GEOG409-21S1 (C) Semester One 2021

Coasts and Rivers: from Natural Processes to Urban Environments

30 points

Start Date: Monday, 22 February 2021
End Date: Sunday, 27 June 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 7 March 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 14 May 2021


This course explores coastal and fluvial geomorphic processes and how they interact with urban environments. Understanding these processes is essential for effective resource and environmental management, as well as for building resilient settlements. Core topics will include river and coastal geomorphology; hydrology and hydrodynamics; flooding from coastal, fluvial and pluvial sources; catchment processes; river mouth environments; sea level rise; theoretical and numerical modelling; human use of coasts and rivers; and laboratory and research methods in coastal and river science. Examples will be drawn from New Zealand, the Pacific, and worldwide.

Dual research and applied focus:

GEOG409 exposes students to cutting edge research and its practical, every-day applications. By actively participating in this course, you will gain critical and applied skills relevant to professions in coastal, river and environmental science, management and engineering amongst other areas.
GEOG409 examines waterways and coasts from several different perspectives, including those that underpin the main lecturers’ research approaches:

• hazards and multi-hazards,
• multi-discipline and multi-environment studies,
• environmental and Earth Systems science,
• geomorphology, ecology, hydrology,
• coastal and river links to engineered systems,
• environmental management, consulting and, within the coastal and river spheres, ideas around ‘expert opinion’, ‘bought science’ and professional ethics.

Core topics vary each year in response to lecturer expertise, class interest and current events. Previous foci have included coastal hydrosystems, sea level rise assessment, catchment and coastal sediment systems, integrated catchment management, harbours, theoretical and numerical modelling, shoreline evolution, beach and river management, artificial and urban rivers and coasts, and tropical reefs. Case studies are typically drawn from New Zealand, the Pacific, and worldwide.

Learning Outcomes

  • For the environments explored during GEOG409, you will be expected to:
  • critically evaluate and synthesise scientific and environmental management frameworks,
  • formulate opinions and key questions about the current and likely-future effects of human-use of   physical systems and how to measure and monitor these, and
  • explore a diversity of solutions to environmental management challenges.

    The corresponding learning outcomes for this course will be both knowledge-oriented and skill-oriented. By successfully completing GEOG409, you should:
  • be able to describe and analyse the complexity of fluvial and coastal systems,
  • be able to evaluate theories about current and future human impacts on these environments and vice versa,
  • have awareness of, and your own opinions about, the scope and limitations of current institutional management frameworks for these environments in New Zealand and elsewhere,
  • gain experience in analysing, interpreting and solving complex environmental research and management problems, and
  • gain experience in conducting and presenting research to international standards.


Entry subject to approval of the Head of Department.



Timetable 2021

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 14:00 - 17:00 Rehua 530
22 Feb - 4 Apr
26 Apr - 6 Jun

Course Coordinator

Deirdre Hart


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Individual Literature Review 30%
Individual Project Poster Write-Up 40%
Group Project Presentation 15%
Group Proposal 15%

Each year we have a course project which focuses on some aspect of coastal and/or river hazards in Christchurch. For example, this might including looking at sea level rise adaptation, flooding and/or post-earthquake changes in Christchurch’s waterways, including enhanced flood hazards. The latter example illustrates a multi-hazard interaction between earthquakes and river systems, land surface geomorphology, engineered drainage systems, groundwater tables, tides, estuarine and beach processes (amongst other phenomenon). ‘Multi-hazards’ is a core concept examined in GEOG409 project work. Learnings drawn from Christchurch are (a) related to the many similar settlements built on low-lying coastal plains worldwide, and (b) are used to develop students’ skills in analysing environmental change and management systems at broader level beyond the boundaries of Christchurch rivers, coasts and multi-hazards.

For more information on the specific topic likely to be examined each year (we are always updating and refreshing!), talk to Deirdre. We look forward to seeing you in GEOG409!



1. I prefer to mainly study rivers [or coasts] – will there be scope to focus on my environment of preference in GEOG409?
Absolutely – we encourage and provide flexible opportunities for students to spend most of their GEOG409 efforts on their specific topics of interest, while making sure that everyone also gains some level of overview of the other topics in class.

2. Will I be at a disadvantage if I haven’t taken Chris’ or Deirdre’s 300-level papers?
No – as long as you bring some sort of relevant academic and/or professional background and passion, then you will thrive in GEOG409.

3. The course promises relevance to and interactions with industry and professionals – what will this look like?
In GEOG409 we carefully design the assessment exercises in collaboration with professionals and industry experts so that they provide both an academic and an applied experience. So the interaction has begun before your first class. Then we provide opportunities for you to speak and interact with these professionals through the course of your project work and, typically, an industry expert is there at the end of each project to hear about your results and provide you with feedback from their professional perspective. In recent years this has included experts from ECAN, DOC, CCC, environmental and engineering consultancy companies and/or community stakeholders.

4. What will the assessment be like?
We typically have one piece of assessment per term and often these are related so that one builds on the other. Each project usually has a written or ‘on paper’ (e.g. report, drawing design and analysis etc) component as well as a short in-class presentation.

5. Is there lab or fieldwork involved?
Usually yes to both – in 2015 we will aim to do some Christchurch flood field investigation and several laboratory exercises on aspects of rivers, coasts and research skills. We always try to tailor skills experiences and exercises like these to the levels of interest and ability present in the class each year.

6. Is GEOG409 mainly just for geographers?
Not at all – we typically have geographers, biologists, geologists, engineers, HAZM and ENVR students, plus occasionally law students, planners, chemists, physicists, and other environmental profession minded students present in any one year. This sort of spread fits well with the combined interests and expertise of Chris and Deirdre.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $2,066.00

* 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 GEOG409 Occurrences

  • GEOG409-21S1 (C) Semester One 2021