Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

William S D Wilcock
ESS 410
Seattle Campus

Marine Geology and Geophysics

Explores the geological and geophysical processes that form and shape the ocean basins and continental margins. Prerequisite: either ESS 210, ESS 211, or ESS 212. Offered: jointly with OCEAN 410; A.

Class description

Ocean basins cover nearly two-thirds of the Earth’s surface and they are the primary feature of plate tectonics. This class will cover the processes that create and shape the ocean basins and their margins. Students will learn how to interpret seafloor maps in terms of marine geology and about geophysical methods used to understand the structure and history of oceanic plates and their boundaries. The class will cover the distribution of earthquakes on the Earth, methods to locate them and the interpretation of seismograms in terms of style of faulting. There will be sections that cover volcanic and tectonic processes at oceanic spreading centers and subduction zones. The class will conclude by looking at sedimentary processes to understand how sediments are transported, how their accumulation shapes the continental margins, and the different styles of deep-sea sedimentation.

Student learning goals

Be able to interpret global and regional bathymetric maps in terms of the plate tectonic processes that shape the earth

Understand earthquake locations and focal mechanisms (beach-ball plots) in terms of plate tectonic processes.

Understand how the oceanic crust/lithosphere is formed at mid-ocean ridges and how plate spreading rate influences the characteristics of mid-ocean ridges

Understand how the oceanic lithosphere is consumed at subduction zones

Understand the basic processes that lead to the transportation and deposition of sediments in the ocean basins.

Interpret sedimentary thicknesses and types in terms of sediment supply and changes in sea level

General method of instruction

Alternating lecture and in class exercises/labs. The students write and revise a short article in the format of a Nature "News and Views" article to introduce a paper that describes a key tectonic feature. They work in small groups or individually to give a short presentation on the same topic. Students must participate in one weekend field trip to either Mt. St. Helens or the Olympic Beaches and there is a 1-day cruise in Puget Sound on the R/V Thomas G. Thompson

Recommended preparation

One of ESS 210, ESS 211 or ESS 212

Class assignments and grading

The class includes 20 exercises for Tu/Th lab. Students not completing these during the lab times will be finish them for homework. Students write and revise a short article in the format of a Nature "News and Views" article to introduce a paper that describes a key tectonic feature. They work in small groups or individually to give a short presentation on the same topic. They participate in a field trip

There are two optional weekend field trips to Mt St. Helens and the Olympic coastline and an optional day trip to Puget Sound aboard the R/V Thompson.

Grades are assigned based on the write-ups (and timeliness of completion) of the lab exercises exercises, the News and Views article, the presentation and mid-term and final exams. 5% credit is given for participation in a field trip.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
for more information
Last Update by William S D Wilcock
Date: 05/04/2011