Geography (GEOG) 266

Introductory Physical Geography II: Lithosphere and Biosphere (Revision 2)

GEOG 266 course cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online with home lab component *. This course is charged a lab fee.

*The laboratory requirement requires the use of Google EarthTM, an online program that allows you to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, etc. of Earth. Google EarthTM can be downloaded for free, but has the following computer system requirements:

  • PC – Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
  • Mac – Mac OS X 10.6.0 or later
  • Linux – LSB 4.0 (Linux Standard Base) libraries

Please ensure that you can accommodate these requirements prior to registering for this course.

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Science

Prerequisite: None

Precluded Course: GEOG 266 may not be taken for credit if credit has already been obtained for GEOG 261 and GEOG 262.

Faculty: Faculty of Science & Technology

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GEOG 266 has a Challenge for Credit option.

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GEOG 266 offers insight into the Earth's lithosphere and biosphere. To start, GEOG 266 examines the internal structure of the Earth, the rocks that compose it, and the forces within the Earth that act to deform the structural composition of both the internal and surface components, thus creating relief. Next, students learn about the denudation processes that unceasingly act at the Earth's surface to shape landforms and reduce relief, covering topics of weathering and mass movement, as well as erosion, transportation, and deposition by the geomorphic agents of water, waves, wind, and ice. In the laboratory activities (including virtual field trips using Google EarthTM), students learn basic skills of map and air photo interpretation and use them to analyze a variety of landforms. Next, the course examines Earth's soils, how they form, their various characteristics, and the factors that influence their development. Finally, students learn about the different biomes that make up the world's vegetation pattern and examine their close relationship with climates.


GEOG 266 comprises the following 10 units, starting with Unit 11, where GEOG 265 ends.

  • Unit 11: The Dynamic Planet
  • Unit 12: Tectonics, Earthquakes, and Volcanism
  • Unit 13: Weathering, Karst Landscapes, and Mass Movement
  • Unit 14: River Systems and Landforms
  • Unit 15: Eolian Processes and Arid Landscapes
  • Unit 16: The Oceans, Coastal Processes, and Landforms
  • Unit 17: Glacial and Periglacial Processes and Landforms
  • Unit 18: The Geography of Soils
  • Unit 19: Ecosystem Essentials
  • Unit 20: Terrestrial Biomes


To receive credit for GEOG 266, you must achieve a course composite grade of at least a D (50 percent). You must achieve a minimum grade of 60 percent on each examination. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1 12.5%
Assignment 2 12.5%
Midterm Exam 20%
Assignment 3 12.5%
Assignment 4 12.5%
Google EarthTM Labs 10%
Final Exam 20%
Total 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Christopherson, R. W., & Byrne, M-L. (2006). Geosystems: An Introduction to Physical Geography, Vol. 2 (Canadian Ed.). Toronto: Pearson Education Canada.

Christopherson, R. W., & Thomsen, C. E. (2012). Geosystems: Student Study Guide, Vol. 2 (Custom Ed.). Toronto: Pearson Education Canada.

Introductory Physical Geography II: Lithosphere and Biosphere. Geography 266: Laboratory Manual 1, Athabasca University. (2012). McGraw-Hill Create.

Introductory Physical Geography II: Lithosphere and Biosphere. Geography 266: Laboratory Manual 2, Athabasca University (GEOS). (2012). Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.

Other materials

The course materials also include Google Earth exercises, assignments, and an online study guide.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the GEOG 266 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least D (50 percent) on a challenge examination.

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, April 10, 2013.

View previous syllabus