1.3 What Do Geologists Do?

Geologists do a lot of different things.  Many of the jobs geologists do are the things you would expect.  They work in the resource industries, including mineral exploration and mining, and energy exploration and extraction. They do hazard assessment and mitigation (e.g., assessment of risks from slope failures, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions).  They also work on projects where the nature of the subsurface is important to infrastructure and services.  This includes water supply planning, development, and management; making decisions about waste management so that contaminants are properly contained; and assessment of geological issues on construction projects such as highways, tunnels, and bridges.

Geologists also do the research that makes practical applications of geology possible.  Some geologists spend their summers trekking through the wilderness so they can produce maps of the rocks that are present in a particular location, and collect clues about the geological processes that occurred there.  Some geologists work in laboratories analyzing the chemical compositions of rocks and their physical properties so we have a better idea of how the rocks will behave when forces act on them, or when water flows through them.  Some geologists specialize in inventing ways to use complex instruments to make these measurements.  Geologists also study fossils to understand ancient animals and environments, and go to extreme environments to understand how life might have originated on Earth.  Some geologists help NASA understand the data they receive from objects in space.

While a lot of geological work is done indoors in offices and labs, some people are attracted to geology because they like to be outdoors.  Many geological opportunities involve fieldwork in places that are as amazing to see as they are interesting to study. Sometimes these are locations where few people have ever set foot, and where few ever will again.

Geologists examining ash-layer deposits at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii [SE photo]

Figure 1.3 Geologists examining ash-layer deposits at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii [SE photo]

Although this list has a wide variety of jobs that geologists do, it doesn’t even begin to cover the broad scope of geological work.


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