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School of Environment, Education and Development

BSc Geography and Geology with a year abroad

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Sediment transport processes and depositional environments

Unit code EART20121
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit is an intermediate course in sedimentology which aims to equip students with the ability to describe and interpret the stratigraphic record, emphasising the processes of sediment transport and deposition.

This course is a pre-requisite for EART20222 Sedimentology 2: Carbonates and Evaporites. The course unit is a foundation for field-based dissertations, the second year Pembrokeshire field course, as well as more specialised courses in the third year (e.g. EART30372 Sedimentary Basins and Sequence Stratigraphy and EART30322 Easrth Surface Processes) and fourth year (e.g., EART41000 Sediment Transport Processes).

Taught elements of the course comprise 10 x 1 hr lectures and 10 x 2.5 hr practicals (total 35 contact hours). An additional 65 hours of private study should be undertaken. Supplementary 'added value' materials are available on the course unit Blackboard site.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Planet Earth: Its Climate, History and Processes EART10111 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
EART10131 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
EART10232 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


This course unit aims to develop an understanding of the processes and products of clastic sedimentary environments, and the ability to interpret depositional facies and their sedimentary environments in both time and space.

Learning outcomes

The following is a general guide to the level of competence achieved by students in different grade classes on completion of the course unit. The ability to accurately recall and apply a range of facts learnt during the course will earn you a maximum grade of ~60%. To achieve a grade of 2.1 or higher you will need to demonstrate criticality in your thinking (e.g., in the interpretation of those facts).

Excellent competence achieved (70%+)
As below plus:
Has developed the capacity for three dimensional thinking with regard to sedimentary systems, drawing upon both vertical and lateral trends in the description and interpretation of strata
Demonstrates ability to discuss alternative controls on the deposition of a stratigraphic section, over a range of appropriate scales, and to draw quantitatively reasonable conclusions
Has acquired a wide range of knowledge and understanding of the subject such that they could hold their own in a sedimentological debate of features observed at an exposure

II.1 Good competence achieved- average to above average (60-69%)
Ability to construct good facies descriptions containing much pertinent detail and excellent use of nomenclature, generally quantitative in approach. Vertical trends fully described and some detail on lateral variation.
Good understanding of the formation of key common bedforms and sedimentary structures in terms of fluid dynamics, and the interaction between fluid and sediment grains leading to sediment erosion, transport and deposition
Can correctly identify specimens and images of a variety of bedforms and structures of types not directly studied in class and hypothesise about their formation in terms of flow dynamics
Understand how sediments accumulate and how vertical facies variability develop in sediments and sedimentary successions, with the ability to quantify changing flow conditions from vertical successions of bedforms and sedimentary structures
Sound ability to interpret depositional environments/provenance from stratigraphic successions with good knowledge and understanding, but little attempt to elucidate the important controls in deposition

II.2 Solid competence achieved (50-59%)
Ability to complete competent descriptions of sediments and sedimentary rocks, applying all appropriate nomenclature, containing most of the pertinent facts needed to develop an interpretation of their mode of formation if required. Incorporates some quantitative data
Familiarity with the methods of acquiring, interpreting and analysing sedimentological data in a variety of formats and have a critical understanding of the appropriate context of their use
Can correctly identify unseen specimens and images of bedforms and structures of the same types as studied in class, but limited ability to identify bedforms and structures from categories not directly studied in class
Basic understanding of fluid dynamics, and the interaction between fluid and sediment grains leading to sediment erosion, transport and deposition, and some attempt to apply this knowledge to the formation of bedforms and sedimentary structures
Solid ability to quantify basic palaeohydraulics from individual bedforms and sedimentary structures but limited ability to interpret flow characteristics from vertical successions of bedforms and sedimentary structures and implications for flows
Solid factual understanding of the key processes and features of different depositional environments, with a basic ability to identify such environments from stratigraphic successions
III Basic competence achieved (40-49%)
Minor inappropriate use of nomenclature to describe sediments and sedimentary rocks, descriptions largely qualitative and some pertinent facts missing
Basic familiarity with the methods of ac


The basic course syllabus shown below will be supplemented by added value materials (e.g., suggested reading, additional lectures and practical materials) available on the module Blackboard site.


Part A: The Physical Processes of Sedimentation

Week 1: Sedimentology and stratigraphy: fundamental controls and concepts in sedimentary basins. Scope of the course.

Week 2: Basics of fluid flow: fluid properties, flow types and behaviour.

Week 3: Fluid-sediment interactions and transport of sediment.

Week 4: Bedforms formed by unidirectional water flows.

Week 5: Bedforms formed by oscillatory and multidirectional water flows.

Part B: Sedimentary Environments and Facies

Week 6: Overview: sedimentary environments from source to sink. Aeolian processes and depositional environments.

Week 7: River processes and sedimentation-meandering and braided rivers.

Week 8: Deltaic environments and facies.

Week 9: Shoreline environments and facies.

Week 10: Shelf, slope and deep marine sedimentation: Turbidites.


Students should wear appropriate clothing to practical classes - the classes are 'hands on' and can be messy!

Week 1: Forensic geology exercise: The physical properties of sediment and sedimentary rocks.

Week 2: Key properties of fluids and particle-fluid interactions: Experiment I.

Week 3: The role of particle settling in sediment transport and deposition. Experiment II: The 'intelligent' use of equations to quantify sedimentary processes (example applied to Stokes' Law).

Week 4: Exploration of flow dynamics, sediment transport, bedform generation and sedimentary structures using a laboratory flume.

Week 5: Identification and interpretation of bedforms and their sedimentary structures in hand specimen and core.

Week 6: Identification and interpretation of erosional and secondary structures in hand specimen and core.

Week 7: Quantifying processes from vertical successions (exposure scale).

Week 8: Identification and interpretation of depositional environments.

Week 9: Provenance: Palaeocurrent indicators and data analysis.

Week 10:Introduction to basin analysis: Allo- and Auto-cyclic controls on basin fill, the geometry of stratigraphic successions, and nature of bounding surfaces.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods


This is a course designed to develop your practical ability to describe and interpret sedimentary rocks through hands on observation and experimentation. Consequently, throughout each 2.5 hour practical class the teaching staff will be available for discussions on a one-on-one basis with the students, guiding them through the various exercises and offering many comments. In addition, if students wish to take advantage of the optional "added value" material available on the module Blackboard site by completing these exercises at home, the teaching staff will be happy to discuss these efforts on request in the practical classes.

The weekly practical tests provide the students with the opportunity to gauge their understanding, and feedback in the form of a discussion of the correct and incorrect answers is provided at the end of the test.  Students are encouraged to participate by asking questions at this time to ensure they understand. Study guides for the weekly tests are posted on the Blackboard to provide further guidance for study.

Students will be offered the opportunity to view their marked January examination script following publication of the examination results (time and place to be announced), and written group feedback will be posted on the examination noticeboard.

Recommended reading

Several texts are available that provide an overview of the material covered by this course.

The most basic text that is suitable for the course is:

Nichols, G., 2009, Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, 2nd Edition, Wiley-Blackwell

An intermediate level text that is suitable for the course is:

Tucker, M. E. Sedimentary Petrology. Blackwells

The most challenging text that is suitable for the course is:

Leeder, M.R., 1999, Sedimentology and Sedimentary Basins: From Turbulence to Tectonics. Blackwells.

Other useful texts that emphasise particular aspects of the course will be listed in the course hand book distributed in the first lecture.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 25
Independent study hours
Independent study 65

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Merren Jones Unit coordinator

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