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The University of Southampton

SOES6016 Introduction to Marine Geology

Module Overview

This course will cover the formation of ocean basins; the role of mid-ocean ridges in basin scale processes; structure and geological processes at continental margins; sedimentary processes within and on the boundaries of ocean basins; and the past history and impact of sea level change. In addition, methodologies will be covered including the principles and survey design considerations behind bathymetric, echo-sounder, side-scan sonar and seismic methods. Emphasis will be placed on the use of these techniques in both research-led and commercially-led environments. Experience collecting data at sea and practical analysis of example datasets will be included.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Have a solid grounding in marine geology.
  • Understand the framework provided by Plate Tectonics.
  • Be able to describe sediments found in different water depths and settings, and understand the sedimentary processes leading to their deposition.
  • Be able to describe the main geological and geophysical techniques for observing the seabed and sub-seabed.
  • Understand the driving forces behind, consequences, and importance of sea-level changes in the geological record.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Collection, manipulation and interpretation of data, e.g. seafloor swath bathymetry, sidescan sonar data, and interpretation of structural, sedimentological and sea level related features.


The course has three major sections after an introductory lecture on marine geology which focusses on spatial and temporal scales and key geological concepts including Uniformitarianism. Section A: Plate Tectonics and large scale earth processes. Historical development of plate tectonics. Mid Ocean Ridges, Subduction Zones, Plate Tectonic Cycle, Driving mechanisms. Sea Level changes. Section B: Sedimentology and sedimentary processes. Different types of sediments in the ocean basins and on their margins. Sediment processes cohesive and non-cohesive sediments. Bedforms. Deltas. Estuaries. Tidal Flats. Continental Shelves. Coastal Processes. Deep sea sedimentation. Section C: Techniques for observing the ocean basins. Broad introduction to different techniques then focus on acoustic techniques. Seismic reflection. Multibeam bathymetry, and Sidescan sonar.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Learning & Teaching - Formal Lectures: Will provide an introduction to the theory underlying marine geology. Each lecture systematically covers the main concepts and topics by the use of PowerPoint presentations, supported by illustrated handout materials. The lecturers' own experience in these fields is incorporated where possible. Appropriate references to parts of course textbooks and introductory journal references are provided at each lecture. - Boat Practical: A Demonstration will be given of the side-scan sonar technique on board one of SOES research vessels in small groups. - Practical: Interpretation of swath bathymetric and sidescan sonar data in terms of geological features affected by tectonic deformation, sedimentary processes and sea level change. A follow on assessment will incorporate regional literature to construct a geological history. - Blackboard material: Much of the material is summarised at Instructions for accessing this material will be given during the course. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs. Contact hours: 27 Non-contact hours: 48

Independent Study48
Total study time75



MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 20%
Theory examination  (90 minutes) 80%


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


There are no additional costs associated with this module.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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