What Do Geologists Do?

Mar 22, 2017 By Leticia De Marchi
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I am a geologist which means I am a detective of the Earth and how it came to be as it is today.

When you look at the Earth, it might not seem like it’s changing much at all. But it is. Mountains are forming and eroding away, continents are moving around, rocks are being made and destroyed, and canyons are being carved out by rivers and glaciers. 

All of this is happening at a very slow pace. But sometimes geology happens fast. For example when a volcano erupts or an earthquake happens. 

Asking Questions

Geologists study a ton of different topics about the Earth.

What is going on under the surface of the Earth? You could dig a hole to find out, but that can only go so deep. What’s happening below the deepest hole we can dig? What is the center of the Earth made of? How are the mountains made? Why do earthquakes happen more in some places than others? Why do we have volcanoes and why do they erupt? What can we learn about dinosaurs just by finding their fossils in certain types of rocks? 

So how do geologists go about answering these questions? There are tons of tricks geologists use to learn about the Earth. We spend lots of time going out into the field to observe rocks and the Earth. On a typical field excursion, you have to carry a rock hammer, a compass magnifying glass, sample bags and a field notebook so we can carefully record what we see.

And you can’t forget a good sandwich and a bottle of water. It can get hot out there. Sometimes the places we need to get to are so remote that we have to ride horses in and camp! 

Taking Samples

When we get to the field site, we take samples of rocks and many measurements.

From these samples and measurements, we can try to figure out how this rock formed and how it has moved through time. For example some rocks are made from cooling volcano lava, while others are made by many small broken pieces of other rocks. We also have special chemistry labs that help us tell how old some rocks are. If we find an old dinosaur fossil, we can figure out how long ago it used to live on the Earth and it is an important tool to know the age of the rock.

Geologists are important to have around because we help find important natural resources under the Earth without having to dig around everywhere. Most of the stuff you have, are made from materials that come from under the Earth. Geologists can help us continue to use these resources while reducing problems with the environment. Geologists also teach us all sorts of history about the Earth and how it’s changing in the future.