AG-338 Sedimentology Field Course – from Depositional Systems to Sedimentary Architecture (10 ECTS)






February 15, 2023


June 05, 2023


July 07, 2023


Autumn semester (June–July), every second year

AG-338/838 field lecture in Tempelfjorden. Photo: Lis Allaart/UNIS.

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:Fieldwork, ca. NOK 1400 (7 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
Course Capacity Min/Max:10/20 students (AG-338/838 in total)
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

Course requirements

Enrolment in a relevant master programme. Previous knowledge about basic concepts in sedimentology and stratigraphy (introduction level courses and/or from practical experience during thesis work/fieldwork).

The course provides a background for courses in sequence stratigraphy (AG-323/AG-823), rift basin reservoirs – from outcrop to model (AG-336/AG-836) and Geological constraints on CO2 storage (AG-349/AG-849). The course is also recommended for students taking courses in Quaternary geology.

Academic content

The course focus on sedimentology as a fundamental part of understanding past and present earth surface processes. We use the modern physical environment of Svalbard as examples of depositional and erosional style, rates and resulting morphologies and deposits, and the excellent outcrops of sedimentary rocks in central Spitsbergen as examples of ancient sedimentary strata. All teaching is directly related to field experience with the aim of providing hands on experience with sedimentological description and analysis. The course activities switch between background lectures, reading and discussions as preparation for field work, field studies and classroom exercises, seminars and independent analysis and discussion of results. All examples will be related to state of the art literature and new scientific discussions in the field.

Students will learn to describe sedimentary structures and geometries in the field and link the new knowledge directly to the theory from the classroom.

The course focus is on siliciclastic sediments and rocks. Well exposed outcrops of Mesozoic to Cenozoic rocks from fluvial to coastal and shallow shelf deposits allows for investigation and discussion of sedimentary processes and deposition patterns, facies models, geometries, heterogeneities, stacking patterns laterally and vertically.

Modern sedimentary systems in Svalbard are representative of the high latitude/cold climate environment. Deposits from modern near-shore, fluvial and slope processes in this environment will be investigated and used to discuss the influence of climatic zones on sedimentary facies, source to sink systems and the influence of the sedimentary system on other parts of the earth system.

The course consists of alternating lectures, seminars and fieldwork. Lectures will provide background information for the current state of debate and students will be expected to critically assess published facies models and interpretations in seminars.

The fieldwork will focus on gaining practical experience with description and interpretation of sedimentological data. The data collected in the field will be used to discuss published models and interpretations. Field excursions will be carried out partly as daytrips in the area near Longyearbyen and partly as overnight excursions to other areas in order to have access to the full range of sedimentary environments available.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will:


  • an advanced understanding of the origin, use and limitations of facies models used in sedimentological analyses
  • knowledge on typical sedimentary facies in modern cold-climate sediments (colluvial, fluvial, tidal and pro-glacial) and in ancient sedimentary rocks exposed in Svalbard (primarily fluvial, coastal/tidal and shallow shelf deposits).


  • identify and describe sedimentary characteristics for modern sedimentary environments and use the understanding of sedimentary processes, deposits and geometries to establish own facies models for sedimentary environments typical for the Arctic
  • analyse sedimentary facies and architecture in outcrops of any age and use theoretical knowledge to discuss alternative models
  • compare core and outcrop data
  • use simple depositional system models
  • discuss alternative forcing mechanisms (including relative sea level) as drivers for change in sedimentary architecture and stacking patterns
  • critically evaluate published results and interpretations
  • discuss and question conceptual models for sedimentary environments or valley fills by combining own observations with ideas from the literature.

General competences

  • critically assess and discuss sedimentological data, develop models in a team and apply experience from fieldwork in the Arctic.

Learning activities

The course extends over 5 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AG-838.


  • Total lecture hours: 15 hours.
  • Total seminar hours: 25 hours.
  • Excursions: 8 days.

The course relies on active student participation, and fieldwork, seminar presentations and discussions are prioritized over lectures. Lectures are used to explain basic principles and introduce topics and terminology, but students will work actively in the field, in the laboratory and in discussion seminars with re-investigations of published work or collecting and interpreting new data.

Compulsory learning activities:

All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to be registered for the final assessment.

  • Field exercises
  • Oral presentations of field results


Percentage of final grade
Poster presentation of group work and oral presentation of results100%

Student life

Students in Braganzavågen
AG-338/838 students on fieldwork in Braganzavågen. Photo: Maria Jensen/UNIS
View over Tempelfjorden
AG-338/838 field lecture in Tempelfjorden. Photo: Lis Allaart/UNIS