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Welcome to Applied Physical Geography! This is an exciting time to be taking a lab class in which many of the principles of physical geography are applied in specific exercises. This gives you an opportunity to work with practices and tools of geographic analysis.
This laboratory manual helps you use essential geographic principles, methods, and tools to better relate your physical geography text to understanding Earth's systems. Applied Physical Geography: Geosystems in the Laboratory, fifth edition, can be supported by some of the currently available physical geography texts. A specific source for figures and materials used in this manual is Geosystems—An Introduction to Physical Geography, fifth edition, by Robert W Christopherson, Prentice Hall, ©2003 (ISBN: 0-13-066824-9). Another by the same author is Elemental Geosystems, third edition, ©2001 (ISBN: 0-13-055347-dash; although this lab manual does not follow the specific chapter sequence of either text.
Geography (from geo, "earth," and graphein, "to write") is the science that studies the interdependence among geographic areas, natural systems, society, and cultural activities over space. As a discipline that synthesizes knowledge from many fields, geography integrates spatial elements to form a coherent picture of Earth. The term spatial refers to the nature and character of physical space: to measurements, relations, locations, and the distribution of things. Geography is governed by a method—a spatialapproach—rather than by a specific body of knowledge.
Physical geography, therefore, centers on the spatial analysis of all the physical elements and processes that comprise the environment: energy, air, water, weather, climate, landforms, soils, animals, plants, and Earth itself. Physical geography, as a spatial human-Earth science, is in a unique position among sciences to synthesize and integrate the great physical and cultural diversity facing us. Aspects of physical geography requiring spatial analysis are in the news daily for these are dramatic times relative to human-Earth relations and spatial change. Only through relevant education can an informed citizenry learn about the life-sustaining environment that surrounds and infuses our lives. Completing this laboratory manual is one way to begin this journey.
As a science, geography uses the scientific method. A focus study in Chapter 1 of Geosystems—An Introduction to Physical Geography briefly discusses this approach to problem solving. As you work through this laboratory manual, keep in mind this method of analyzing a problem, gathering data, organizing thought, and achieving the discovery of important principles.
Each Lab Exercise is organized in the following sequence to help you. Each exercise and its steps will take varying lengths of time depending on the emphasis taken in lab.
Organization of each lab exercise chapter:
Your laboratory manual is designed for maximum utility—an asset to your learning activities. The standard symbols used on topographic maps appear inside the front cover. Inside the back cover are two world maps: the Koppen climate classification system and global biomes as Earth's terrestrial ecosystems. A fold-out flap, that you can deploy while you are working with the manual, features common metric-English conversions to assist you in this transition era between the two systems. The outside portion of the foldout flap presents the four classes of map projections.
Note: The exercises in this manual are set up in a manner sensitive to the fact that many of the US. students still use English units, whereas Canadian students use metric measures. You will find conversions given wherever appropriate. Your instructor will guide you as to which system of units to use in the exercises. The graphs and other items are designed to use either system although metric is preferred.
The initial laboratory exercise, called the Prologue Lab, is unique and has not appeared in manuals before. Your lab instructor will explain the items for you to complete. Our experience in teaching geography is that students appreciate these tasks in the Prologue because they can experience the relevancy of geography. The Prologue Lab contains some activities that will last throughout the term and will not be completed until the last class, acting as threads through the lab.