Simplified Carbonate Sequence Stratigraphy

Maya Elrick
University of New Mexico
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Sequence stratigraphy is jargon-laden and typically presented in an overly complicated manner which turns many students off. This lab is a simple and straightforward introduction to sequence stratigraphic interpretations of a carbonate platform using a combination of facies analysis, facies correlations, hand samples, thin sections, and is followed up by students reconstructing the platform profile at specific time intervals during sequence development to detect and interpret changes in platform morphology.

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Presently designed for junior/senior undergraduate geology (or environmental science) majors, but could be modified for more advanced (graduate level).

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Since this lab integrates hand samples and thin sections, students should have some basic carbonate petrography and paleontology skills to identify carbonate rock types and common skeletal fossils. They should have basic understanding of shallow carbonate marine through deeper marine sedimentary environments (shorelines, wave base, storm wave base, turbidites, etc.).

How the activity is situated in the course

Stand-alone exercise using hand samples, thin sections scheduled after a basic carbonate petrography lab which introduces students to carbonate rock types and common fossils in thin section.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Learning to interpret depositional environments from facies information, petrographic, and hand sample information. Recognizing relative sea-level changes using basic systems tract identification, correlation using facies and systems tracts, reconstructing carbonate platform morphologies using sequence stratigraphy and Walther's Law.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Students interpret shallow to deep marine carbonate environments developed across a 150-km wide carbonate platform, identify a single depositional sequence (and internal systems tracts), correlate facies, then reconstruct the platform geometry at specific time intervals during sequence development. This exercise is based on a real-world example and can be modified based on available samples.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Evaluations are based on reasonable depositional environment interpretations and data used to make interpretations, correlated cross section, systems tract identifications, and depositional profile reconstructions.

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