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Unit information: Sedimentology in 2015/16

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Unit name Sedimentology
Unit code EASC20007
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2C (weeks 13 - 18)
Unit director Professor. Phillips
Open unit status Not open

Successful completion of the year 1 curriculum in either the Environmental Geoscience, Geology, Geology and Biology or Palaeontology and Evolution degree programme.



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


The unit builds and expands upon the Level I Dynamic Surface and Surface Materials courses, taking a process-based approach to sedimentology. The study and interpretation of sedimentary sequences is fundamental to many other branches of Earth Science, and to our understanding of the history of the Earth.

This unit will develop an understanding of the processes by which sedimentary particles are transported and deposited, how these deposits are stacked to form sedimentary sequences, and what transformations occur after deposition to form sedimentary rocks. We will investigate many of the processes occurring at the surface of the planet as a result of the interaction of rocks and loose sediment with water and air, and will examine the way in which relative sea-level, climate and tectonics control the accumulation of sedimentary sequences. The chemical and physical processes by which loose sediment is turned into rock and rock properties are altered during burial, collectively termed diagenesis, are explored. The subject areas covered will take you from eroding mountain belts, down rivers, via estuaries and deltas to the deep oceans, through arid deserts and tropical seas.

By building on your understanding of modern environments, you will be able to unfold the evolution of sedimentary sequences and hence the history of sedimentary basins. The difficulties and uncertainties involved in such interpretations will become apparent as the course proceeds.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • characterise the motion of a fluid in terms of its physical properties
  • apply the principles of mechanics to determine the balance of forces that control the motion of fluids or solid particles
  • determine the rate of particle sedimentation in a fluid in a variety of flow situations
  • determine the rate of particle transport under a variety of flow situations
  • use the principles of fluid motion to interpret bedforms and sedimentary sequences
  • integrate an understanding of how changes in relative sea level, climate, and tectonic setting control the stratigraphic record.
  • apply the concept of facies models to the interpretation of ancient sedimentary sequences.
  • understand the key hydrological and geochemical processes which determine diagenesis, and their impact on mineralogy, porosity and permeability
  • infer the diagenetic history of any sedimentary rock.

Teaching details

15 lectures, 4 x 3 hour practicals, 1 day field trip

Assessment Details

Practical work is not assessed, and verbal feedback will be given during or after the practical class. Written feedback on each practical exercise will be given via Blackboard after each practical class.

20% of the total mark for the unit will come from the field day and the subsequent analytical practical. 80% of the unit will be assessed by an unseen theory exam in the summer exam period, which may cover any topic, theoretical or practical, covered in the unit. Failure to attend practicals or to hand in work could bar you from sitting the theory exam.

Reading and References

Recommended Textbook: Leeder, M.R. (1999) Sedimentology and Sedimentary Basins - From Turbulence to Tectonics (Blackwell Science);

Useful for Physical Aspects: Allen, J.R.L., (2001) Principles of Physical Sedimentology (Blackburn Press). This is updated version of 1st Edition 1985 George Allen and Unwin, which was reprinted with corrections 1992 (Chapman & Hall);

Useful for Deposits and Processes: Leeder, M.R. (1982) Sedimentology - Process and Product (George Unwin and Allen)