GEOG311-18S1 (C) Semester One 2018

Coastal Studies

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 February 2018
End Date: Sunday, 24 June 2018
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 2 March 2018
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 18 May 2018


This course is aimed at those wanting to work in the fields of coastal/environmental science, resource and hazard management and coastal/environmental engineering, as well as at anyone with an interest in the coast. Students with a wide variety of backgrounds and diverse skills and perspectives are welcome in the course. GEOG311 explores the processes responsible for change in coastal environments and the development of coastal landforms in New Zealand, the Pacific and worldwide. Topics examined include waves, currents, sea levels, sediments, beaches, wetlands, tropical reefs and human interactions with the coast. Students will gain an understanding of conceptual and computational models of the coastal zone, along with practice in the field and laboratory techniques used in coastal zone investigation. As the course explores both the processes operating in different coastal environments and coastal management themes, there will be direct industry involvement with ECAN, CCC and NIWA. There will be a compulsory one-day fieldtrip on which you will have the opportunity to measure waves, currents and profiles, and to collect sediment and ecological data to analyse in labs, plus an essay and exam.

This course is aimed at anyone wanting to work in the fields of Earth or environmental science in a city, settlement or country that has a coastal fringe or substantial lake shore. It is also of use to anyone wishing to work in resource and hazard management; or in coastal or environmental engineering, planning or law professions; as well as to anyone who is simply interested in, and likes, coasts. Students from a wide range of backgrounds (GEOG, ENVR, GEOL, BIOL, ENGR, LAWS etc) typically enjoy and thrive in this class, bringing a diversity of skills and perspectives into what we study and learn. Graduates of coastal studies from Canterbury occupy many directly relevant professional positions, in central and local government hazard and environment management, in engineering and environmental consultancies, in technical and research posts, and may other areas.

The main aims of GEOG311 are to:
• develop a sound understanding of the coast as a biophysical system,
• develop an ability to apply the principles of coastal processes to analyse and interpret physical coastal environments and human issues relating to them, and
• develop knowledge and skills that are relevant to the career streams of coastal science, consultancy, planning and management.

This course is organised into four coastal studies sections:

1. INTRODUCTION – background and applications of coastal science, 21st Century global coastal challenges and ways towards solutions

2. HYDRODYNAMIC PROCESSES –water levels, waves, nearshore currents

3. COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS – sand to gravelly beaches and river mouths, tropical reefs

4. COASTAL MANAGEMENT – goals, methods, legal frameworks, hazard and management options

Learning Outcomes

  • The intended learning outcomes for this course are both knowledge-oriented and skill-oriented, and relate to the course aims. By successfully completing this course, you should gain:

  • understanding of the coast as a complex, biophysical system,
  • awareness of human impacts on various coastal environments and vice versa,
  • experience in analysing, interpreting and solving complex problems in coastal environments,
  • experience in conducting research and writing to international standards.

    Course Fieldtrip
    The aims of the course one day fieldtrip are: (a) to gather data and observations to enable you to complete analysis labs on New Brighton beach, and (b) to gain experience in coastal fieldwork, including the skills necessary to sample sediment, conduct ecological and topographic surveys, and think critically and analytically on your feet in the field. Throughout the day assistance will be provided by GEOG staff – but the purpose of the trip is for you to gain experience in doing fieldwork. In addition to planning and preparation, two of the most important skills you will learn as a fieldworker are (1) to make good, perceptive decisions about how to conduct fieldwork on your feet as you go and (2) to record your observations and experiments clearly.

    Check out hourly images of the field location on one of New Zealand’s many useful (yes scientifically and for management!) Beach Cams or predict the tides for our trip and get a surf forecast
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.


30 points of 200-level Geography, including GEOG201, or
in special cases with approval of the Head of Department.

Course Coordinator

Deirdre Hart

New Zealand Coastal Society
The New Zealand Coastal Society (NZCS) comprises over 400 coastal professionals, including representatives from central, regional and local government; tourism and port industry representatives; crown research institute scientists; planners; engineers; environmental scientists and consultants; academics; students; and others involved with coastal education and research. We are an affiliate group of the Institute of Professional Engineers (IPENZ).

Student membership of the society is free and we strongly recommend you join while still a student if you are thinking about a career in environmental science, consulting or similar (i.e. try before you buy). Take a look at the web site including the conference page and sign up as a free student member. This gets you a newsletter, email digests with coastal news and job advertisements, and discounted conference registration.

The society holds an annual conference towards the end of the year, which, if you wish to work in the field of coastal science or management, is worth attending for information-sharing and job-networking purposes. Anyone in GEOG311 who is interested in attending and presenting at the annual conference (usually held in mid November) should talk to Deirdre about funding possibilities.

Coastal grants, prizes, scholarships
In addition to the awards open to all geographers or UC students, there are several specifically for coastal students. Details of these will be provided in the GEOG311 course handout. Some apply to undergrad coastal students (e.g. best 3rd year student award and conference travel grants) and others are for graduate studies (e.g. MSc scholarships).

Textbooks / Resources

Recommended Reading

Komar, Paul D; Beach processes and sedimentation; 2nd ed; Prentice Hall, 1998.

Masselink, Gerhard. , Hughes, Michael G., Knight, Jasper; Introduction to coastal processes & geomorphology; 2nd ed; Hodder Education, 2011.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Coastal Engineering Manual; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington D.C, 2002.

Woodroffe, C. D; Coasts : form, process, and evolution; Cambridge University Press, 2003.

One reading per week will be provided online on Learn from a selection of the four texts above, from management documents or from journals. If you wish to purchase a text book as a reference, those above offer different options depending on your particular areas of coastal interest (some are more or less mathematical, and more or less biological, but all have good geomorphic and process sections).

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $834.00

International fee $3,788.00

* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.

For further information see School of Earth and Environment on the department and colleges page.

All GEOG311 Occurrences

  • GEOG311-18S1 (C) Semester One 2018