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Landscape development and environmental change in the South Island, New Zealand

About the paper

Paper code: GEOG285 Points: 12

This paper introduces students to the physical and cultural geography of the southern South Island of New Zealand. It explores the interaction of physical process and human activities, past and present, to understand the character and dynamics of regional landscape formation, and to identify possible trends in environmental and landscape change in the future.

Topics in the course will cover the different worldviews and understandings of place and landscape held by Indigenous groups and more recent settlers; explanations of physical and biological processes, from mountain-building and physical form, to climate, soils and ecosystems; the transformation of land through resource development, settlement, agriculture and other activities, with an emphasis on the Otago region.  The course asks how different interpretations of landscape and landscape change can be interwoven as part of a recognition of the complexity of making sense of contemporary geographies of place.

Throughout the course, there is an emphasis on deciphering the temporal and spatial dimensions of change and developing an ability to read landscapes and comprehend the multifarious causes and consequences of environmental change through a mix of articles, lectures, laboratories and field activities.  In the field, students will explore the distinct landscapes of eastern and inland Otago; probe diverse interpretations of those landscapes through Indigenous and Western lenses; examine some of the key drivers of current landscape form, both natural and human related; and investigate contemporary factors that have produced significant changes in recent years.  In the laboratory programme on campus, various methods and techniques for investigating climatological and hydrological change will be employed.


  • Laboratory programme (40%)
  • Assignment (30%)
  • Field report (30%)

About Otago's Department of Geography

The Department of Geography’s teaching and research activity encompasses physical geography, human geography, environmental management and planning.  Staff carry out research in New
Zealand, the Pacific region, south and east Asia, south and east Africa, the UK, and North America.