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GEOL263 Paleoenvironments and Basin Evolution

Understand sedimentary basin formation, resource accumulation and carbon cycling usingpaleoenvironmental and microfossil analysis, geophysical imaging of stratigraphy, and sequence and basin history modelling.

"Fossils, strata and hydrocarbon basins" introduces the geology (especially stratigraphy and history) of hydrocarbon basins. There is significant emphasis on fossils (for dating and paleoenvironmental study) and sedimentary rocks (paleoenvironments). Lab and field work will complement lecture topics, to integrate theory and practice in basin studies, and will include problem-solving using real examples. The course will give a sound basis for understanding the geological history of basins at the local, regional and international level.

Broader topics considered are case studies on New Zealand and international basins, microfossils as tools in dating and paleoenvironmental analysis, Cretaceous/Cenozoic stratigraphy, principles of basin evolution, subsurface (e.g. seismic) techniques, hydrocarbon maturation, and geohistory analysis.

Paper title Paleoenvironments and Basin Evolution
Paper code GEOL263
Subject Geology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023, expected to be offered in 2024 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,141.35
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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90 points including EAOS 111 and/or GEOL 112 and/or GEOG or MARI papers
GEOL 363
Schedule C

Background requirements: Basic knowledge of stratigraphy, mapping, sedimentology and paleontology.
GEOL263 is for students in their second year of a geology or equivalent degree. GEOL363 is for students in their third year of a geology or equivalent degree.

Teaching staff

Coordinator: Assoc Prof Andrew Gorman
Dr Christina Riesselman

Paper Structure

Topics covered:

  • Introduction to New Zealand basins: Canterbury basin and Taranaki basin - sequences and settings, tools for study.
  • Micropaleontology and stratigraphy: foraminifera - recognition, classification; characters and case study applications of; biostratigraphy and correlation; paleoenvironmental analysis; other microfossil groups; chronostratigraphic sections, graphic correlation, integrated stratigraphy (bio-, magneto-, oxygen, strontium etc).
  • Genetic stratigraphy: genetic stratigraphic units - sequence stratigraphy; seismic, downhole, and related approaches.
  • Petroleum: hydrocarbon geochemistry, formation, migration; overpressuring; reservoirs; organic maturity; petroleum occurrences in New Zealand and elsewhere.
  • Basins and geohistory analysis: basin evolution - tectonic settings, processes, and examples; broader pictures - deducing past history; theory and practice of backstripping techniques; simple thermal analyses of maturation.

Assessment is approximately an even split between internal (ongoing during the semester) and external (final exam).
Assessments for GEOL363 are set and graded differently to GEOL263 to reflect greater background knowledge and higher expectations of students taking the paper at 300-level.

Teaching Arrangements

Two lectures and one 3-hour laboratory per week.
Fieldwork: One weekend day trip to North Otago and another trip to be determined.


Lectures will refer to varied general texts and to research articles, supplemented by handouts. There is no one required text for the course, but we strongly recommend you read relevant chapters in:
Boggs, S. 2000. Principles of sedimentology and stratigraphy . 3rd edition. Prentice Hall, 726 p.

You should also read relevant sections in the Encylopedia of Geology, accessible under E-journals/E-books via the Library web page.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Critical thinking, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students should gain an understanding of:
  • The variety and origins of hydrocarbon basins in and around New Zealand and beyond
  • The roles of litho- and biostratigraphy, paleoecology (depositional settings, emphasising stratigraphy and outcrop-level sedimentology), seismic imaging and basin modelling in hydrocarbon basin analysis will be examined

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Not offered in 2023, expected to be offered in 2024

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system