MSc Data Science (Earth and Environmental Analytics)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Digital Terrain Analysis

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG60412
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit introduces the principles and applications of GIS and remote sensing in gemorphology, specifically approaches to digital terrain analysis and geomorphometry.


To equip students with necessary knowledge and skills to use digital terrain data for landscape analysis, and gain experience of the collection, handling and manipulation of 3D spatial data.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures supported by guided-computer practical exercises and project surgeries on the generation and processing of digital elevation data using GIS and remote sensing software. Independent learning via reading outside of lectures. Application of learning via an individual mini-project.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand a range of digital elevation data types, collection methods and processing techniques.
  • Gain knowledge of the use, strengths, and limitations of 3D spatial data. 

Intellectual skills

  • Critically evaluate topographic data types, processing techniques, and approaches to 3D data visualisation.

Practical skills

  • Source, manage and handle digital topographic data from a range of sources in appropriate GIS and EO software.
  • Use GIS software to visualise 3D data.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop succinct written, oral and, visual communication skills.
  • Ability to source and process 3D spatial data to explore questions related to physical geography, geomorphology and mapping.

Assessment methods


  • Computer-based short- answer questions associated with practical sessions.
  • 1-page mini-project proposal.


  • Long-form write-up of practical session topic of choice (40%).
  • Poster presentation of mini-project  (60%).

Feedback methods

  • Verbal feedback to/from students during practical sessions.
  • Practical answers posted after session on VLE (weekly).
  • Written feedback to students via comments on summative coursework.

Recommended reading

Scientific literature as appropriate. Reading list week-by-week.

Indicative textbooks:

Hengl, T., Reuter, H.I.  (eds.) 2009. Geomorphometry: Concepts, Software, Applications. Developments in Soil Science, Vol. 23. Elsevier.

Wilson, J.P., Gallant, J.C. (eds.) 2000. Terrain Analysis: Principles and Applications. John Wiley & Sons. Chapters 1-2.

Wilson, J. P., 2018. Environmental applications of digital terrain modeling. Oxford, UK: John Wiley and Sons


Geomorphology; Computers & Geosciences; Earth-Science Reviews; Progress in Physical Geography; IEEE Transactions in Geoscience and Remote Sensing; International Journal of Geographical Information Science; Earth Surface Processes & Landforms.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 118

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anna Hughes Unit coordinator

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