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The University of Southampton

GEOG3011 Arolla Fieldcourse: Geographical Research in Alpine Environments

Module Overview

To enable students to design efficient and effective field, modelling, laboratory and data analytical approaches to conducting research on a range of physical geographical problems, with a particular focus on Alpine environments

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To enable students to design efficient and effective field, modelling, laboratory and data analytical approaches to conducting research on a range of physical geographical problems, with a particular focus on Alpine environments.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explain the relative roles of physical and human processes in shaping Alpine landscapes
  • Collect, analyse and understand data in physical geography using laboratory and/or computer techniques
  • Understand the importance of data integrity, quality assurance and archiving in field and laboratory contexts
  • Use geographical science principles, theories and methods to design and undertake primary research of field phenomena in Alpine environments
  • Analyse and critically interpret primary and secondary geographical data
  • Structure conceptual and empirical geographical material into a reasoned argument
  • Understand past, present and future variability in fluvial, glacial and biogeographical Alpine environments, with in-depth competence and detailed knowledge of specific local (Swiss Alpine) contexts
  • Use a substantial range of analytical, modelling and observational strategies, with specific emphasis on geomorphological and ecological techniques
  • Develop a theoretical understanding and, acquire, analyse and interpret geographical data across a range of applications
  • Produce fluent and comprehensive written reports on complex topics
  • Give oral presentations that are clearly structured and sustain the interest of the audience
  • Use interpersonal skills in group activities, including project work in the field and laboratory
  • Plan and carry out an exacting piece of research in physical geography problems within the context of Alpine environments, and produce a report to a high standard
  • Conduct field and/or laboratory research with appropriate techniques, in a responsible and safe manner, paying due attention to risk assessment, rights of access, relevant health and safety regulations, and sensitivity to the impact of investigations on the environment and stakeholders


This module is designed for students whose main interest is in Physical Geography. The first component is a field course of 11 days duration, based at Arolla in the Swiss Alps, and at which training in a wide range of field techniques is provided (NOTE: the field course is held in the summer vacation between the second and third year). The second component, which runs back at Southampton during the first semester of the third year) builds upon the fieldwork and involves data analysis and write up work needed complete the project work at Southampton. This component focuses more on data analysis, simulation and interpretation. Students will learn how to integrate field data collection techniques with laboratory, statistical and or modelling analyses in order to develop an advanced understanding of the physical world.

Special Features

Field Trips – Money Matters In line with our policy of targeting financial support for field courses on core (i.e., compulsory)elements of the teaching programme, no financial support is offered in respect of the optional (Year 3) residential field courses. The charge for this trip covers only the direct costs of travel to and from Arolla, as well as the accommodation and subsistence expenses incurred, and the transportation of field equipment from the UK to Switzerland.

Learning and Teaching

Independent Study40
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Combined assessment methods 25%
Individual written project report 75%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: GEOG2039


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Travel Costs for placements

Students make their own way to Arolla (and must cover the cost of flights, trains or car share/petrol). (travel)

Arolla field course. The costs incurred on this 10 day trip, scheduled in August-September each year are associated with travel, accommodation and subsistence. Students stay as a group in a chalet to minimise accommodation/subsistence costs. These accommodation and subsistence costs vary with exchange rates and number of students attending but in the past have been between £400 and £600 per student. (fieldwork)

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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