Ancient Environments

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
GEOL 2420
Ancient Environments
Earth & Environmental Sciences
Science & Technology
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Class 36, Lab 18
Contact Hours
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

This course will involve 2 hours/week of direct lectures; 2 hours of lab in which students will directly examine rock samples or work with sedimentary sequence problems; and 2 hours of seminar in which instructor and students will discuss key topics, view slide or film presentations, or work on individual projects.  Field trips will be scheduled when appropriate.  Readings will be assigned to supplement the lectures.

Course Description
This course is an introduction to the reconstruction of ancient environments using information from sediments and rocks. The principles of stratigraphy and sedimentology will be used to show how environmental information can be interpreted from the rocks. Students will also learn how information from the past can contribute to our prediction of future environmental conditions. Field trips may be required.
Course Content
  1. Distribution and importance of sedimentary rocks
  2. Fundamental interpretive principles; uniformitarianism
  3. Sedimentary processes and sedimentary rocks
  • Basic classification
  • Stratification
  • Sedimentary structure (+ lab)
  • Sequence interpretation
  • Facies concepts (+ lab)
  • Correlation (+ lab)
  • Diagenesis (+ lab)
  • Introductory petrology of sedimentary rocks (+ lab)
  • Global dynamics and stratigraphy
    • Isostasy
    • Plate tectonics and lithospheric motion
    • Sea level fluctuations (eustatic changes)
    • Transgressions and  regressions
  • Stratigraphic principles and definitions
    • Biostratigraphy
    • Lithostratigraphy
    • Chronostratigraphy
    • Integrated models
    • Structure contour maps and isopach maps (+ lab)
  • Sedimentary environments, recent and ancient
    • Fluvial environments and clastic sedimentation
    • Coastal environments and clastic sedimentation
    • Self carbonates and coral reefs
    • Intertidal and supratidal evaporates and carbonates
    • Shelf-to-basin sequences
    • Aeolian environments and clastic sedimentation
    • Glacial environments and clastic sedimentation
  • Time sequences: evidence for cyclicity and underlying patterns of processes
    • Quarternary record of cyclicity: land and sea
    • Evidence for Paleozoic cyclicity
  • Integrative models of stratigraphy: case studies
  • Sedimentary mineral deposits and energy sources
  • Learning Outcomes

    The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the fields of sedimentology and stratigraphy, the two areas that are fundamental to the interpretation of the sedimentary rock sequence. The reconstruction of earth history depends to a large upon the interpretation of sedimentary rocks, which form a cumulative sequence documenting past environments on the earth’s surface and containing fossils of ancient organisms. Students will learn how the present is the key to the past, in that modern observations of sedimentological processes form the basis of rock sequence interpretation; but also that the past is the key to the future, given that these processes will continue. Students will learn the methods of dating and correlating rocks; the concept of facies and its relation to environments; and methods used to reconstruct ancient environments and climates.  Special attention will be paid to western Canadian examples.

    Means of Assessment
    Mid-term exam 25%
    Term paper / project 20%
    Lab exercises (5, bi-weekly) 25%
    Final exam 30%


    Textbook Materials

    Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students

    Walker, R. G. and N. P. James (eds.). 1992, Facies Models: Response to Sea Level Changes. Geological Assoc. of Canada.


    GEOL 1120 or GEOL 1121 or permission of instructor