Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

LaDue, Nicole D.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment


Sequence stratigraphic interpretation and 3-D spatial and spatiotemporal skills are considered important for the petroleum industry. Despite the importance of sequence stratigraphic interpretations for student careers, students struggle to understand basic concepts such as eustasy, relative sea-level and base-level. However, little is known about the relationship between spatial skill and sequence stratigraphy or the impact of instruction on sequence stratigraphic diagrams. This study begins to fill this gap by testing 1) whether spatial skills predict success on a sequence stratigraphic interpretation task, 2) the impact of Wheeler diagram instruction on student sequence stratigraphic interpretation skill, and 3) the impact of Wheeler diagram instruction on student conceptual understanding. The first chapter of this dissertation presents the Sequence Stratigraphy Spatial Training (SSST) Framework. The SSST Framework is based on a cognitive task analysis and provides guidance on which spatial skills are important for different sequence stratigraphic tasks. Chapters 2 and 3 test the skills needed for novice geologist to interpret sequence stratigraphic and Wheeler diagrams. Participants in this study were enrolled in undergraduate or graduate stratigraphy-focused courses at three U.S. state universities. Students completed a sequence stratigraphic interpretation task with a sequence and Wheeler diagram and two spatial skills tests. A nested regression entering mental folding as the initial variable and disembedding as the secondary variable showed that disembedding accounted for verry little additional variance not already attributed to mental folding and unfolding. The analysis of conceptions showed that students understand the fundamental aspects of a sequence and Wheeler diagram (e.g., youngest and oldest layers). Still, students struggle to identify more complex features (e.g., unconformities). The results of this study provide a basis for understanding important aspects of training sequence stratigraphy at the undergraduate, graduate and industry level. Training should focus on increasing student mental folding and unfolding skill and directly combat student conceptual errors reported here to increase student interpretation skill.


162 pages




Northern Illinois University

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