GEOL40660 Stratigraphic prediction

Academic Year 2023/2024

A module focussing on how to build stratigraphic correlations and predict lithology using core and well data. It will introduce core-to-log ties and correlation strategies including surface based correlations in 3D using sequence stratigraphic principles. The module will also cover the application of bio-, chemo- and cyclostratigraphy in setting up correlation frameworks. Examples from deeper subsurface reservoir analysis, behind-outcrop coring, and shallow geotechnical and groundwater-related projects will form the basis of a series of related practical sessions.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, you should be able to:
- Work from a 1D stratigraphic section to make predictions in3D and time.
- Apply understanding from Holocene systems and outcrop analogues.
- Use biostratigraphy to erect a stratigraphical framework and constrain palaeoenvironments.
- Construct correlation panels using sequence stratigraphic principles
- Build serial gross depositional environment (GDE) maps to predict spatial variations in lithology.

Indicative Module Content:

Lectures (50 minutes)
Lecture 1: Introduction to stratigraphic principles
The stratigraphic record – rates, scales and gaps. Steno’s laws in the subsurface. Clinoforms and clinothems. Way-up. Bed geometry. Relationship between litho-, bio- and chronostratigraphy. Unconformities and surface-based correlation. Event stratigraphy.

Lecture 2: Facies concept – 1D to 4D
Facies, facies associations and facies successions. Architectural elements. Systems tracts. Relationship between depositional environments and depositional systems. Walther’s Law. Shoreline processes. Stratigraphy generated by regressive and transgressive shorelines. Accommodation and the A:S ratio. Auto vs. allogenic controls on deposition.

Lecture 3: Generating stratigraphy
Concept of stratigraphic base-level on different sectors of the depositional profile. Compensational stacking. River channels and floodplain deposits. Reconstructing alluvial stratigraphy in the subsurface. Multilateral and multistorey sandbodies. Compensation, anti-compensation and channel stacking patterns. Climate and tectonic controls on channel connectivity. Implications for groundwater aquifers (NW India and US High Plains).

Lecture 4: Modern coastal settings – what lies beneath?
Main paralic settings and relationship to A:S. Importance of process mix (river discharge, tides, waves). Stratigraphic lessons from high-resolution characterisation of the Holocene Mississippi and Po delta systems, the Sendai plain and the Gironde estuary. Distinguishing delta from estuarine systems.

Lecture 5: Biostratigraphy 1
Basic principles of biostratigraphy (P1). Key concepts: homotaxy; diachrony; biozones; biochronozones. Key attributes of a zone fossil. Criteria for definition of biozones. Challenge of reworked fossils.

Lecture 6: Biostratigraphy 2
Important microfossil groups: their environmental and temporal distribution. Coupling biostratigraphy to a geochronological framework (P2). Applications in paleoenvironmental analysis and definition of GDEs. Incorporation of biostratigraphy into sequence stratigraphy.

Lecture 7: Introduction to sequence stratigraphy
Origin of surface based stratigraphic subdivision. The slug diagram – what it does and does not represent. Eustatic and relative sea level change. Concept of sediment volume partitioning. Margin response to a fall and then rise of sea level. Origin of key stratigraphic surfaces: subaerial unconformity, correlative conformity, maximum regressive surface, transgressive surface and maximum flooding surface. Surfaces and time.

Lecture 8: Parasequences and sequence sub-division
Shallow-water parasequences and flooding surfaces. Expression of parasequences in different settings. Parasequence stacking patterns - progradational, aggradational and retrogradational. Relationship to shoreline trajectories and position in sequence. Products of normal vs forced regression. Surface expression. Contrasting approaches to sequence subdivision.

Lecture 9: Surface-based correlation in practice
Outline of typical workflow. Gross depositional environment maps (the predictive element). Importance of the choice of datum. Honouring rational depositional trends (pitfall of like-to-like correlation). Moving away from the shoreline – approaches to non-marine and deep-water stratigraphy.

Lecture 10: Additional stratigraphic tools
Source to sink (S2S) analysis – basin scale prediction. Compositional and heavy mineral stratigraphy in barren strata. Chemostratigraphy. Clay mineralogy. Magnetostratigraphy. Cyclostratigraphy and cyclothems. Event stratigraphy.

Practicals (3 hour sessions)

Practical 1:
Predicting stratigraphic relationships away from a vertical section. (A) Sorbas Member, SE Spain and (B) Aren Sandstone, south-central Pyrenees.

Practical 2:
Cocco delta exercise. Reconstructing Holocene history and shallow subsurface stratigraphy from Google Earth imagery.

Practical 3:
Biostratigraphic exercises. (1) Alternative correlations via lithostratigraphy, event stratigraphy, biostratigraphy. (2) Microfossils and biostratigraphy: establishing the geochronology of ODP Leg 198 Site 1208A, Shatsky Rise, NW Pacific. (3) Using microfossil datum levels to calculate sedimentation rates.

Practical 4:
Surface based correlation exercises.

Practical 5:
Ferron Sandstone correlation using behind-outcrop boreholes and generation of GDE maps.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Module comprises a combination of lectures and linked problem-based practical exercises designed to build on the lecture content. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Write-up of practical exercises Varies over the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Examination: Combined practical and written examination Unspecified No Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be provided on the continuous assessments during the trimester.

Name Role
Assoc Professor Patrick Orr Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.

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