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Degrees & Courses

Undergraduate Courses

First Year Courses

GEO 1009F - Introduction to Earth & Environmental Sciences

Course outline:This course deals with the fundamental physical environmental elements of the earth and demonstrates the important relationships between the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. Topics covered include: Structure and dynamics of the Earth; stratigraphy and geological history; climatology; surface processes and evolution of landscapes; biogeography; humans and the environment. An integrated view of the earth system is presented and there is a strong practical skills element that includes both laboratory and fieldwork.

Entrance requirements: Matric Physical Science or Geography on Higher Grade, or an 'A' on Standard Grade. Preference will be given to students registered in the Science Faculty.

Field work: Students are required to attend two 1-day excursions in the Cape Peninsula.
Lectures: Five lectures per week, Monday to Friday, 2nd period.
Practicals: One practical per week, Tuesday 14h00 to 17h00. The practical from week 1 and week 2 can be found here.
DP requirements: An average of 30% on all marked classwork and tests
Examination requirements: Marked class work counts 25%; one 3-hour theory examination written in June counts 45%; one 3-hour practical examination written in June counts 30%. Subminima of 40% are required for practical and theory examination papers.
EGS1003S - Human Geography

Course outline: The course draws together political, economic and environmental analyses at macro-, meso- and microscales to consider the question: why, despite an intensive focus on development, has inequality increased at all scales?

The course introduces students to development and environment debates in geography, by exploring the geography of third world development, focusing on the historical roots and spatial patterns that underpin development. The course does not adopt a chronological perspective, but uses key geographical and development concepts to examine select periods, events and processes of developmental and environmental change. Concepts of scale and spatial development are particularly important and used at a variety of levels - local and global, micro and macro, urban and rural, intra-regional and inter-regional, national and international - throughout the course. Practical, fieldwork and tutorial work plays an integral role, following the thematic direction of the lectures. The course is divided into three sections that explore: the global economic environment, regional dynamics of development, and the micro interface of development and environment at local scales.

Lectures: Five lectures per week, Monday to Friday, 2nd period 
Practicals: One practical per week, Monday or Tuesday or Thursday, 14h00-17h00 
DP requirements: Attendance and satisfactory completion of practical assignments 
Examination requirements: Essays, tests practical assignments and tutorial work count 40%; one 3-hour theory paper written in June counts 60% (subminimum of 40% required). 


Second Year Courses

EGS2013F - The Physical Environment

Course outline:

Part 1) Global Earth Surface Dynamics 
The first section of this course aims to generate a global appreciation of contemporary terrestrial environments. Students are introduced to gradual changing surface dynamics which shape the polar, arid and tropical regions. Particular focus is placed on the role of water in soil formation and other land surface processes. In order to provide a global and dynamic overview a basic introduction to earth observation satellites and data is required. 

Part 2) The Climate System 
The second section of the course will introduce the worlds major climate regions and examine in detail the topics of atmospheric circulation and climate variability with focus on the following themes: Global circulation patterns, large scale weather systems, regional scale systems and local scale controls, Milankovitch cycles, millennial, centennial, inter-annual and decadal variability, The Little Ice Age, El Nino as well as other oscillations and phenomena in addition to extreme climate events and key elements of southern African climate. 

Part 3) Catchment Scale Studies 
The course concludes with a local scale introduction of terrestrial systems in the Western cape and examines the nature, dynamics and changes associated with stream catchments, surface water, land cover, estuaries, wetlands and coastlines. It addresses issues of development, management and monitoring.

EGS 2014S - Contemporary Urban Challenges in the South African City

Course outline: The course focuses on urban change in South Africa, drawing together historical and contemporary analysis of the South African city. Divided into three parts, the course includes a section on the historical geography of the South African city to contextualise contemporary challenges, and explores two sets of issues: race and gender politics in South African cities; and challenges of services delivery and natural systems in South African cities. 


Third Year Courses

EGS3012S - Atmospheric Science

Course co-ordinator: Professor B Hewitson 

Entrance requirements: GEO 1009F or any Mathematics first-year course or any Physics first-year course 

Course outline: Atmospheric energy balance; winds and circulations; clouds and cloud formation; thermodynamics; rainfall and weather systems in the tropics and midlatitudes; general circulation of the atmosphere; South African weather and climate; droughts and floods. 

Lectures: Five lectures per week, Monday to Friday, 1st period 
Practicals: One practical per week, Tuesday or Wednesday, 14h00-17h00 
DP requirements: Satisfactory completion of practicals and all written assignments, including essays, project reports and class tests. 
Examination requirements: Essays and tests count 20%; project reports and practicals count 20%; one 3-hour written examination in June counts 60%. 

Course Online Webpage: 
(NB: Access restricted to registered students) 

EGS 3020F - Environment: Change and Challenge

Course outline: 
Introduction to environmental change: a perspective from the past

  • The nature and significance of the last glacial-interglacial cycle
  • Evidence for environmental change
  • Environmental change in selected regions of Africa: observations and explanation
  • Environments of the future?: lessons of the past

Recent environmental change impacts and the human response

  • Human impact on African environments
  • Applied ecological approaches to biodiversity conservation

Environment as hazard

  • Hydrometeorological/geological and biological hazards
  • Natural hazards and disaster risk: southern African context
  • Disaster risk profiling; sub-national and local scales

Environmental change and geomorphology

  • Landscapes, Processes, Form, Evolution, Climo-Tectonic Regimes
  • Uniform v. Catastrophism, Equilibrium, Thresholds, System Theory
  • Slope Environments, Glacial Mass Balance and Env. Change,
  • Southern African Landscapes
EGS 3021F - Sustainability and the Environment

Course outline: The course aims to develop an understanding of key concepts and principles in the fields of sustainability, integrated environmental management and disaster risk science. It also comprises an applied component where students are introduced to various methods and tools for analysing environmental problems and integrating risk reduction as well as sustainability principles into planning and decision-making processes.

The course equips students to engage critically in current debates in the above disciplines of sustainability, disaster risk science and integrated environment management and apply selected assessment tools and management approaches to environmental problems in a variety of contexts. The course prepares students for entry into Honours programmes in Environmental Management and Disaster Risk Science. 

EGS 3012S - Geographic Thought

Course outline: The course focuses on international debates in classical and contemporary human geography. It consists of four important thematic areas in the geographical literature, for instance: development; spatiality, urban; political and feminist geographies etc.

Each thematic area explores specific debates and key author's work in the field, providing students with an introduction to literature, a content overview, and skills to deconstruct and build conceptual and analytical arguments related to evidence drawn from geographical research from around the world, other than South Africa. The course lays the foundations for postgraduate course work and research, emphasizing academic reading and writing skills taught in the practical sessions.