GY431/431G Topics in Physical Geography: Urban Physical Environments

12755 Section 002 (graduate) OR 12756 003 (undergraduate) WWW Blackboard 3 semester hours

Professor: Dr. Miriam Helen Hill
Office: 205 Martin Hall
Office Hours: Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. OR by appointment and through Blackboard IM, Blackboard Virtual Office Hours, or AOL IM
E-mail addresses: that will go to
Telephone: 256-782-8063 (please, contact me by e-mail)

Course Description: 3 hours. Advanced geographic study of various facets of the natural environment. Topic selection varies. See instructor. May be duplicated for credit for a total of 12 semester hours.

Topic and Purpose of the Course: Urban Physical Environments This course will examine the unique and changing nature of the urban physical environment. It will use cutting edge research from 45 years ago to compare to the status, conditions, and knowledge of the urban environment now. Urbanization and climate change continue to be two of the many relevant and very popular areas of interest for research that are included in this analysis.

Learning Outcomes: The student will be able to:
  1. describe the unique nature of the urban physical environment
  2. describe the interconnectedness between urbanization and the physical environment
  3. describe scientific advances in understanding the urban physical environment in the last 45 years
  4. describe ways that scientific understanding of the urban physical environment aids urban planning, public safety, and sustainability
Thomas R. Detwyler and Melvin G. Marcus, Urbanization and the Environment: The Physical Geography of the City, Duxbury Press: Belmont, CA, 1972, ISBN 0-87872-034-0.

Lisa Benton-Short, John Rennie Short, Cities and Nature (Routledge Critical Introductions to Urbanism and the City) (Paperback), 2 edition, Routledge; ISBN 978-0415625562

Other resources: MS Office 2007 or newer and headset

Class Homepage: The class homepage is at and is linked to Dr. Hill's webpage at The syllabus is, also, linked to the class homepage.

Mandatory Assignment: Completion of the LO post-test is required. This will be limited to one attempt. Failure to complete it will reduce the final grade by 10%.

Grading: As an online seminar, 50% of the course grade will be based on discussion board postings and interactions. The other 50% of the grade will be based on the final essay exam paper and the preliminary midterm review of this document. Graduate students are required to complete an additional graduate assignment and are expected to conform to higher academic standards. Final grades: above 90% A; 80-90% B; 70-80% C; and for undergraduates only 60-70% D; below 700 (graduates) and 600 (undergraduates) F. All work MUST be submitted before the DUE date. All work must be submitted through Blackboard. Invalid data submissions will receive no credit. Failure to complete the mandatory LO post-test will reduce the final grade by 10%.

Reading Assignments: Reading assignments will include text book chapters, readings posted to the Blackboard shell, and research articles located by the individual student. Use the attached schedule to complete the readings BEFORE the beginning of the lessons as indicated by the schedule.

Discussion Board: A discussion forum will focus on the topics for the week. As a seminar, frequent review and posts are expected and will be considered in the weekly discussion board grade as indicated by the rubric. Each student is expected to create at least one thread for discussion of the past state of knowledge, and at least two threads for discussion of the current state of knowledge. Replies and additions are expected. Acceptable response posts provide additional information rather than merely state agreement or disagreement and opinions. Only the active weekly board will be considered for grading purposes, so themes may carry through from previous themes, and posts may be added to future boards in advance to gain credit in weeks ahead. Past boards will remain visible for reference, but additional comments should be added to a thread in the active week.

Essay midterm and final exam: The final is an essay exam submitted as a term paper. The purpose is to discuss the current knowledge about urban physical environments and the changes in the past 45 years. The paper must contain the 13 subheadings that serve as weekly topics. As each weekly topic is explored and discussed, a draft of this section should be written with full documentation of sources. A draft of the document will be submitted to check progress and format and serves as the midterm essay. Changes to this draft are expected as the document continues to the final essay exam. As the term progresses, parts may be revised and updated, because not all topics are entirely self-contained and independent. Minimum length should be one page per topic, but content is more important than page count. Minimum paper content length should be at least 15 pages double-spaced. Use Turabian (Chicago) style, Times New Roman 12 point font. Use of the MS Word Reference Toolbar is ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED, and the paper will be rejected if the document received does not have fully functional MS Word Reference entries. See the Blackboard shell for instructions and the WarpSpeed PowerPoint.

Citation of Sources: All sources must be properly credited. Work containing copyright violation or plagiarism will be rejected. Use Turabian format AS DEFINED by Microsoft Word 2007 (2010 or newer) for the documentation format. Entering the requested information correctly into the software with the Turabian setting will automatically generate the correctly formated information. See the instructions in the Blackboard shell. When preparing posts for the discussion board, write your entries in Word, generate the finished document, and copy and paste this into the discussion board thread.

Graduate assignment: Two activities serve to differentiation the graduate work from the undergraduate. The first is a three page discussion paper of how the content covered in this class can be useful and used in teaching earth science or science courses. The second is that graduate students are expected to be held to somewhat higher academic standards.

Class Membership: Class members are expected to answer and ask questions, be involved in activities, and to facilitate an educational academic atmosphere. Proper attitude and behavior are expected. At all times presence should facilitate a smooth flow of intellectual ideas, knowledge, and intelligent discussion. Failure to contribute or promote this important goal demonstrates poor professional development.

Note: All materials presented in this class are done so with educational goals in mind and are not intended to cause distress of any nature. Please be aware that controversial materials, theories, exhibits, etc. will be presented in this class. If you are unwilling or unable to view these presentations in the educational light in which they are presented, then you need to reconsider your enrollment in this class.

Academic Dishonesty: Academic dishonesty is defined to include any form of cheating or plagiarism. A discussion of the topic is set forth in the student handbook. Working and studying with classmates are beneficial and to be encouraged. Copying work is not to be confused with comparing work and discussing similarities and differences. You are responsible for both understanding answers submitted and the completion of the materials. The material in this course is important not just for your grade but also for your future profession. All of the work is open book. SafeAssign will be used to check for plagiarism. Thoroughly document your work!

Notice: This syllabus is in no way binding. All information is subject to change. Any changes made by the instructor will be announced to the class through emails or posting to the Announcements area of Blackboard.

Questions or problems: Please contact the professor. Asking questions is an extremely important part of the learning process. Be specific. Incomplete information and vague questions only expand the time it will take for you to get an adequate response. Expect that I will ask you questions to ascertain what you understand so I can begin the answer from that point.

Making Contact: When e-mailing the professor, provide detailed information. Identify yourself, the course, the level, and the specific assignment. This will facilitate a more rapid and accurate response. We will use Blackboard IM to facilitate communication. If GEM (JSU e-mail system) is not your primary e-mail, place a forward on that account, and test it to be sure that it is functional. Blackboard uses GEM for e-mail contacts.

Disabilities: According to Public Law 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Jacksonville State University will provide reasonable access and appropriate accommodations for otherwise qualified disabled students. If you need such access or accommodations, please consult with Disability Support Services and your professor immediately. Where extended testing sessions are allocated, Blackboard continues to function after the original time settings are reached, and the scores and actual times used are reported. By clicking on the ! or grade, both student and faculty can view these reports and verify completion within the appropriate time limits.

Class Schedule: Use the outline provided to complete the assignments BEFORE the designated dates.

GY 431 and 431G Topics in Physical Geography: Urban Physical Environments Syllabus* F17

DATE WEEK TOPIC Chapter Reading DetwylerChapter Reading Short & Short
August 23-29 1 Uniqueness of the urban physical environment Chapter 1Chapter 1
August 30-September 5 2 Topography and geology Chapter 2Chapter 7
September 6-12 3 Hydrology Chapter 5Chapter 11
September 13-19 4 Meteorology Chapter 3Chapter 12
September 20-26 5 Climate and climate change Chapter 4 pages 69-83Chapter 13
September 27-October 3 6 Soil Chapter 6 
October 4-10 7 Biogeography Chapter 9 and 10
midterm essay
Chapter 9
October 11-17 8 Pollution and health Chapter 4 pages 83-96Chapter 2 and 3
October 18-24 9 Environmental quality Chapter 8Chapter 5 and 6
October 25-31 10 Crime and environmental justice  Chapter 15
November 1-7 11 Natural hazards Chapter 7Chapter 8
November 8-14 12 Conservation and natural resources Chapter 10 and 14
November 15-28 13 Systems and networks Graduate essayChapter 4 and 16
November 29-December 4 14 FINAL Mandatory LO
Final essay exam
*Any major changes to this schedule will be announced. All grades are final at 11:55 p.m., Tuesday, December 5, 2017.