Course Notes

Welcome to the Sedimentology and Stratigraphy course at The College of Wooster! This is our syllabus/blog for the class and any other interested students or geologists. Each week I will add links to the “home” page relevant to our curriculum. I will usually just be a week ahead since ideas (and web addresses) change rapidly in this field. The schedules of lectures, labs and field trips can be found at the “syllabus” tab.

This course is a survey of the description, formation, and distribution of sedimentary rocks, which are almost three-fourths of the rocks exposed on the Earth’s surface. Most of the details we know about Earth history come from sedimentary rocks and the fossils within them. Many of our primary economic resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are contained within sedimentary rocks. Our goals this semester are to understand how these rocks are formed and learn what types of stratigraphic, paleoenvironmental, and tectonic information can be recovered from them. By the end of the course, you should also be able to identify and interpret any sedimentary rock, and to be able to express this understanding through a variety of writing techniques.

I hope you find this course as much fun as I do!

Testing —

As with all our advanced courses, we have a framework of tests covering the specific material. In Sedimentology & Stratigraphy there are two lecture tests and two laboratory tests, each worth 10% of the final grade. The lecture tests will, naturally, be derived from lecture material, and the lab tests are from our lab work. You will see, though, that lab and lecture concepts are not easily separated — there may be ideas we introduce in lecture but cover in more detail in lab, and vice versa. We will thus distinguish between the two types of tests by saying that lab tests have specimens and lecture tests do not. The final examination (20% of the grade) will directly combine lab and lecture. These tests are a type of “in-class” writing assignment, so we will talk about the best ways to craft written responses to scientific questions.

Before each class lecture I will post a list of preparation questions. These questions are designed to prepare you for each new topic. If we have a pop quiz on the listed day, it will include these questions AND one surprise question from previous lectures to encourage  review. I recommend you thus have answers for them — at least in your head! — before each class meeting. You will have twelve pop quizzes by the end of the course, with the lowest two grades dropped. They count for a total of 10% of your final grade. If you are absent for any reason when a quiz is given (other than a scheduled college event you told me about in advance), your grade will be recorded as a zero. You may use any source to answer these questions before class. For a quiz, of course, you’re on your own.

Laboratory —

The laboratory will include experiments, rock identification (with hand specimens and thin-sections), quantification of sedimentary rock features, stratigraphic correlations, and maybe an occasional local field trip (as well as we can do field work in the winter here!). As with most geology labs, much of your work will be done outside the scheduled lab hours. We will also use some lab time for writing workshops. You’ll need a handlens for the lab and fieldwork; The Compleat Naturalist is one of many places to buy one.

Writing workshops.–The last twenty minutes or so of several lab sessions will be devoted to some aspect of your writing. We will take this time to discuss techniques (like making a proper citation or drafting an abstract) as well as answer any questions you have about your writing assignments. Expect also to do various short writing exercises, including peer review. Please bring your laptops to each lab session for these writing discussions and exercises.

Writing Assignments —

ESCI 370 is “writing intensive”, so on successful completion of the course you will receive a “W” for curriculum requirements. We will study and experiment with many types of writing in this course, especially analytical, scientific and popular science writing. The last 20 minutes of each lab will be a required writing workshop for discussions of style, content and scope of your writing. There are three direct writing assignments in this course, each of which is designed for as much writing instruction as evaluation:

Research Paper.–This is a paper covering a topic of your interest in sedimentology and stratigraphy (and not covered in class). It will be roughly 10-15 pages in length, plus illustrations and references. We will discuss potential topics early in the semester so that you can get started quickly. Be sure to visit our Departmental Writing website often for format and examples. We will be using a Dropbox system for all our departmental writing. Please see our research paper page for details. (Those of you who had the Invertebrate Paleontology course will know this system well!)

Two sed/strat essays.–Each essay will be 3-4 pages long. Together they will count as 10% of your final course grade. The essay topics will be chosen from what interests the class during the semester, so I cannot provide due dates yet. These essays can be revised and submitted again for another grade; your final grade will be an average of the two. Late papers are not accepted.

Grading Summary —

Lecture Test #1 (10%)
Lecture Test #2 (10%)
Lab Test #1 (10%)
Lab Test #2 (10%)
Final Exam (20%)
Pop Quizzes (12; lowest two dropped; 10% total)
Essay #1 (5%)
Essay #2 (5%)
Research Paper final (20%)

Field Trip — [Cancelled]

On Saturday, April 13, we will have a field trip to northeastern Ohio (leaving Scovel at 7:00 a.m.). We are doing it late in the semester to improve our chances for good weather and because you will be better sedimentologists and stratigraphers. We will describe, measure, sample, and interpret sedimentary rocks in the wild. This field trip is required for everyone, so tell coaches, professors, boyfriends, girlfriends, Mom, Dad, and roommates now.

Recommended Textbook —

Recommended, not required: Boggs, Sam, Jr. 2011. Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy. Fifth Edition. Pearson (Prentice Hall). 600 pages. 978-0321643186. I am not participating in the bookstore system, so if you wish you can get this book on your own. It’s expensive so I recommend maybe sharing a book or borrowing it from a previous student in the class. Our regular course readings will be free and online. See our home page each week for the links.

We will also have special readings from sedimentological and stratigraphic journals or other sources if our topics become newsworthy this semester. Please note that the Boggs textbook is used in lab as well as in lecture.

Teaching Assistants —

Galen Scwartzberg and Ethan Killian will be our teaching assistants. They will help in the laboratory and on the field trip; they will also serve as course tutors.

Schedule conflicts —

The faculty of the College has  approved a  policy regarding conflicts between extracurricular and academic events. I agree with it and will simply repeat the suggested syllabus statement:

“The College of Wooster is an academic institution and its fundamental purpose is to stimulate its students to reach the highest standard of intellectual achievement. As an academic institution with this purpose, the College expects students to give the highest priority to their academic responsibilities. When conflicts arise between academic commitments and complementary programs (including athletic, cultural, educational, and volunteer activities), students, faculty, staff, and administrators all share the responsibility of minimizing and resolving them. As a student you have the responsibility to inform the faculty member of potential conflicts as soon as you are aware of them, and to discuss and work with the faculty member to identify alternative ways to fulfill your academic commitments without sacrificing the academic integrity and rigor of the course.”

Course Instructor —

I have a weekly appointment schedule posted on my office door (Scovel 120). Please sign up for an appointment if you have any questions about the course or material.

Mark A. Wilson
Department of Earth Sciences
The College of Wooster

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