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The University of Southampton

SOES6016 Introduction to Marine Geology

Module Overview

This course will cover the inception 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 the ocean basins; and the past history and impact of sea level change. In addition, methodologies will be covered including the principles and design considerations behind echo-sounder and side-scan sonar systems and seismic methods. Emphasis will be placed on the current utilisation of these techniques in both research led and commercially led environments.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

1. To give a broad outline of the geological evolution of the ocean basins. 2. To give a broad outline of the methods currently employed to investigate the superficial and deep structural features of the sea bed.

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.
  • Describe sediments found in different water depths and settings, and understand the sedimentary processes leading to their deposition.
  • 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:

  • Subject specific skills: collection, manipulation and interpretation of data, e.g. seafloor swath bathymetry and 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.

Special Features


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. Incorporation of the 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
Practical 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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