The Geology of New Zealand

Field Camp


Integrated Mapping Techniques for Understanding

Sedimentation and Structure


 Three Credits - December 28, 2023 - January 13, 2024

Register Online


Four Credits - December 28, 2023 - January 18, 2024

Register Online


Application Deadline: open


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 Auckland. Cost does not include airfare. Students will be picked up from Auckland Airport (AKL) 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


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

Co-taught by our team of sedimentary and structural geologists, this field camp covers the geology of both the North Island and South Island of New Zealand. Our field camp is divided into five main themes: 1) volcanic and mixed glacial to volcanosedimentary mapping of the Taupo volcanic zone in and around Tongariro National Park (a UNESCO world heritage site); 2) sedimentary basin mapping of world-class Neogene deepwater deposits in the Taranaki Basin; 3) active tectonics and earthquake fault rupture mapping near Wellington and Kaikoura; 4) South Island plate tectonics (Australian and Pacific plate boundary); and 5) glacial geomorphology and tectonic sedimentation of the Mt Cook/ Aoraki area. 

Field mapping areas featured in this course are known for their spectacular outcrop exposures. Field areas include volcanic zones of the central, west and southern portions of the North Island to the coastal rocky beaches and tallest mountains of the South Island. This is an opportunity to learn about the Cenozoic structural evolution of New Zealand and its basins due to the complex interaction of tectonics, sedimentation, and climate.  

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 emphasized throughout the course. Students will be introduced to geologic risks in energy resource exploration and development, including those pertaining to oil and gas drilling. The structural and stratigraphic projects in this course are in part based on recent publications including numerous PhD dissertations, articles in research journals Marine and Petroleum Geology and AAPG Bulletin, and one new textbook on the broad topic of marine sedimentary geology (Deepwater Sedimentary Systems: Science, Discovery and Applications – Elsevier, 2022).  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, 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. Practical applications to mapping and interpreting subsurface geology, including resource exploration and development (i.e., new ventures, exploration, development and production of oil and natural gas) and geological hazards (LiDAR mapping, earthquake and landslide hazards, assessments, risks, mitigations) are emphasized.  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, and academia.  Further, 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 the Taranaki Basin and other 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, 

  • 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, please specify why you wish to attend this field course, and what you aim to get out of the field course experience (less than one page, double-spaced, please).

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 Taupo volcanic zone and Southern Alps. In December 2022 to January 2023, temperatures for our camp ranged from 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 in Whakapapa Village, New Plymouth, Wellington, Kaikoura, Glentanner (Mt Cook/ Aoraki), and Christchurch. Students will need to supply their own bedding (sheets or sleeping bag). 

Other required equipment:  Basic geology tools including hammer, hand lens, write-in-the-rain notebook, map case, colored pencils, Brunton compass (or equivalent) 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. 

Select images of the field mapping areas stretch along the coastal areas of New Zealand.  The majority of the mapping will occur along the beaches of Taranaki, where the outcrop exposures provide exceptional access to view the broad variation of Neogene sedimentary basin fill and evidence for Miocene to recent tectonism.


Conglomerate, sandstone, mudstone and various types of carbonate rocks 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 occurs along modern beaches and wave-cut platforms, such as Waiiti Beach (above

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.



C:\Users\jrotzien\Documents\Geology\Publications\AAPG_NZ_provenance\Reviews_Round1\CoverArt\NZ09 222.JPG

View from a Maori settlement known as a pā overlooking the black-sand Pukearuhe Beach and the Tasman Sea, North Island, New Zealand.  Pukearuhe Beach is one of the prime outcrop locales to observe the deep-water slope deposits of the Miocene Mount Messenger Formation and is located approximately 40 km (25 mi) northeast of New Plymouth.  This channel–levee and overbank succession is comprised chiefly of turbidites and extends into the subsurface of the Taranaki Basin where it has been a producing interval in several fields for decades.  Today, the deep-water Miocene outcrops exposed along the coast of the Taranaki Basin serve as valuable analogs for other fine-grained, heterolithic, poorly indurated, litharenite petroleum reservoirs around the world.

C:\Users\jrotzien\Pictures\Photography\Deepwater_Atlas\AlbumToronto\AwakinoMTD_Feb18_2012 040.JPG

The seismic-scale mass-transport deposits (MTD) of the Miocene Mohakatino Formation provide a unique window into the architecture of these contorted and overturned masses of sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone.  Structural analysis of the folds and deformation bands in these strata are useful in interpreting their movement.  MTD result from the largest sediment movements on Earth, and form upwards of 50-70% of some continental margins and about a quarter of all continental slopes on average.  Deep-marine 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.

The course concludes with a visit to the UNESCO world heritage site Tongariro National Park.  Tongariro is home to Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom in the movie Lord of the Rings) and represents the boundary of the Pliocene to modern Taupo volcanic zone (TVZ).  While the TVZ wasn’t actively feeding the Taranaki Basin during the Miocene, submarine andesitic volcanism played a key role in feeding voluminous amounts of sediment into Taranaki during the late Miocene.


For more information, please contact:

 Dr. Jon R. Rotzien

Adjunct Professor, Dep. of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

University of Houston

Science and Research Building

3507 Cullen Road

Houston, TX 77204

Mobile (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


Back to main page