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Deciphering Earth's History: the Practice of Stratigraphy

Product Code: GIP001
Series: GSL Geoscience in Practice - print copy
Author/Editor: Edited by Angela L. Coe
Publication Date: 08 November 2022
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Stratigraphy allows us to establish and communicate the timings for the course of Earth history and provides the means to determine the duration and rates of Earth processes.

Deciphering Earth’s History: the Practice of Stratigraphy focuses on how to apply the wide spectrum of stratigraphical techniques. It also explains how these techniques can be integrated and details their individual strengths and limitations. Chapters are laid out in a step-by-step style, guiding the reader through a recommended approach and explaining the factors to be considered. The methods are illustrated with flow charts, marginal top tips, checklists, worked examples and over 200 figures. Authors from academia, research centres and industry have contributed to ensure a wide range of perspectives are included. In addition to chapters on each of the stratigraphical techniques there is also material on accounting for stratigraphical incompleteness, constructing geological timescales, handling and archiving stratigraphical data and the application of stratigraphy to space exploration and other disciplines.

This book is designed for a wide audience ranging from advanced level undergraduates to professional practitioners wishing to use other stratigraphical techniques or understand the advantages and weaknesses of particular techniques.

Online resources to accompany some of the chapters can be found on figshare. More information on the Geoscience in Practice series

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"Certainly for me it has proven beneficial as a tool in my teaching, allowing me to discuss with much more clarity the different methods available to the modern geologist...It is very reminiscent of Open University texts that are engaging and accessible to a wide readership." - Gordon Neighbour 

“The book is very well organized and comprehensively cover all modern branches of Stratigraphy with excellent examples. The language used is simple but succinct and can be easily followed by students of Geology at all levels.”
- Verified purchaser

“The book is of very high quality; its scope is ambitious. Topic coverage is balanced and broad. Coverage of each subdiscipline and related disciplines is extensive. The book is well conceived, well organized, and well written. [It] is an excellent resource ... suitable for a wide specialist audience.”
- Professor Stanley Finney (California State University Long Beach, USA and Secretary General, International Union of Geological Sciences)

“This publication aims to foster and convey progress in stratigraphy, adding more recent and innovative disciplines to well-established tools. The individual chapters are written by leading scientists who clearly present the stratigraphic tools in an easy-to-understand format. What I particularly appreciated in each chapter is the critical considerations of the strengths and limitations.”
- Professor Elisabetta Erba (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy)

“I think that this "how to" approach to the subject matter is commendable and I am really pleased to see this book has been developed.”
- Gary Nichols (RPS Energy, UK)

"It is quite a masterpiece in both content and production."
- Professor Jim Ogg (Purdue University, USA)

"Deciphering the Earth’s History is an impressive assemblage of knowledge, practical techniques and advice by scientists collaborating to construct a stratigraphy of their subject matter. The book is attractively designed and well organised in its coverage. It will provide geoscientists of all levels with a valuable volume to consult and use for a long time. In this reviewer’s opinion it should, and most certainly will, be widely used by students and teachers alike, and would be a valuable addition to every geologist’s, and archaeologist’s, library."

— David M. Jones, (OUGS Proceedings Editor)

Type: Book
Ten Digit ISBN:
Thirteen Digit ISBN: 9781786205742
Publisher: GSL
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 342
Weight: 1.25 kg


List of worked examples

Author biographies

Introduction to Deciphering Earth's History: the Practice of Stratigraphy


Chapter 1. Lithostratigraphy: subdividing rock strata based on lithology (Colin N. Waters)

Chapter 2. Defining and classifying nonstratiform units: a morphogenetic approach (Martin R. Gillespie and A. Graham Leslie)

Chapter 3. Geophysical logs: their use in understanding and correlating subsurface geology (Michael J. Oates and Mark A. Woods)

Chapter 4. Biostratigraphy: using fossils to date and correlate rocks (Paul R. Bown, John C. W. Cope, Kirsty M. Edgar, David A. T. Harper, John Marshall, Matthew I. Wakefield, Paul Pearson and Jan Zalasiewicz)

Chapter 5. Palaeomagnetism: using the geomagnetic field for correlation and dating (Mark W. Houndslow, Chuang Xuan and Andreas Nilsson)

Chapter 6. Chemostratigraphy: using elements and isotopes to identify, interpret and correlate events in strata (Graham A. Shields, Kirsty M, Edgar, Ken T. Ratcliffe and Tais W. Dahl)

Chapter 7. Seismic stratigraphy: using subsurface images to characterize stratigraphical evolution (Karen A. Heyburn, Andrew Davies and Owen E. Sutcliffe)

Chapter 8. Sequence stratigraphy: using changes in relative sea-level and sediment supply to divide, correlate and understand the stratigraphical record (Angela L. Coe and David C. Ray)

Chapter 9. Cyclostratigraphy: regular cycles detected and counted to measure time (Graham P. Weedon)

Chapter 10. Climate stratigraphy: use of climate changes for stratigraphical correlation (Philip L. Gibbard, Philip D. Hughes and Colin N. Waters)

Chapter 11. Morphostratigraphy and pedostratigraphy: using landforms and soils to subdivide strata (Philip L. Gibbard, Philip D. Hughes and Colin N. Waters)

Chapter 12. Incompleteness: dealing with an imperfect stratigraphical record (David B. Kemp and Peter M. Sadler)

Chapter 13. Chronostratigraphy: understanding rocks and time (David A. T. Harper. Paul R. Bown and Angela L. Coe)

Chapter 14. Geochronology: radio-isotope dating applied to the stratigraphical record (Tiffany L. Barry and Daniel J. Condon)

Chapter 15. Building geological timescales and assigning chronometric time to rocks (Mark W. Hounslow, Graham P. Weedon and David A. T. Harper)

Chapter 16. Best practices for preserving and reporting stratigraphical data: cyber infrastructure for stratigraphical data and information (Jeremy R. Young)

Chapter 17. Examples of correlating, integrating and applying stratigraphy and stratigraphical methods (Matthew I. Wakefield, Mark W. Hounslow, Matthew Edgeworth, John E. A. Marshall, Rory N. Mortimore, Andrew J. Newell, Alastair Ruffell and Mark A. Woods)

Chapter 18. Determining morphostratigraphy of planetary surfaces with examples from Mars (Joel M. Davis, Peter Fawdon, Frances E. G. Butcher and Steven G. Banham)



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