Initial Publication Date: December 12, 2013

Diagnosing Landslide Hazard:

Les Hasbargen, SUNY College at Oneonta

Intended Audience: This activity is designed for upper division Geology, Earth Science, and Earth Science education majors.


Landslide between Highway 7 and the Susquehanna River (42.4947º N, 74.98212º W). Although, this exercise may be adapted elsewhere. An active, large active hillslope is required, preferably one close to infrastructure, and one which students can access safely. The following features are not uncommon, and make the problem richer: a river bend at the toe of the hillslope; a gas or water line routed through the slide; a hillslope exhibiting numerous scales of movements, from small debris flows a few cm wide to large rotational slides; and nearby infrastructure, such as buildings or roads.


Students investigate an active complex landslide with the purpose of characterizing the risk to nearby infrastructure. Students gain experience with field observation, mapping, and report writing. In addition, students learn key geologic and hydrologic controls on landslides.


Designed for a geomorphology course, students investigate the geologic, hydrologic, and geomorphic controls on a landslide. Students take field notes, assess landslide activity, and write a technical report on the investigation. This exercise uses geomorphology to solve problems in other fields.


Concept and content goals include: recognition of contributing factors to landsliding in the field; assessment of landslide activity (which requires identifying signs of age and recency in the field); identifying infrastructure at risk from the landslide. Students engage in assessment of hazard and report writing, both of which require higher level organization and reasoning. Students also gain experience with field note taking and technical report writing.

Assessment and Evaluation:

A grade rubric is supplied to the student, which assesses the adequacy of various features within the report, field notes, and map of the landslide. In addition, written comments on the report are provided to help focus future writing efforts, encourage good habits and techniques, and highlight areas that need improvement.

Materials and Handouts:

Activity Description/Assignment (Acrobat (PDF) 54kB Jun24 08)