Teach the Earth > Sedimentary Geology > Teaching Activities > Identifying Facies in a Transgressive Sequence from the Mid-Atlantic Coast

Identifying Facies in a Transgressive Sequence from the Mid-Atlantic Coast

David Krantz
University of Toledo
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
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This page first made public: Jun 27, 2006


The transgressive coastal sequence will be explored by students in an activity based on high-resolution seismic profiles collected off Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia.

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This activity is designed for a required course in Stratigraphy for undergraduate majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

In previous exercises, students have described cores (lithologic description, with basic interpretation of what major lithologic changes could indicate), and have interpreted lithologic changes from a core transect across a barrier island into the back-barrier lagoon (either from actual cores or from logs of cores collected previously).

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is about two-thirds of the way through the course, following discussion of depositional systems and facies models, and as an introduction to the basic concepts of sequence stratigraphy.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Discussed in lecture prior to the exercise:
Factors affecting relative sea level
eustatic sea level, sediment supply, tectonic movement
the result: transgression, stillstand, or regression
prograding and retrograding units
General concept of depositional environments and lithofacies
Walther's Law and relation between lateral and vertical facies changes
General process of barrier-island transgression

Concepts incorporated into the exercise:
Primary facies associated with a barrier island and shoreface
characteristic geometries and bedding of facies
vertical and lateral facies relations
Components of a seismic sequence
bounding surfaces
shoreface ravinement—process and result
Accommodation space and preservation potential

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Interpreting deposition and erosion from a seismic profile
Visualization of a reconstructed map view of a barrier-island depositional system Visualization of 3-D structure of a sedimentary sequence from 2-D profiles
Visualization of 3 dimensions plus time, as the transgression proceeds
Iterative interpretation, and evaluating multiple working hypotheses

Other skills goals for this activity

Working in groups.
My Stratigraphy course is a University Writing Across the Curriculum course, so students will be required to write a brief report with description and interpretation of the seismic sections that they work on.

Description of the activity/assignment

The transgressive coastal sequence, as a fundamental concept in stratigraphy, will be explored by the students in a hands-on activity based on a set of high-resolution seismic profiles collected in the shoreface off Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia. Small groups of 2-3 students will identify primary surfaces, such as the ravinement surface and sequence boundaries, and major sedimentary facies, such as offshore shoals, flood-tidal deltas, and tidal inlets, in a set of shore-parallel and shore-perpendicular lines. The exercise begins with factors controlling relative sea level and leads into accommodation space and preservation potential.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Each Task has a specific product—an interpreted section, facies diagram, isopach map, or other synthesis. Points are assigned to each Task, and points are accumulated for the entire exercise.

If the product of a task is worth 20 points, 10 pts are given for meeting the minimum (generally following directions and creating a product), 5 more pts assigned for thoroughness and accuracy of interpretation, and a final 5 pts for quality of work.

Points may be deducted for a task that is turned in late or sloppily thrown together, for formatting errors such as no labels, or for an unclear or disorganized written explanation.

The instructor will review the students' work at regular intervals as tasks are completed, and lead a discussion by the class of the results to that point. The later tasks require reasonably correct interpretations for the initial tasks. In cases that a group is substantially off track, the instructor may redirect the line of thinking/interpretation.

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