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Module OSX-4021:
Sediment Geotechnics

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Dei Huws

Overall aims and purpose

This module concerns itself with the physical properties of soils and sediments; in particular within the context of shallow engineering and environmental applications.

The module will start with the basic physical (or index) properties of a soil and explain how soils may be classified. This is followed by an explanation of effective stress, a key concept in soil mechanics. It will be apparent then, how important water is in determining soil behaviour and for that reason, ideas relating to permeability, hydraulic gradients, potential and flow nets will be presented. The flow of water within soils also plays a key role in controlling soil settlement or consolidation, and so this topic is also a part of the syllabus. Finally, concepts relating to shear strength are introduced.

Because measured soil parameters are often highly influenced by the test protocol and procedure, it is very important that an appreciation of test methods is gained. Therefore, a key element in this module is the laboratory testing programme which runs concurrently with the lecture series. Students will be introduced and allowed to perform most of the `British Standard' procedures, including index property, consolidation and strength tests.

Course content

In list form, the syllabus can be summarised thus:

  1. Index properties and classification schemes

  2. Pore pressure, total stress and effective stress

  3. Permeability, critical hydraulic gradient, potential, flow net solutions

  4. 1-D consolidation

  5. Shear strength

The practical element will typically include the measurement of:

moisture content, specific gravity, particle size distribution, pore water salinity, density, organic matter content, carbonate content, Atterberg limits, consolidation properties, undrained shear strength

Learning outcomes mapped to assessment criteria


Partial understanding of basic theoretical principles of sediment geotechnics (within the scope of the curriculum, learning outcomes and skills outlined here) Basic ability to solve numerical problems associated geotechnical investigation Basic ability to acquire, process, interpret and present geotechnical data

Upon successful completion of this module, the student should be aware of and be familiar with the various classification schemes available for describing soils or sediments

Upon successful completion of this module, the student should be able to manipulate geotechnical data in order to interpret laboratory data and solve numerical problems based on field applications.

Upon successful completion of this module, the student should understand how geotechnical properties control the response of soil to load

Upon successful completion of this module, the student should be able to show an appreciation of the role of pore fluid and pore fluid pressure on soil behaviour

Upon successful completion of this module, the student should be able to conduct a range of geotechnical laboratory tests within the framework of British Standards protocols so as to quantify and classify the soil on the basis of the results

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
OSX4021 Examination 50
Exercise Sheet - 15 questions 20
Index Properties of a Marine Sediment Practical Analysis 30

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Laboratory testing sessions

Lecture 30
Private study

Ostensibly the time allocated to learn the course material and prepare the assessments.


Transferable skills

  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team


Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: