EARTHSCI 303 : Sedimentary Systems


2023 Semester One (1233) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

An advanced course that critically examines ancient and contemporary sedimentary systems. State of the art techniques and technologies (sedimentology, geomorphology, modelling) are used to examine the physical and biological processes in freshwater and marine environments. The application of sedimentary systems in the context of Earth’s resources and the current energy transition are highlighted.

Course Overview

The erosion, transportation, and deposition of sediment, through Earth surface processes has left an indelible mark on the planet.  This course uses research-led teaching to critically examine an array of modern and ancient sedimentary surface processes and environments. We will use state of the art techniques and technologies to examine the hydrodynamics of contemporary freshwater and marine environments.  We will investigate these processes in deeper time, using a multi-proxy approach  ̶  incorporating sedimentology, geomorphology, facies analysis, ichnology (trace fossils), geostatistics, and paleoenvironmental techniques – to examine the deposits of freshwater and marine environments.  A one-day field trip and a series of lab exercises are used for in-depth class research projects, and hands-on experience.  Finally, we will focus on the application of sedimentary systems in the context of Earth’s resources and the current energy transition to a carbon neutral and carbon negative world.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

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. Gain understanding and confidence in application of hydrodynamic principles in a range of freshwater (rivers, lakes, deltas, estuaries) and marine environments (shoreface, shelf, slopes, deep marine). (Capability 1, 3 and 5)
  2. Develop the ability to undertake quantitative characterization of modern freshwater systems. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 5)
  3. Develop the ability to use sediment deposits, and their ancient counterpart’s, sedimentary rocks to identify physical and biogenic structures. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Develop an appreciation of facies models and their application to a range of depositional environments. (Capability 1 and 2)
  5. Be able to integrate both physical sedimentological and trace fossil observations to develop robust paleoenvironmental interpretations. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  6. Develop research skills in technical report writing, including the use of literature, the presentation of data and the use of geospatial data. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  7. Develop an understanding of how sedimentary systems are used for current and future earth resources and the geopolitical implications of Earthscience. (Capability 1, 2 and 6)
  8. Gain an appreciation for how the skills learnt through this course are foundational for many earth and environmental science careers and have a pivotal role to play in the transition to a low carbon energy future. (Capability 1, 3, 5 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 100% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

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.
Māori and Pacific students are encouraged to contact Sonia Fonua ( or Kimoro Taiepa ( for information about the Tuākana programme.

Key Topics

The course explores 4 key themes:
1. Fundamental Sedimentology
2. Sedimentary Systems & Environments
3. Biological Processes within Sedimentary Systems
4. Application of Sedimentary Systems

Special Requirements

Participation in labs is compulsory.  The course has a compulsory 1-day field trip.  A virtual field trip option is available for those who are unable to attend in person.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15-point course and students are expected to spend 150 hours in each 15-point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 22 hours of lectures, 33 hours of labs, an 8-hour field trip (inclusive of travel time) and  85 hours of reading and thinking, assignments and exam preparation, and a 2-hour exam.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including labs and the fieldtrip to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
Attendance on campus is required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning 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.

  • 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*,

Health & Safety

Class will be briefed on saftey prior to fieldwork.

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.

This year the timing and weighting of assessments has been re-designed following student feedback.

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.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


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.

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

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.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

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 students may be asked to submit 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. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 28/10/2022 10:23 a.m.