National university course in geohazards


This week is the kick-off for a new, national course in geohazards at UiB, UiO and UiT. The course has been developed in cooperation with the national geohazards council and iEarth center of excellence in education. It will be taught in parallel at the three institutions. More than 50 students have signed up for the course.

UiB students study a landslide in Vassenden, Jølster, 30.07.19, with representative from NVE. Photo: Mathilde B. Sørensen, UiB.

We see an increasing demand for geoscientists with competence in geohazards in Norway, and students have shown an increasing interest in the topic during the last years. It therefore came natural to focus this new, national effort on geohazards. The course aims to introduce students at advanced bachelor and early master level to various types of geohazards, their potential consequences and how natural disasters can be prevented. Main focus will be on Norwegian geohazards, but also extreme events from other parts of the world will be discussed. The course will develop an understanding of the geological and physical processes driving geohazards and how society can be affected. An introduction will be given to geotechnical methods to handle geohazards, and the mitigation measures that can be implemented to prevent disastrous events. Special attention will be given to building up an understanding of the interplay between nature and society, and how this interplay controls the potential consequences of an event. Main focus will be on processes causing landslides, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, as well as their possible consequences, in addition to methods for quantifying their hazard and risk. In addition, we will discuss potential interlinkages between different types of geohazards, disaster prevention and management and quantification and communication of uncertainties.

The course consists of a series of student-active teaching modules. The students will acquire a basic understanding of topics covered in a given module before class, through reading assignments, educational videos and other materials. Class time will be used for practical work on exercises and cases. In addition, students will work on larger projects, e.g. to develop tools and methods for risk communication for relevant geohazards. In order place the course in a local context, an excursion will be arranged where local geohazards (e.g. landslides and floods) will be presented with different risk mitigation measures. The students will also have the possibility to identify potential and previous events in the field. UiB and UiO will arrange a common excursion in Western Norway, whereas UiT will arrange a separate excursion in Northern Norway.

Quick clay landslide at Kråkenes in the Alta municipality. Picture from 03.06.2020. Photo: Louise M. Vick, UiT.

Teaching materials for the course have been developed by national experts within the various geohazards. In addition to the three host universities, NVE, NGI, NGU, Norce and UNIS have contributed to developing materials. The work is led by Mathilde B. Sørensen, UiB, in cooperation with Jose Cepeda and Karianne Lilleøren at UiO and Louise Vick at UiT.

There has been a need for last-minute changes to the course plan due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and much of the teaching will be online this semester. Good planning and technical support will allow the students to interact and cooperate through digital platforms. The experiences to be gained may form the basis for a full, national integration of the course with students interacting closely across institution borders.

Written by Mathilde B. Sørensen, associate professor and course coordinator.