Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module GEOL2031: Sedimentary Environments

Department: Earth Sciences

GEOL2031: Sedimentary Environments

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • GEOL1101 Understanding Earth Sciences


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • Participants will learn to reconstruct past environments by integrating sedimentological data sets by:
  • understanding the processes involved in the formation and diagenesis of sedimentary rocks;
  • appreciating the principles and practice of sedimentology.
  • Hands-on and research-led teaching will train participants to:
  • identify and evaluate sedimentary units on scales varying from microscopic to formational;
  • using a range of techniques to analyse processes and factors associated with a variety of continental and marine environments, and their influence on sedimentary deposits and interaction in sedimentary basins;
  • The course will highlight important economic and scientific applications of sedimentology, its importance as we move to a low-carbon economy and wider importance for environmental applications.


  • Sedimentary Environments
  • Process Sedimentology and sedimentary structures.
  • External controls on sedimentary environments.
  • Sedimentary basins and deposition.
  • Sediment deposition, environments and facies in continental environments.
  • Sediment deposition, environments and facies in marine environments.
  • Applied sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy.
  • Fieldwork Sedimentology and data collection.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Evaluate the physical, chemical and biological processes that lead to sedimentary rock formation and their subsequent diagenesis under different environmental conditions.
  • Be conversant with the principal environments in which sediments are deposited and be able to identify these in the geological record on the basis of their distinguishing features.
  • Will have acquired subject knowledge and understanding in geological principles, terms, definitions, classifications and application to problem solving.
  • Through research-led learning students will develop a depth of knowledge and research skills in the area of sedimentology, and of more general applicability. The module particularly emphasizes skills that are relevant to independent research and written communication, with a view to preparing students for future dissertation-style learning opportunities.
  • The role of statistical tools and appraisal of large data sets for better understanding sedimentary sequences.
  • Processes that control the quality of the fossil record and depositional environment.
  • Applications of sedimentary rocks and fossils in understanding Earth history.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Use hand specimens and the petrological microscope to identify minerals and assess the significance of textures and processes of formation in selected suites of sedimentary rocks.
  • Plan, conduct and report on laboratory and field projects.
  • Use quantitative sedimentary data sets.
  • Evaluate and understand data quality from sedimentary environments.
  • Be able to understand and unravel the key controls on sedimentary sequences and how they interact with external controls in sedimentary basins.
Key Skills:
  • Discovery, synthesis and understanding of sedimentary data sets.
  • Communication of novel findings to peers and end-users.
  • Clear, well-structured written communication.
  • Independent critical analysis.
  • Adaptable, flexible, innovative and creative approach to work and problem solving.
  • Ability to set goals, work to deadlines and accept personal responsibility.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • A mixture of lectures and practicals will complement providing an holistic approach that is the realistic practice of geologists and in particular sedimentologists.
  • Guidance on preparation and key skills are provided.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 Hour 20
Practicals 20 Weekly 2 Hours 40
Preparation and Reading 140
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
two-hour unseen examination 100%
Component: Continual Assessment Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Practical Assessment 1 50%
Practical Assessment 2 50%

Formative Assessment:

Practical SAQs and revision sessions.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University