From Grains to Basin: An Example of a Project-Based Sedimentology Exercise

Frederika (Fraka) Harmsen
California State University, Fresno
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To help make the connection between thin-section and outcrop, students undertake a field oriented project in Ridge Basin, California.

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Undergraduate required course in sedimentology.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

How to describe and interpret the following: sedimentary rock mineralogy, texture, diagenesis, sedimentary structures, fossil paleoecology, stratigraphy, and paleocurrent analysis.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the culminating project.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Walther's law, sedimentation and tectonics and depositional history.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Analysis of data, formulation of hypotheses, synthesis of ideas, and development of analog models.

Other skills goals for this activity

Operating analytical equipment (e.g. XRD, SEM), working in groups in the field, developing scientific writing skills.

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this project, students have gained familiarity with thin-section preparation and the use of analytical equipment such as the XRD. The students have also learnt how to measure and interpret paleocurrent data. They have read background articles on the basin of study. In the field, students learn how to measure a stratigraphic section and the application of Walther's Law. The goal is to combine the skills acquired earlier in the class to interpret the stratigraphy, facies, depositional history and paleogeography of an outcrop in the field. This exercise also links sedimentation and tectonics.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The students' field notes are evaluated. Their geologic reports are graded for writing and analytical skills, critical thinking and geologic content.

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