The Geology of New Zealand

Field Camp


Integrated Mapping Techniques for Understanding

Sedimentation and Structure


 Three Credits - December 28, 2024 - January 13, 2025

Register Online


Four Credits - December 28, 2024 - January 18, 2025

Register Online


Application Deadline: July 30, 2024


Cost: Undergraduate - $5,295.00 - Four Credits  and $4,295 -Three credits

Cost: Graduate - Contact Dr. Uzunlar

Deposit $300 (required upon registration). Cost includes tuition, fees, food, lodging and transportation to field sites from Christchurch. Cost does not include airfare. Students will be picked up and dropped off at Christchurch Airport (CHC) for the 3- and 4-credit camps. As of October 1, 2019, students will need to request an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). Learn more here

Registration is limited to the first 15 confirmed students.


Introduction:This is a newly redesigned course at South Dakota Mines addressing field geology topics that are important, timely and challenging. Starting and finishing in Christchurch for this fifth edition of the course, our New Zealand field camp gives students an integrated understanding of the broad scope of sedimentary basin analysis, sedimentation, stratigraphy, structure, active tectonics, geophysics and geomorphology.  

Co-taught by our team of sedimentary and structural geologists, this field camp covers the geology of the South Island of New Zealand. Our field camp is divided into five main themes: 1) mixed carbonate and clastic sedimentology, stratigraphy and geomorphology (Cenozoic) of the Kaikoura region; 2) active tectonics and  earthquake fault rupture mapping of the Kaikoura and Hope faults; 3) South Island plate boundary active tectonics, tectonic sedimentation and highly deformed metamorphic basement rock assemblages east of Hokitika and along the Alpine fault; 4) basement mapping, alpine glacial geomorphology and tectonic sedimentation of the Mt Cook/ Aoraki area; and 5) igneous mapping of a volcanic complex of the Banks Peninsula (Miocene). While all mapping projects are completed on the South Island for this fifth edition of the course, some course lectures discuss the geology of previous mapping projects in the Taupo volcanic zone, Taranaki and East Coast basins, and the basement geology and faults of the Wellington area.

Field mapping areas featured in this course are known for their world-class outcrop exposures. Field areas include the coastal rocky beaches and wave cut platforms, to the inland foothills, to the tallest mountains (Southern Alps) of the country. This is an opportunity to learn about the structural evolution of New Zealand and its basins from the Cenozoic through today due to the complex interaction of tectonics, sedimentation and surface processes..  

The five-project course is designed to provide students an opportunity to compare complex geological processes recorded in several types of basin settings associated with the Australian and Pacific plate boundary. Key methods pertaining to source-to-sink (S2S) sediment transport and sequence stratigraphy will be applied in mapping projects throughout the course. The structural and stratigraphic projects in this course are in part based on recent publications, including a new textbook on the broad topic of marine sedimentary geology by Rotzien et al (2022; Deepwater Sedimentary Systems: Science, Discovery and Applications – Elsevier, 2022, 806 p.). These field areas have been applied as analogs for decades to help understand the subsurface geology in both active and passive margin settings around the world. 

Key mapping exercises will emphasize preparation of stratigraphic columns, geologic maps, structural cross sections, depositional system models, stereonets (using computer software) and completion of formal reports.  Successive projects will involve greater geologic complexity, and one project will emphasize the assessment of energy resources. Subsurface data including seismic data and well logs will be used to illustrate key points on the structure, tectonics and overall formation of sedimentary basins. Mapping in this course will provide practical applications to interpreting subsurface geology, including resource exploration and development (i.e., new ventures, exploration, development and production of oil and natural gas) and geological hazards (use of LiDAR, earthquake and landslide hazards assessments, risks, mitigations). These skills are also extensively used for mapping the subsurface in the broad field of environmental sciences. Mapping techniques practiced in this course prepare students for roles in industry, government, academia and geotechnical engineering. Interactions with professional geoscientists during the trip provide a panel of perspectives about what it is like to live and to work as a geoscientist in New Zealand.  

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

    ·         Describe sediment transport and depositional processes for a wide range of sedimentary deposits including clastic and carbonate rocks, including fossil evidence, 

    ·         Understand the stratigraphy related to passive and active margin depositional systems including terrestrial, coastal, shallow-marine, and deep-marine depositional environments, 

    ·         Describe and apply Cenozoic regional chronostratigraphy of New Zealand basins, 

    ·         Understand both plate tectonics and lithospheric architecture and their roles on the development of retroarc foreland, hybrid and forearc basin depositional systems, as well as the role that volcanism plays in basin architecture and sedimentary fill,

    ·         Recognize sediment transport and depositional processes in marine depositional environments, and competing models for basin sedimentation, 

    ·         Characterize stratigraphic intervals and build relationships with depositional environments using outcrop (and behind-outcrop core), core and other industry data,

    ·         Characterize active faults and earthquake-related surface deformation through mapping fault scarps, landslides, uplifted marine and fluvial terraces, offset deposits, and fault slip rates calculations,

    ·         Conceptualize and apply source-to-sink transport and sequence stratigraphy to overall sediment delivery to a basin,

    ·         Use lithofacies and stratigraphic architecture to understand variations in reservoir properties pertaining to reservoir presence, reservoir quality and seal presence, 

    ·         Apply predictive attributes to sedimentary basins in the context of resource exploration with special attention to stratigraphic trapping mechanisms, 

    ·         Apply skills in seismic interpretation, reservoir characterization, core analysis, geophysical log interpretation, sequence stratigraphy, play fairway mapping, risk and uncertainty analysis, gross depositional environment mapping, and exploration methods, 

    ·         Characterize various surface processes and their deposits in Quaternary geology.

    ·         Understand the role of ethnogeology in the culture and history of New Zealand’s past, present, and future.

Prerequisites: Sedimentology, stratigraphy, mineralogy, petrology, structural geology. Geophysics is helpful but not required. Exceptions considered on request. In your application to the South Dakota Mines field course, briefly tell us why you wish to attend this field course, and what you aim to get out of the educational experience.

Physical demands:  Field work will involve mapping remote areas and will include daily hikes of considerable length.  Students should be physically and mentally prepared for work in coastal and mountainous terrain in New Zealand. 

Climate:Weather in New Zealand during the summer months is generally fine.  However, students should be prepared for hot days (90° F / 32° C), and cold, rainy weather (45° F / 7° C) during storms. Students should respect the variability in the daily tides and frequently changing weather patterns in the high elevations of the Southern Alps. In December 2023 to January 2024, temperatures for our camp ranged from about 40-80° F.  

Facilities:Lodging for the program will be cabin camping in holiday parks equipped with modern shared facilities.  Our accommodations will roam with us. We will stay at the Alpine Pacific Lodge in Kaikoura, the Hokitika Holiday Park, Glentanner Station Holiday Park and Tasman Holiday Park in Christchurch. Students will need to supply their own bedding for the park in Hokitika (sheets or sleeping bag). All accommodations will have beds (no tent camping). All other accommodations are equipped with sheets and covers.

Other required equipment: Basic geology tools including hammer, hand lens, write-in-the-rain notebook, map case, colored pencils, Brunton compass (or equivalent – Southern Hemisphere) tuned to the declination of New Zealand. Students will need a laptop for written reports. Suitable clothing for working in hot, coastal environments and cool, mountainous environments including wide-brimmed hat, sun-proof shirts and pants, sturdy boots, and appropriate socks is required. A complete and detailed equipment list will be provided for students ahead of the camp. 


View of one of the first mapping areas with the Kaikoura Range in the distance.

Descending onto the wave cut platform to collect data for one of the first mapping areas. Routine map data collected include rock type, bedding attitude, contacts and structural measurements including attitudes of joints and faults. In this project, at least three terraces will be identified, characterized and interpreted in the context of New Zealand’s recent history of coastal uplift.

One of our field mapping areas stretching along the Kaikoura coast. The majority of the first projects will occur along the beaches of northern Canterbury, where the outcrop exposures provide exceptional access to view the broad variation of Neogene sedimentary basin fill and evidence for Recent tectonism.

Various types of carbonate rocks, conglomerate, sandstone and mudstone are common deposits that accumulate in marine environments and are the products of diverse sedimentation processes. Because of their variable porous and permeable nature, these deposits also form reservoirs around the world in active and passive margin settings. Mapping and interpreting their characteristics using first principles helps to interpret the history of sedimentary basin fill and to build depositional models. Most of our mapping for the first part of the course occurs along modern beaches and wave-cut platforms, such as Whalers Bay on the Kaikoura Peninsula.

View south from Tongaporutu River of the Upper Mount Messenger Formation outcrop exposures in the 250-m-tall Whitecliffs. These deposits are interpreted to represent a submarine apron near the base of slope. These marine depositional systems will be compared and contrasted with perched, ponded, and stepped continental slopes, as well as variations of submarine fans including fan valleys and unconfined fans during this field course. Mt Taranaki is in the distance (far right) with a cloud at its summit. Note the black sand beaches composed of titanomagnetite. Some of these beaches are mined for their iron content. Much of this map area has been published in journals, special publications, field guides and textbooks.

Camp days generally begin with a short drive to the field area followed by a safety moment, introduction to the mapping exercise, observation and collaborative group discussion. For the rest of the day, student teams cover the mapping area and complete their maps to turn in at the end of the day. Above: can you identify the Papatea fault scarp?

Measuring a stratigraphic section through a deepwater sedimentary interval with the aim of interpreting the processes of sedimentation, stratigraphic and depositional architecture and overall evolution of the depositional system. Deepwater sedimentary systems result from some of the largest sediment movements on Earth. Deepwater environments represent the final resting place for sediment on Earth and are important to understand as the ultimate sink for a number of elements including organic carbon as well as REE and important metals.

View along the Clarence River, one of the field mapping areas in which we will use LiDAR to get a higher resolution understanding of how modern seismic events have influenced the geomorphology.

Fault mapping and analysis project from the Kaikoura 7.8 magnitude earthquake (2016).

Mapping glacial geomorphology and interpreting basement rock assemblages, with a view south to Lake Pukaki.

Hiking along the moraines and glacial outwash south of Mt Cook/ Aoraki.

While at Glentanner, students will have the opportunity to map the basement rocks and sedimentary features exposed in the Mt Cook/ Aoraki area and interpret the relationships among various sedimentary processes, including gravitational movements and fluid flow – and their deposits – in order to understand how glacial depositional systems evolve in the Mackenzie Basin. Tasman Glacier and Lake shown above, with lateral and terminal moraines. Mt Cook/ Aoraki is in the distance.

Mapping on the Banks Peninsula southeast of Christchurch in order to determine the petrology, mechanism of emplacement and overall evolution of the Lyttleton and Akaroa volcanic centers.

Participants examine volcanic deposits of the Lyttleton volcanic center southeast of Christchurch.

The course concludes with a visit to the Banks Peninsula to determine the petrology, architecture, relative timing and emplacement of the two volcanic centers located to the southeast of the city of Christchurch. While these are Miocene features, volcanism continues to play a key role in the architecture and filling of basins throughout New Zealand today.

For more information, please contact:

 Dr. Jon R. Rotzien

Instructor, South Dakota Mines & Black Hills Natural Sciences Field Station

Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

University of Houston Science and Research Building

M: (650) 862–0574;




Dr. Nuri Uzunlar

Director, Black Hills Natural Sciences Field Station 

Professor, Geology and Geological Engineering Department

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

 Phone:  (605) 431-1275


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