GEOL 440/540: Sedimentary Basin Analysis: Spring, 2014




Dr. Rebecca Dorsey

Office Hours:

M T Th 4:00-5:00 (or by appt)

Class Meetings:

2:00-3:20 Mon., Wed.


Rm 254 Columbia Hall


GEOL 334, 350

This course is designed to familiarize students with the major mechanisms involved in formation, subsidence, and filling of sedimentary basins. We will examine the dynamics of basin evolution in tectonically active settings, including convergent, divergent, and strike-slip plate margins and interiors. Our goal is to develop a solid understanding of the major structural, tectonic, and geophysical processes that produce sedimentary basins, and develop some skills in basin analysis that allow us to interpret those processes from the stratigraphic record. We will emphasize a multi-disciplinary approach that integrates concepts in structure, tectonics, geodynamics, sediment transport, and process stratigraphy to help us understand the behavior of sedimentary basins in active settings. Quantitative methods to be introduced include simple isostatic, thermal, and flexural modeling of crustal subsidence, and application of diffusion-based basin-filling models that govern the stratigraphic architecture of most basins.

There will be 5 homework assignments, one midterm exam, and a term paper, and each student will give a class presentation of their term-paper topic during final exams week. There will be no final exam. We will take a weekend field trip (dates tba), to look at Eocene sedimentary rocks and structures in the Roseburg area that are associated with accretion of the Siletz oceanic terrane to North America.

The term paper will be an independent research project on a topic of your choice; this can be a 10- to 15-page review to summarize an area of basin research, or it can be a 15-page NSF-style proposal that designs a new research project in the field of basin analysis or related topics. Term paper topics will be proposed by students and reviewed by me in the second homework assignment. Student presentations at the end of the term will provide valuable experience in verbal communication of research results in a friendly public setting.


Required Text: Angevine, C.L., Heller, P.L., and Paola, C., 1990, Quantitative Sedimentary Basin Modeling: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Shortcourse Note Series #32, 247 pp. I will make copies available in class. (and, some parts of this book can be downloaded at Paul Heller's web site.)

Optional Text: Busby, C.J., and Ingersoll, R.V. (eds.), 1995, Tectonics of Sedimentary Basins. Blackwell Science, 579 pp. This book is out of print; I will provide chapter readings in class.

Other readings will be from the following texts and papers, which I will provide:

Allen, P.A. and J.R. Allen, 1990, Basin Analysis: Principles and Applications. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Cambridge, 451 pp.

Einsele, G., 1992, Sedimentary Basins. Springer-Verlag, New York, 628 pp.

Journal Articles: list will be provided in class.

Link to a few papers here

Grading Criteria

Midterm Exam

25 %

Term Paper

35 %


30 %

Presentation and Participation

10 %

Other readings will be selected from the following texts and papers, which I will provide in class:

Allen, P.A., and Hovius, N., 1998, Sediment supply from landslide-dominated catchments: implications for basin-margin fans. Basin Research v. 10, p. 19-35.

Allen, P.A., and Densmore, A.L., 2000, Sediment flux from an uplifting fault block. Basin Research, v. 12, p. 367-380.

DeCelles, P.G., and Giles, K.A., 1996, Foreland basin systems. Basin Research, vol. 8, p. 105-123.

Dorsey, R.J., Housen, B.A., Janecke, S.U., Fanning, M., and Spears, A.L.F., in press, Stratigraphic record of basin development within the San Andreas fault system: Late Cenozoic Fish Creek-Vallecito basin, southern California. GSA Bulletin.

Dorsey, R.J., 2010, Sedimentation and crustal recycling along an active oblique-rift margin: Salton Trough and northern Gulf of California. Geology, v.38, p. 443-446.

Flemings, P.B. and T.E. Jordan, 1989, A synthetic stratigraphic model of foreland basin development. Jour. Geoph. Res., vol. 94, No. B4, p. 3851-3866.

Flemings, P.B. and T.E. Jordan, 1990, Stratigraphic modeling of foreland basins: Interpreting thrust deformation and lithosphere rheology. Geology, vol. 18, p. 430-434.

Gawthorpe, R.L., Fraser, A.J., and Collier, R.E., 1994, Sequence stratigraphy in active extensional basins: implications for the interpretation of ancient basin-fills: Marine and Petroleum Geology, v. 11, p. 642-658.

Gawthorpe, R. L., Sharp, I., Underhill, J. R., Gupta, S., 1997, Linked sequence stratigraphic and structural evolution of propagating normal faults. Geology, vol. 25, n. 9, p. 795-798.

Heller, P.L., and Paola, C., 1992, The large-scale dynamics of grain-size variation in alluvial basins, 2: Application to syntectonic conglomerate: Basin Research, v. 4, p. 91-102.

Ingersoll, 1988, Tectonics of sedimentary basins. GSA Bulletin, v. 100, p. 1704-1719.

Paola, C., 2000, Quantitatie models of sedimentary basin filling: Sedimentology, v. 47, p. 121-178.

Paola, C., Heller, P.L., and Angevine, C.L., 1992, The large-scale dynamics of grain-size variation in alluvial basins, 1: Theory: Basin Research, v. 4, p. 73–90.

Whipple, K.X., and Trayler, C.R., 1996, Tectonic control of fan size: the importance of spatially variable subsidence rates. Basin Research, v. 8, p. 351-366.

Other Recommended Texts and Edited Volumes:

Cross, T. (1989) Quantitative Dynamic Stratigraphy, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Dickinson, W.R., ed. (1974) Tectonics and Sedimentation, S.E.P.M. Spec. Publ. No. 22, p.1-27.

Franseen, E.K., et al, eds., 1991, Sedimentary Modeling: Computer Simulations and Methods for Improved Parameter Definition. Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 233.

Frostick, L. and Steel, R. (eds.), 1994, Tectonic Controls and Signatures in Sedimentary Successions. Int. Assoc. Sedim. Special Publ. 20, 528 pp.

Kleinspehn, K.L. and C. Paola, 1988, New Perspectives in Basin Analysis, Springer-Verlag, N.Y., 453 pp.

Miall, A.D., 1984, Principles of Sedimentary Basin Analysis, Springer-Verlag, N.Y., p.367-455.

Turcotte, D.L. and Schubert, G., 1982, Geodynamics: Applications of Continuum Mechanics to Geological Problems. Wiley, New York, 450 pp.


A Few Good Web Sites for Sedimentary Geology and Basin Analysis:

  • Web Resources for Sedimentary Geologists - maintained by Becky Dorsey

  • Sequence Stratigraphy - online guide by Steven Holland, University of Georgia

  • Experimental Stratigraphy - by Chris Paola, Gary Parker, and others at the University of Minnesota

  • Sediment Transport Movies- nice collection, by Paul Heller (University of Wyoming)

  • USGS Bedform Sedimentology - by David Rubin at the USGS

  • Sediments and Global Cycles - by Paul Olsen, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

    : This page may not be updated during the term. It is provided mainly for reference and introduction.