EARTHSCI 303 : Sedimentary Systems


2020 Semester One (1203) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

An advanced course that critically examines sedimentary systems from the mineral to basin scale. Highlights the latest research and techniques used to interpret carbonate and clastic sedimentary systems, including petrological techniques, paleoenvironment facies analysis, sequence stratigraphy, basin analysis and geophysics. Real-life case studies will also show how hydrocarbon systems work in a sedimentary system context.

Course Overview

Given that 75% of exposed rocks on Earth’s surface are sedimentary in composition, the ability to interpret them is significant for any practicing Earth Scientist. This advanced course uses research-led teaching to critically examine an array of ancient sedimentary environments from the geologic record.


This is an advanced course that critically examines sedimentary systems from the mineral to basin scale.  Reconstruction of sedimentary environments utilises a multi-proxy approach, incorporating facies analysis, taxonomy, paleoecology, taphonomy, geostatistics and sequence stratigraphy. Real-life case studies will also show how hydrocarbon systems work in a sedimentary system context. A one-day field trip to One Tree Point and a series of lab exercises are used for in-depth class research projects, hands-on experience of sedimentological research.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: Any 30 points at Stage II in Earth Sciences or Biological Sciences, plus an understanding equivalent to EARTHSCI 202 will be assumed Restriction: GEOLOGY 303

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Be able to identify sedimentary rocks and sedimentary structures to interpret depositional processes. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Develop an appreciation of facies models and their application to a range of depositional environments (Capability 1)
  3. Be able to integrate both physical sedimentological and ichnological observations to develop robust sedimentary system interpretations (Capability 2 and 3)
  4. Use trace fossils as tools to reconstruct paleoenvironments (Capability 3)
  5. Develop research skills in technical report writing, including the use of literature, the presentation of data and the use of geospatial data, as part of a desk study prior to fieldwork (Capability 2, 4 and 5)
  6. Demonstrate an understanding of how hydrocarbon systems work in context to sedimentary systems at the basin scale (Capability 1 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Literature Review 10% Individual Coursework
Grain size Data Summary 5% Individual Coursework
Online Lab 5% Individual Coursework
One Tree Point Field Report 20% Individual Coursework
Participation 10% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6
Final Exam
Literature Review
Grain size Data Summary
Online Lab
One Tree Point Field Report


As part of the University-wide Tuākana community, The School of Environment Tuākana Programme aims to provide a welcoming learning environment for, and enhance the success of, all of our Māori and Pacific students. We are led by the principles of tautoko (support) and whanaungatanga (connection), and hope you find a home here at the School. Students who have identified as Māori and/or Pacific will receive an invitation to our online portal introducing the Programme, the resources we have available, and how you can get involved.

This course is supported by our Programme Coordinator, Kaiāwhina/Māori student adviser, and Pacific student adviser. They are able to organise group study and facilitate direct assistance regarding material taught in this course. For more information regarding the Programme feel free to email our Programme Coordinator:

Key Topics

  • Sedimentary Systems - A Source-to-Sink (S2S) Approach
  • Biological Processes within Sedimentary Systems
  • Application of Sedimentary Systems

Learning Resources

  • Nichols, G., (2009) Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, 2nd Edition, Wiley-Blackwell. *A useful  text written in plain English that covers basic to advanced topics*.
  • Reading (1996) Sedimentary Environments: Processes, Facies and Stratigraphy. *A classic book in facies analysis, covering generic models and basic ideas*.
  • Pemberton, S.G., Spila, M., Pulham, A.J., Saunders, T., MacEachern, J.A., Robbins, D., and Sinclair, I.K., 2001.  Ichnology & Sedimentology of Shallow to Marginal Marine Systems: Ben Nevis & Avalon Reservoirs, Jeanne D’Arc Basin.  Geological Association of Canada, Short Course Volume 15. *A great resource on trace fossils*,

Special Requirements

  • All labs are considered compulsory, as they form an integral part of the course.  Each lab will have an attendance mark of 1% associated with it.  But this is contingent on attendance and demonstrable preparation, participation and engagement during the session.
  • Compulsory Fieldtrip Saturday 9th May, 2020, Location: One Tree Point, Whangarei.  Transport will be provided (details to follow on Canvas and course builder pages).  This trip will provide the opportunity to gain confidence and skills in field data collection.  This will form the basis of individual Field Reports worth 20% of the course.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 19 hours of lectures, 33 hours of laboratory work, an 8 hour field trip; 50 hours of reading and thinking about the content,  37 hours of work on assignments and a 3 hour exam.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 11/01/2020 02:57 p.m.