What Geologists do

I saw one on the local news last night. He was very attractive and he seemed quite knowledgeable regarding the news topic. You may ask who the intriguing gentleman was. The man was a geologist. He was sharing important information regarding sinkholes with the audience. Normally, routine geologic formations and minor geologic events do not make news. But many situations swirling around geologists are actually quite newsworthy. Typically, ordinary people do not understand the scientific causes that lead up to these extraordinary events. People are impatient and they demand instantaneous answers. Poof! A geologist appeared at the site of the ongoing turmoil and he explained everything in simple terms. That geologist reminded me of the geology class I took back in the 1970s. I chose Geology because it looked interesting. In my opinion, some Science classes have been rather dull. I enjoyed every minute of that course. I’d become so fascinated by the subject matter that I’d filled my room with rocks of all sizes. I spent hours cleaning and classifying them. It was a wonderful hobby. But many people view Geology as much more than an interesting hobby. They eagerly embrace it as a career. Some geologists eventually become famous celebrities.

But a guest spot on a news segment is just one glamorous aspect of a geologist’s job though. What other interesting things do they get to do? Geologists get to travel. They are well-rewarded for their efforts too. Some entry level positions soar to $90,000 a year. Now, that I mentioned money, geology may seem even more interesting to you. There are different fields of study that a future geologist could pursue: Economic Geology, Engineering Geology, Environmental Geology, Geomorphology, Glacial Geology, Hydrogeology, Marine Geology, Paleoclimatology, Petroleum Geology, Planetary Geology and Structural Geology. If those weren’t enough choices for your academic taste buds then don’t worry. There are still other fields of geologic study available. You’re still wondering though. The only things that I’ve mentioned so far deal with glamour, travel and money. It’s time to answer all your questions. A simple answer could easily suffice. Geologists explore. I’ll go into that later on though.

According to this site, www.uc.edu/geology (and several other unnamed ones), there are 50,000-75,000 geologists busily at work in the United States. Some of them work at jobs in private industry while others work for the government. Approximately 20,000 geologists (of that total figure) are active as educators while others are involved in important research matters. Still other geologists find fulfillment because they’re self-employed or because they serve as consultants. Most geologists work in the petroleum industries and industries related to the production of that important product. Other geologists play with chemicals and cement. Others work in ceramic industries or in the mining industry.

Geologists who have been properly trained should be very adept at fieldwork, laboratory studies and computer modeling. Finally, geologists need to have a good understanding of environmental and resource assessment. Fieldwork involves mapmaking and studying. Practically everything is scrutinized. A cycle of collection, documentation and eventually remediation. Laboratory studies require the proper administration of analytical techniques. Computers are an essential component in a geologist’s work. Assessments seem to be a complicated marriage of economics and politics that extend from local to national to international levels.

I promised I’d return to exploration. Charles Doolittle Walcott was a famous paleontologist/geologist. He was an explorer. He did not journey to other planets. He did explore Yellowstone National Park nearly 100 years ago. Back in 1915. Jack Schmitt was born twenty years after Charles Doolittle Walcott’s exploration of Yellowstone National Park. Jack Schmitt is a geologist. Undoubtedly, he was a talented geologist but he would not have gone down in history due to any geologic contributions he had made to the world. Jack Schmitt is famous because he was an astronaut. He took part in the Apollo 17 mission. Astronauts have played an important part in one of the most fantastic areas of exploration ever. At the time, Jack Schmitt was the only geologist in the astronaut corps. His status as a geologist may have landed him a spot on that lunar mission. Like many people in other professions, geologists go about their daily routines with little fanfare. They perform their jobs admirably and their jobs are important for society at large.