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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE2910 Palaeoenvironmental Analysis

20 credits

Module manager: Paul Wignall

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Pre-requisite qualifications

Successful completion of Level 1 of registered programme

Module replaces

SOEE 2145 Palaeoecology and evolutionSOEE 2062 SedimentologySOEE2010 Chemistry of the Earth

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module will focus on the use of sedimentological, geochemical and palaeontological principles in the analysis of sedimentary environments, in hand specimen, core and at outcrop, and the evolutionary history of life and environments through time using a broad range of approaches from hand specimen analysis to the statistical analysis of large datasets.


The student will learn the principles and techniques that are used to assess ancient environmental and biotic conditions, using sedimentological, palaeoecological and geochemical approaches, along with an understanding of the evolutionary patterns seen at micro and macroscale in the fossil record. Involving an understanding of sedimentary processes, facies model generation, integrated with geochemical principles for evaluating local and global environments.

Learning outcomes
1. An understanding of the principles of physical sedimentology and diagenesis and the processes and products seen in both clastic and carbonate sedimentary environments.
2. An understanding or palaeoecological principles used in the analysis of sedimentary facies.
3. An understanding of the chemistry of ancient environments and climates including oceanic parameters (redox, acidification) using stable isotope systems and knowledge of carbonate and sulphate systems.
4. Apply sedimentological and palaeoecological methodologies to interpret sedimentary facies and their sedimentary environments.
5. An understanding of patterns seen in evolutionary history on a range of scale.
6. To interpret past environments and evolution using a spectrum of approaches from hand specimens to statistical manipulation of large datasets.

Skills outcomes
This module will train the student in the ability to analyse the sedimentary and palaeontological record using a broad set of skills ranging from analysis of sedimentary structures, trace fossils, fossil assemblages to the manipulation of large datasets using modelling, programming and statistical packages. These will be integrated with geochemical knowledge of element and stable isotope systems. The skills will be acquired both during lab work and in a field class.


Overview: Macroevolutionary patterns, trace and body fossil analysis, fossil preservation, analysis of quality of the fossil record, diagenetic processes, flow types and bedforms, principals of facies analysis, deltaic, alluvial, turbidite system facies models, carbonate environments, clastic and carbonate diagenesis, core analysis, field analytical skills.
Palaeontology strand (weeks 1-8)
1. Introduction to palaeoecology principles (lecture)
2. Macroevolution in the fossil (lecture + practical)
3. Extinctions (lecture + practical)
4. Analysing the quality of the fossil record (lecture + practical)
5. Trace fossils (lecture + practical)
6. Microevolutionary patterns (lecture + practical)
7. Taphonomy and Lagerstatten (lecture + practical)
8. Biofacies analysis: black shales (lecture + practical)

Sedimentology strand (weeks 1-7)
1. Introduction to flow types. (lecture)
2. Bedforms and structures (lecture + practical)
3. Soft sediment deformation styles (lecture + practical)
4. Principals of facies analysis, modelling concepts (lecture + practical)
5. Deltas and coastal environments. Erosional sedimentary structures (2 lectures)
6. Turbidites and deep basins. Alluvial facies. (2 lectures)
7. Carbonate environments and facies (lecture + prac)

Geochemistry (weeks 8-10)
8. Diagenesis, organic decay, sediment redox zones (2 lecture)
9. Carbon, oxygen and sulphur systems (2 lectures)
10. Carbonate equilibria and ocean redox relation so long-term climate change (2 lectures)

Integrative core-based exercises (week 9-11) 6 hrs lab work
Team-based analysis of core material involving identification of sedimentary structures, trace fossils, diagenetic products and sedimentary logging to produce a report on palaeoenvironments and facies models.
Fieldwork: 5 days examining the Clare Basin in western Ireland, using sedimentological, geochemical and palaeoecological principles to interpret depositional environments: platform carbonates, deep basinal source rocks, slope facies and processes, deltaic facies, alluvial facies, constructing basin models.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Group learning32.006.00
Independent online learning hours14.00
Private study hours100.00
Total Contact hours86.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Comments will be provided on two palaeontology practicals and feedback given before the end of teaching.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
ReportSedimentary log analysis and 1000 word report based on field course data35.00
Group ProjectShort report (2000 words) with sedimentary logs15.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Resit assessment will consist of a 2 hour exam only, in August.

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc) (S1)2 hr 50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/06/2021 16:25:48


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