Sedimentology and Stratigraphy

Clint Cowan,
Carleton College


This is a field-based Sedimentology and Stratigraphy course. We spend one day per week in the field, and have classroom time once a week. There are two weekend field trips.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Integrated lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is a course for senior and junior geology majors who have had 5 to 6 geology courses already.

Course Content:

This course trades lecture and survey material for field experience in a limited suite of sedimentary units. We study the Cambrian Jordan Sandstone for 5 weeks, and the Ordovician Decorah Shale-Galena Limestone for 5 weeks. Each Tuesday we go to a different outcrop. Each unit is studied over a 250 km transect. Students work out the facies and stratigraphy themselves, working in teams of 3.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to:
Do lithostrat, biostrat and sequence strat correlations.
Identify and interpret cross-bedding.
Identify and synthesize sedimentary facies.
Create illustrations to demonstrate their understanding.
Wrap it all up into a detailed team report.

Course Features:

Field experience sustained over ten weeks.

Course Philosophy:

I find that students retain very little from a survey of different types of sedimentary environments, so the trade off has been to completely dedicate the course to experiential learning and just-in-time teaching of basic topic, rather than covering more types of topics in a traditional lecture/lab setting.


If they impress me. I have them do a four-hour field test where they take me through an outcrop they have not studied before. They have to identify cross-bedding, create facies, and understand the stratigraphic succession.


Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Leeder: Sedimentology and Sedimentary Basins
Because Reineck and Singh and J.R.L. Allen are all out of press.