Department of Geography

Applied geomorphology: science or engineering?

March 6th– Applied geomorphology: science or engineering?

Roger Moore, Geography, Sussex

Chair/co-debater: Bob Allison, Sussex

Roger Moore  Bob Allison

Richard Black, Roger Moore and Bob AllisonRichard Black, Roger Moore and Bob Allison

Unravelling interactions between earth surface processes and landforms is a complex science, based on a combination of hypothesis testing, measurement, modelling and prediction. Research is predominantly underpinned by basic scientific laws and principles: fluid dynamics in aeolian and fluvial environments, mechanics in earth movements and chemistry in studies of weathering and erosion for example. The application of geomorphology is therefore the application of basic scientific principles in order to better understand how human disruption affects the natural environment.
Applied geomorphology has served the civil engineering industry since at least the 1950s. Typically deployed at the feasibility and planning stages of projects, applied geomorphology has proved to be particularly valuable in identifying and mitigating the natural hazards and georisks that projects may be exposed to over their lifetime, thereby ensuring the sustainability of developments in some of the worlds most extreme locations. The challenges faced by some projects are particularly suited to the skill set offered by geomorphologists providing an integrated understanding of landforms, soils and rocks, and processes. Perhaps a key differentiator of a professional geomorphologist is their focus on providing data and advice to support risk-based project decision-making, engineering design and life-of-development monitoring of performance. Scientific research, where focused on key outputs, can play an important contribution to engineering success.

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50 years 9th Debate: Applied geomorphology: science or engineering?

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