The seminar study area is located on the trailing edge of the North American plate, the coastal plain of South Carolina. The study area is thoroughly documented and offers an excellent opportunity for the students to walk on a variety of modern terrigenous clastic depositional systems while observing sedimentary processes, modern sedimentary structures, and numerous trenches illuminating the three-dimensional architecture of each area. Genetically related depositional environments and their stratigraphic correlation are stressed during the seminar from the standpoint of subsurface interpretation for prospect evaluation and reservoir development. The emphasis of the trip will be on sediments deposited within the past 4,000 years. Field observations will be supported and expanded on by short and focused lectures each morning, a detailed guidebook, and numerous figures and diagrams (posters) used during each field day. In addition, a modern core workshop will be held where the cores will be logged and discussed by the students during class.
The focus of the seminar will be on the three-dimensional characteristics of modern depositional environments and their regional relationship with other depositional environments in the area. This focus will be used to demonstrate how these characteristics and relationships can be used to recognize and delineate similar depositional environments in ancient sedimentary rocks. Additionally, the evolution of Quaternary strata is presented in a chronostratigraphic context. Subsurface data provide lithologic interpretations for progradational (barrier island, deltaic) retrogradational (barrier island, estuarine), and aggradational (valley fill, barrier island) depositional styles. Lateral facies-association and lithofacies changes are discussed from the basin scale (exploration fairways) to the reservoir scale (permeability controls).
The six-day trip is carefully planned to maximize time in the field and participants will be encouraged to discuss the depositional settings encountered on each day. The first day in the field is devoted to examination of the modern aggraded fill in the alluvial valley formed during the most recent sea level cycle of the Congaree River during the Pleistocene/Holocene. The second day will be spent examining a mixed energy delta (Santee/Pee Dee) by boat, moving from the fluvial upper reaches of the delta system to the marine delta front. The third day will focus on mesotidal progradational/regressive barrier island/shoreface complexes, and tidal inlet deposition. This will include observing trenches and an explanation of the processes active in the system's sub-environments. The fourth day will be spent at Cape Romain focusing on retrogradational/transgressive shorelines, lagoons/bays, inlet formation and closure, and wave-dominated deposition. The fifth day will be spent in Charleston with morning lectures followed by a half-day modern core workshop. During the workshop, groups of students will be assigned modern core samples to log followed by discussion on the environment of deposition, potential reservoir characteristics and exploration strategies. The sixth and final day will be spent in St. Helena Sound, the largest estuary on the southeastern coastline of the United States. The sub-environments of deposition to be visited in the incised valley fill will include: peat swamp, point bar, marsh, fine grained tidal flat, sand flat, barrier island, and linear sand ridge. This field day will demonstrate changes in deposition in the estuary from freshwater dominance to open marine conditions.