuate as the situation dictates (i.e., in an earthquake when shaking ceases or immediately when a fire is discovered). Turn off computers and take any personal items with you. Elevators should not be used; instead, use the closest stairs.

Mental Health

Mental health is critically important for the success of USU students. As a student, you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. Utah State University provides free services for students to assist them with addressing these and other concerns. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) (Links to an external site.).

Students are also encouraged to download the “SafeUT App” (Links to an external site.) to their smartphones. The SafeUT application is a 24/7 statewide crisis text and tip service that provides real-time crisis intervention to students through texting and a confidential tip program that can help anyone with emotional crises, bullying, relationship problems, mental health, or suicide related issues