Sedimentology and Stratigraphy

Kyle Fredrick,
California University of Pennsylvania


EAS 423 is an upper-level course required for majors in Geology and recommended for majors in Environmental Earth Science at our institution. The main topis are recognition and description of sedimentary rocks, interpretation of stratigraphy, and paleogeographic reconstruction. Students are taught through a combination of lecture, lab, and field exercises, with an emphasis on writing and note-taking.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Integrated lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is a required, upper-level course for our Geology majors. It is a recommended elective for the Environmental Earth Science and Climatology concentrations within the Earth Science major. Most students are part of the "Geology program" and have taken at least 4-5 previous geology courses. The pre-requisite courses are Introductory Geology and Historical Geology. The course includes lecture and lab, but is integrated, limiting the amount of time for both. The course is meant to follow the Mineralogy and Petrology sequence and precede Structural Geology for students following the "standard" route through the Geology curriculum.

Course Content:

Sedimentology and Stratigraphy is a comprehensive course that extends the fundamental principles of Sedimentary Geology from our students' Historical Geology class and combines that with Stratigraphy. Students are expected to apply the foundational concepts of sedimentology to local outcrops for interpretation and validation of accepted geological reconstructions. The course includes weekly lab exercises, three of which are on- or near-campus field exercises. There are also three extended day field courses, one of which is required. Students are asked to collect field data, make observations, and write about their experiences. Written and oral presentations will enforce their confidence in their own interpretations individually and through group work.

Course Goals:

Students will be able to...
  1. Identify sedimentary rocks based on their distinguishing properties examined in hand specimen and thin sections;
  2. Measure textural properties of sediments using standard laboratory methods, interpret sedimentary properties and classify sedimentary rocks in terms of environments of origin;
  3. Measure and describe units of sedimentary rocks in outcrop, and critically analyze spatial and age relationships between units;
  4. Understand the concepts of stratigraphy and apply stratigraphic principles to interpret the geologic history of the region through analysis of well logs, outcrops, and geologic maps;
  5. Evaluate the economic significance of certain units of sedimentary rocks.

Course Features:

Students work with a changing peer group to establish and compare outcrops for class evaluation. This is done through mapping, sketching, and site description in the region around our campus. Students must visit sites and be able to recognize and replicate the work of their peers.
Students will conduct field exercises involving rock descriptions at varying scales (mm, cm, m, and outcrop). This information will be used to create a detailed geologic history of an outcrop, based on contributions from the entire class.
Students will use maps and GIS to correlate stratigraphic well logs and core samples from our region to identify potential drill sites for fossil fuel resources.

Course Philosophy:

Our students expect a reasonable amount of field work in their upper-division courses. Additionally, there is an abundance of outcrops in our region based on the geologic history and the current climate and topography.
I enjoy teaching in the field, and am especially comfortable in a one-on-one setting with students that are engaged, curious, or confused. I like to set them to a problem and then teach more "reactively" to their specific questions and interpretations.


Students are graded on nearly all exercises. For each of the field or lab exercises, a portion of the grade is assigned for completion. However, I use a scale and rubric developed for individual assignments I've used in the past based on the "best" examples from former students. Additionally, I carry out the assignment myself, often without the full write-up (if required of students) and compare their work to mine. Students have a rubric to go along with most assignments. Finally, at the end of the course, I include practice questions from the ASBOG Professional Licensure exam to assess their proficiency and preparedness for graduation with a Geology degree.


Course Syllabus: Sed/Strat (Acrobat (PDF) 108kB Jun11 14)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (2nd edition), by Gary Nichols
I selected this text mostly based on the reasonable price. It also matches the format of my course, with regard to the order of topics. I like that it has many diagrams and it isn't highly technical. My students tend to bristle at books that seem to be geared toward graduate students as much as undergrads.

We use some select peer-reviewed journal articles to illustrated topics throughout the course. These change each semester with emerging technologies, new research, and student interests.
Nothing specific to this class.