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Andrews1Year 10 students...JPGWhat is geoscience? Geoscience includes all the sciences (geology, geophysics, geochemistry) that study the structure, evolution and dynamics of the planet Earth and its natural mineral and energy resources. Geoscience investigates the processes that have shaped the Earth through its 4600 million year history and uses the rock record to unravel that history - it is concerned with the real world beyond the laboratory and has direct relevance to the needs of society.

Studying geoscience involves work in the laboratory and the field; fieldwork is important as it enables you to investigate rocks in their natural setting. This tends to unite geology students in a way that is rarely seen in other subjects. Outdoor scientific study, often under difficult conditions, is a valuable preparation for the working life of a geoscientist. A lot of the exploration performed by the extractive industries eg oil/gas companies is done in remote parts of the world.

Geoscience is a huge area of study, with many specialisms. These include:
  • Geophysics: the study of the physics of the Earth ie the internal structure of Earth, earthquakes, gravity and geomagnetism. Geophysics is used extensively to search for oil and mineral deposits.
  • Geochemistry: explores the chemical composition of the rocks and fluids and the chemical processes operating within the Earth and on its surface. Geochemistry is used to locate new mineral deposits.
  • Sedimentology: the study of sediments, how they accumulate, and how they become sedimentary rocks.
  • Natural hazards: the features and effects of phenomena such as earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes etc; and the importance of prediction & minimisation of damage.
  • Natural resources: the major sources of energy are oil, coal and natural gas, but uranium and alternative sources such as geothermal energy are an area of employment for geoscientists. Mining and quarrying are used to extract precious metals and non-precious metals and minerals.
  • Stratigraphy: the study of the order, nature and rates of change of geological events and processes. This is closely related to geological mapping - the study of rocks exposed at the Earth's surface. By noting how they are altered by geological processes their ages and field relations can be determined. This enables the production of geological maps and databases.
  • Environmental geology: concerned with the air, water and land in or on which people, animals and plants live, and their protection from damage as a result of geological activities eg oil exploration, mining and waste disposal.
  • Structural geology: concerned with rock movement and deformation by folding and faulting; including the study of plate tectonics.
  • Palaeontology: the study of fossils, from dinosaurs to microorganisms.
  • Hydrogeology: the branch of geology concerned with underground and surface water; it’s movement, behaviour and quality are all the realm of the hydrogeologist.
  • Engineering geology: a huge discipline encompassing the construction of buildings and dams; slope stability; mine and quarry design; tunnelling; land condition and landfill sites.
  • Metamorphism: how rocks are affected by heat and pressure to produce the range of metamorphic rocks and minerals.
  • Volcanology: the study of volcanoes, their location, formation and prediction, types of eruptions, and the sorts of rocks produced.
  • Oceanography: which includes ocean chemistry; ocean floor geology; meteorological oceanography; marine biology; and the physical properties of oceans such as waves and currents.