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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

   Earth, Air, & Water


The Sedimentary Geology program in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln features graduate research and education on all aspects of the sedimentary record. Our students work on problems in sedimentology and stratigraphy, sedimentary geochemistry, and paleoclimate. Research projects take our students and faculty all over the world, from right here in Nebraska, to the western US, Australia, Antarctica, and more.

A large number of courses in sedimentary geology are taught on a regular basis. Some courses focus on specific depositional systems, while others provide students with applied skills in fossil fuel exploration or analytical techniques. A major highlight of our program is the Schramm Course, which provides students with opportunities to take short courses from industry experts and to on field trips to classic geological localities such as the Bahamas, Book Cliffs, southern England, and the Great Barrier Reef.

Research in Sedimentary Geology

Sedimentology and stratigraphy of continental, coastal and shallow marine clastic depositional systems. Chris Fielding and his students examine stratigraphic stacking patterns in modern and ancient glacial, fluvial, coastal plain and shallow marine successions in order to ascertain environments of deposition, controls on stratigraphic architecture, and petroleum system characteristics. The Fielding lab is currently undertaking field-based studies in western and midwest USA, Atlantic Canada, eastern Australia, and Antarctica.

Carbonate sedimentology, geochemistry, and Earth systems history. Tracy Frank and her students examine the sedimentology, petrography, and isotope geochemistry of marine carbonates to examine past changes in climate, the oceans, and depositional environments. Projects combine field and laboratory work. The Frank lab is currently undertaking field-based studies in the central and southwest USA, Australia, and Antarctica. These efforts are complemented by studies of drillcores obtained by he Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, ANDRILL, and petroleum companies.

Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating of sands. Ron Goble uses instrumentation in the Optically Stimulated Luminescence Laboratory to determine the burial age of sand grains in a wide-range of eolian, beach, fluvial and glacio-fluvial deposits. Areas of study include France, Greenland, Alaska, and Canada, as well as the Mississippi and Colorado Rivers, Nebraska Sand Hills, Mescalero Dunes, and the Texas, Alabama and Carolina coasts.

Clay minerals as physico-chemical indicators of environment of formation. Mary Anne Holmes uses clay and allied minerals to reveal their termperature or climate of formation, and delivery systems for transported clay using X-ray diffraction. Clays from paleosols, clays formed by diagenesis, clays in sediment and clays formed by hydrothermal alteration have all been targets of study.
Sedimentology, stratigraphy, surficial processes and landscape evolution. Matt Joeckel and his students examine the stratigraphy, sedimentology, and geochemistry of Paleozoic and Mesozoic strata to ascertain long-term changes in climate and environment in the central US. Paleosols provide a particular focus of study. Current field-based efforts are focused in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Utah.
Geochemistry of iron, carbon, sulfur, and organic molecules. Dick Kettler and his students examine the geochemistry of iron, carbon, sulfur, and organic molecules to explore such diverse topics as the biogeochemistry of thermoacidophilic microbes, the chemistry of meteorite parent bodies, and the origin of life. Other efforts involve examining the Fe-C-S chemistry of rocks to investigate how factors like diagenesis and ocean chemistry control the distribution of ore deposits.

Deposition and diagenesis of modern and ancient wind-blown sands. David Loope and his students study eolian sands and sandstones to decipher environmental changes during the Quaternary and the Jurassic. The Nebraska Sand Hills, now completely stabilized by prairie vegetation, were actively migrating only 800 years ago. Studies of the Navajo and Entrada Sandstones in southern Utah are revealing new insights into the composition of desert ecosystems and into the patterns of fluid flow through these sandstone aquifers during the uplift of the Colorado Plateau.


Graduate Courses in Sedimentary Geology

812. Optical Dating (2 to 6 cr) Goble
Techniques in Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating of sands.
814. Clay Mineralogy (4 cr) Holmes
Structures and properties of common clay minerals; their formation and geologic/pedologic distribution. Generation and use of x-rays for diffraction analysis. Analysis of clays and related minerals by x-ray diffraction and electron microscopy.
816. Isotope Geochemistry (3 cr) Kettler
Behavior of stable and radiogenic isotopes in geological and cosmochemical systems. Application of isotope geochemistry to determining the age of rocks, as well as the sources of the chemical components in the rocks.
817. Organic Geochemistry (3 cr) Kettler
Origin, preservation, and transport of the organic compounds  found in the rock record. Applications of organic geochemistry to paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental interpretations as well as to discerning the origins of coal, oil and natural gas.
821. Carbonate Petrology (3 cr) Frank
Depositional settings and processes, petrography, geochemistry, diagenesis and geological significance of modern and ancient carbonate rocks and sediments.
824. Biogeochemical Cycles (3 cr) Fritz
Chemical cycling at or near the earth’s surface. Interactions among the atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere. Modern processes, the geological record, and human impacts on elemental cycles.
828. Stratigraphic Architecture and Sequence Stratigraphy (3 cr) Fielding
Analysis of stratigraphic stacking patterns in sedimentary basins and sequence stratigraphic methods.
850. Surficial Processes (3 cr) Joeckel
Fluvial, glacial, eolian, and coastal processes and landforms. Roles of tectonics, climate, and climate change in landscape evolution.
885. Fossil Fuel Geology and Exploration (3 cr) Fielding
Geology of coal, oil and gas, and methods of exploration for those resources.
895. Schramm Course in Economic and Exploration Geology (2 cr, max 6). Recommended parallel: a GEOL course as indicated by the instructor and to vary with course content. Content will vary on a 3-year rotation. Combined lectures, seminars, weekend short courses, and field trips. Field trips are required and supported by alumni endowment. E.F. Schramm Course in Economic Geology.
898. Special Problems in Geology (1-3 cr)
Seminar. Topics and instructors vary.
926. Marine Geology and Paleoceanography (3 cr) Frank
Geology of the oceanic realm, formation of oceanic crust, circulation, geochemistry, pelagic sediments and their diagensis, correlation, and oceanic history.