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GEOS 315 Sedimentation and Stratigraphy


Course Syllabus (link to pdf)

Course Description: Sedimentary rocks cover roughly 75% of the Earth’s surface, and are the source for the majority of the world’s groundwater, hydrocarbon resources, and many mineral deposits. Further, most of our knowledge about Earth’s history – including past climate, biological evolution and extinction, and uplift and erosion of mountains – also comes from sedimentary rocks. This course will focus on sedimentology and stratigraphy, which are two major facets of understanding the sedimentary rock record. Sedimentology is the study of sediment, with an emphasis on reconstructing the mechanisms through which it is/was transported and the environments in which it is/was deposited. Stratigraphy is the study of sedimentary strata, with an emphasis on their spatial and temporal relationships and the implications of those relationships for tectonic and/or environmental change through time.

One primary purpose of this course is to help you become familiar with the specific ways in which sedimentary rocks are studied, described, and interpreted in both the laboratory and in the field. More importantly, another purpose of this course is to teach you to observe, think, and communicate like a geoscientist. You will learn to make careful, detailed observations and measurements of sedimentary rocks, and to formulate testable hypotheses based on your observations. You will then learn to make logical and reasoned interpretations based on the data you collect, and to connect your interpretations to create a coherent, internally consistent model that explains the broader geologic context in which the sedimentary rocks formed. Finally, you will learn to clearly and accurately articulate your observations and interpretations to other geoscientists.

Course Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of this course, each student should be able to:

  • use appropriate observations and terminology to describe, identify, and classify sedimentary rocks and structures in the field and in the laboratory
  • delineate, measure, and describe stratigraphic units in the field, and use those data to develop an accurate and representative stratigraphic section.
  • use features of sedimentary rocks (e.g., lithology, texture, fabric, structures) at macroscopic and microscopic scales to interpret depositional environments and diagenetic history.
  • use an outcrop, stratigraphic section, and/or correlation diagram to interpret the depositional history of a stratigraphic sequence, and develop a coherent model describing the relative roles of sediment supply, subsidence, and/or base level in creating the sequence.
  • formulate and clearly describe an original hypothesis focused on a sedimentary process, design an experiment to test that hypothesis, and analyze and interpret the results of the experiment.
  • effectively communicate sedimentologic/stratigraphic data, observations, and interpretations through written and graphical representation.