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Unit information: Sedimentology in 2021/22

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

Mandatory Year 1 units of an Environmental Geoscience, Geology, Geophysics or Palaeontology and Evolution programme at Bristol.



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The unit builds and expands upon the Level I Dynamic Surface and Surface Materials sections in EASC10001 Geology 1, 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 Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials and, if subsequently possible, synchronous face-to-face lectures
  • synchronous office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative activities and exercises
  • guided, structured reading
  • practical work in the laboratory
  • fieldwork

Students who either begin or continue their studies in an online mode may be required to complete practical or field work, or alternative activities in person, either during the academic year or subsequently, in order to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit, prepare them for subsequent units or to satisfy accreditation requirements.

Assessment Information

Formative assessment

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.

Summative assessment

  • Coursework 100%

Coursework components consist of a synoptic report on the fieldwork (3 pages plus figures and appendices), supplemented by a report on calculations made from the field data (3 pages), and a sedimentary log (1 page), which together constitute 90% of the total unit mark.

In addition there will be one coursework test (one hour, unseen) which will assess technical skills for quantifying particle settling and transport learned in lectures and practical classes (10% of total unit mark).


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. EASC20007).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.