GEOL 440/540: Sedimentary Basin Analysis: Fall, 2018




Dr. Rebecca Dorsey

Office Hours:

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

Class Meetings:

12:00-1:20 Tues., Thurs.


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 near the end of the term. There is no final exam. We will take a weekend field trip (October 6-7), 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 and related growth of the Klamath Mountains. Notes and maps produced on the field trip will be used to write the field trip report.

The term paper will be an independent research project on a topic of your choice. Undergraduate students will write a 10-page review of a chosen topic in basin research. Graduate students will write a 15-page research paper or NSF-style proposal to design new research in the field of basin analysis or a related topic. Term paper topics will be proposed by students and reviewed by me as an early homework assignment. Graduate students will be assigned additional and more difficult problems in the homework assignments and midterm exam, and will be expected to write a longer, more rigorous in-depth term paper.

Grading Criteria

Midterm Exam

25 %

Term Paper

35 %

Homeworks (5 @ 6% each)

30 %

Presentation and Participation

10 %

Link to full syllabus here

Course Schedule

Note: Readings are provided in the schedule below. Here you can access UO Library's Allen and Allen (2013) E-Book.





Reading Assignments

Homework Assignments






(with due dates)




Course Introduction, Overview






Tectonics of Sedimentary Basins

Ingersoll, 1988 || A&A 16-19 || "Basins Overview" handout




Isostatic Subsidence

Ang 1-4 || Ein 313-317 || "Isostasy" handout





Prep for Field Trip: Accretion of Siletzia

Santra et al. (2013) || Wells et al. (2014) || Dorsey 2017 GSA ppt || GSA PDF




Weekend Field Trip: Roseburg Area

Basinal Record of Siletzia Accretion: Field Trip Guide





Dynamics of Rift Basins

A&A 54-78 || Leeder and Gawthorpe (1987)

1. Isostasy Problems (10/9)




Thermal Subsidence, Passive Margins

Ang 5-6, 20-24 || A&A 39-41 || "Thermal" handout ||
White & McKenzie (1988)





Flexural Subsidence

Ang 36-42 || A&A 98-118 || "Flexure" handout

2. Term Project Outline (10/16)




Foreland Basins

A&A 118-138 || DeCelles and Giles (1996) || Foreland Basins





Sediment Continuity, Mass Balance

Ang 90-113 (Chapter 9) || "Basin-Fill" handout

3. Flexural Subsidence (10/23)




Basin-Filling Models

Heller and Paola (1992) || "Basin-Fill" handout





Basin-Filling Models, Contd.

Dubille & Lave (2015)

4. Radioactive Decay (10/30)




Midterm Review

(no new reading)





Midterm Exam






Strike-Slip Basins: Intro

A&A 188-222 || Nilson and Sylvester (1995, in B&I) || "Strike-Slip" handout





Strike-Slip Basins: Cont.

Dorsey & Langenheim (2015) || McNabb et al. (2017)

5. Field Trip Report (11/13)




Forearc Basins & Willamette Valley

Will: Baldwin & Howell (1949) || Wells etal (1998)





Term Project Presentations (2)

Larry (Festa etal 2010); and Kevin (Dorsey etal 2018)

I will review mature draft of term papers, if received by Nov. 21




Thanksgiving, no class





Term Project Presentations (2)

Ricky (Jamieson, 1865); Sam (Schmandt & Humphreys 2011)




Term Project Presentations (2)

Emily (Ghanadian 2017); Gabe (Umhoefer etal 2018)





Term Papers Due Dec. 5 (Wednesday)

Finals Week (Dec. 3-7), No Final Exam

Term Paper Guidelines

Ang = Angevine et al (1990); A&A = Allen and Allen (2013) ; B&I = Busby and Ingersoll (1995) ; Ein = Einsele (1992)


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. You can also download the chapters from Paul Heller's AAPG short course web site.

Allen, P.A. and J.R. Allen, 2013, Basin Analysis: Principles and Application to Petroleum Play Assessment. John Wiley & Sons, 619 pp.

Optional Texts:

Allen, P.A. and J.R. Allen, 2005, Basin Analysis: Principles and Applications. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Cambridge, 451 pp.

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 post a couple of chapter readings here.

Busby, C.J., and Azor, A. (eds.), 2012,Tectonics of Sedimentary Basins: Recent Advances, First Edition. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Link to Chapters here.

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

Journal Articles (these are some classics, I will add more during the term):

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

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

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

Dubille, M., and Lave, J., 2015, Rapid grain size coarsening at sandstone/conglomerate transition: similar expression in Himalayanmodern rivers and Pliocenemolasse deposits. Basin Research, vol. 27, p. 26-42.

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.

Leeder, M.R. and Gawthorpe, R.L., 1987. Sedimentary models for extensional tilt-block/half-graben basins. Geological Society, London, Special Publications28(1), pp.139-152.

Paola, C., 2000, Quantitative 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.

Wells, R., Bukry, D., Friedman, R., Pyle, D., Duncan, R., Haeussler, P. and Wooden, J., 2014. Geologic history of Siletzia, a large igneous province in the Oregon and Washington Coast Range: Correlation to the geomagnetic polarity time scale and implications for a long-lived Yellowstone hotspot. Geosphere10(4), pp.692-719.

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.

White, N., and McKenzie, D., 1988, Formation of the "steer's head" geometry of sedimentary basins by differential stretching of the crust and mantle. Geology, vol. 16, p. 250-253.

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:

  • Mahlongwa River breach, Indian Ocean. Mahlongwa River in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 

  • Sequence Stratigraphy - online guide at SEPM web pages

  • Experimental Stratigraphy - At St. Anthony Falls, with Chris Paola 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

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