autumn 2020
GEO-3135 Rock-slope failures: Geology, hazard and monitoring - 10 ECTS

Application deadline

Applicants from Nordic countries: 1 June for the fall semester. Exchange students and Fulbright students: 15 April for the fall semester.

Type of course

This course is available as a single course. This is a intensive course, with a theoretical part and a field excursion part in the fall, late August or early September.

Admission requirements

Bachelor's degree in geology, or a similar degree following a programme of study of at least three years, or similar education approved in accordance with the Norwegian Universities Act section 3-4. In addition, specialization in geology worth the equivalent of at least 80 ECTS credits is required. Normally, an average mark of C or better is required at the bachelor's degree level or other program for basis of admission.  

Application code: 9371.  

Course content

Within the scope of this course the students will get theoretical and applied training in hazard assessment and monitoring of unstable rock slopes. The course builds on the student¿s prior geological knowledge, and aims to give a wide ranging understanding of rock-slope failure theory, from rock mechanics, structure and kinematics, to landslide types and hazard characterisation.

Students will learn about and apply methods for characterisation of unstable rock slopes including field mapping, desktop mapping, drone technology and photogrammetry, monitoring and

instrumentation and remote sensing methods. Furthermore, students will learn how to characterize and assess the slope hazard (and secondary effects) using numerical modelling techniques and the Norwegian risk assessment system.

The field course component will introduce the student to multiple types of rock-slope hazards in the dramatic north Troms mountain environment. Practical exercises and field investigations will give the students a systematic approach to the topic.

Objectives of the course


The student has

  • a comprehensive understanding of rock-slope failure theory, including rock mechanics, structure and kinematics, slow rock-slope deformation, and types of rapid rock-slope failure.
  • understanding of landslide, hazard and risk terminology.
  • knowledge of all types of geohazards that result from rock-slope failure, including secondary effects.
  • knowledge of monitoring techniques, including knowledge of types of monitoring instrumentation, types of remote sensing, and methods of interpreting results for meaningful data.
  • knowledge of how to use field- and desktop-derived information to calibrate numerical models and to simulate hazard events for risk assessment purposes.


The student can

  • use rock-slope failure theory to assess, classify, and characterise an unstable slope by desktop methods and in the field.
  • work in groups to collect structural data in the field using correct engineering geology mapping techniques.
  • identify situations where drone technology is required for assessment, and use collected drone data to produce a point cloud and 3D site model.
  • process structural data collected in the field, or from drone/LiDAR photogrammetry, using Pix4D, Coltop3D and kinematic software, e.g. Dips.
  • process field mapping data and satellite/aerial images using GIS methods to produce meaningful information.
  • interpret results from unstable slope monitoring campaigns to determine triggers/driving mechanisms for rock slope failure and make hazard predictions.
  • use three-dimensional rockfall modelling software for rockfall hazard characterisation and risk assessment.
  • determine the best solution for monitoring and managing the risk posed to society by unstable rock slopes.

General competences

The student can

  • carry out the most important elements of geological research projects related to rock-slope failures: penetrating literature, carrying out basic field research, analyzing data, and communicating results to fellow students/scientists.
  • work with landslide problems in the public and private sector using reflections, critical thinking and responsibility.
  • solve problems related to rock-slope failures analytically and prompt in written English, and present research results orally.
  • work independently and in a team.

Language of instruction and examination


Teaching methods

The course will be given as an intensive course over two weeks with 16 hours of lectures, 8 hours of seminars, 16 hours of exercises, 4 hours of laboratory work, and five days of field course/excursion.


The exam consists of three parts: (1) An oral presentation of a given topic during the course (counts 25 % of the final grade), (2) A poster presentation of a given topic during the course (counts 25% of the final grade), and (3) A home assignment (counts 50% of the final grade), i.e. an extensive essay on a given topic and a systematic presentation of the field mapping and analysis performed during the field course. All three parts must be passed in order to pass the course.

Grading scale: Letter grades A-F, where F is fail. A re-sit examination for students that did not pass the previous ordinary exam will not be arranged.

Compulsory learning activities

Approval of training in health, safety, and environment prior to the lab exercises.

Approval of training in health, safety, and environment prior to the field course. This includes the use of helmets, high-visibility safety vests etc., and the use of geological equipment (e.g., hammer, spade, scraper, magnifier) in the field.

Admittance to the exam requires approved exercises. Participation in the field course is mandatory.

Recommended reading/syllabus

Pensumliste for GEO-3135 Rock-slope failures
  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: GEO-3135
  • Tidligere år og semester for dette emnet