Section 1: Introduction to the Coastal Zone: Society, Landforms, and Processes


The focus of Section 1 is to develop a solid understanding of how society relies upon coastal zones, how a coastal zone is defined, and the physical processes that operate within coastal areas. This unit is divided into three modules:

  • The Societies and Economics of Coastal Regions (Module 1)
  • A Global Glance of Coastal Landscapes (Module 2)
  • Coastal Systems: Landscapes and Processes (Module 3)

Section Goals

Upon completion of Section 1, students will:

  • appreciate why societies are closely linked to coastal zones and how society interacts within different types of coastal zones;
  • understand the wide range of types of coastal zones and morphologies that are present on Earth;
  • recognize the many types of processes that operate within coastal zones and how these processes affect the form and function of different coastal settings and environments.

Section Objectives

In order to reach these goals, the instructors have established the following learning objectives. In working through the modules within Section 1, students will be able to:

  • examine a suite of societies and major population centers that are located within coastal zones;
  • identify the global distribution of cities that are most vulnerable to coastal hazards such as sea level rise, tropical cyclones, and tsunamis;
  • understand and evaluate the economics of coastal zones that cause societies to continue to inhabit coastal zones that are at high risk from coastal hazards;
  • recognize the globally diverse forms of coastal zones and the first and second order controls on coastal landscapes;
  • understand the types of processes that cause changes to the coastal zone across short-term (daily) and longer-term periods of time.


Students should plan to use Google Earth, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and other software where they can record notes and develop questions and ideas (i.e., Evernote, or Microsoft OneNote, or similar note-taking software/apps).