Ventures into Geosciences
Issue 1: Spring 2006
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Are the Geosciences Right for You?


Rocks have a bad reputation. Rocks, stones, and dirt are viewed as obstacles (rocky road), emotionless (stone cold heart), or boring (dull as dirt), and the study of geology is considered not very challenging (rocks for jocks). Even Emily Bronte thought rocks were uninteresting (" My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight , but necessary."). Well, at least she acknowledged that rocks are "necessary."

Geoscientists, however, find the study of rocks and dirt, and the fluids they contain, the processes that create, destroy, or modify them, and their interactions with animals, plants, and people, to be quite fascinating, even a "delight." So fascinating that these scientists of the Earth spend their careers solving challenging problems: searching for oil, gas, and water; researching volcanoes, earthquakes, and landslides; investigating the formation of mountains and ocean basins; prospecting for gold, copper, and other metals; evaluating coastal and marine processes; protecting or cleaning up the environment; or investigating any of the other numerous pieces of the geologic system that are fundamental to how we live on Earth.

GeoFORCE Texas Young Geoscientists 9 th Grade Field Course students learn about geology in their "own backyard" when they tour the Vulcan Asphalt Quarry in Uvalde Texas . Students are joined by Chuck Beavis, Plant Manager (far right).

Because the geosciences are so diverse, physics, chemistry, and biology all contribute to our evolving understanding of the Earth. Because natural Earth systems are so multifaceted, we use the power of complex quantitative models, 3-D visualization, advanced mathematics, and highly sophisticated technologies. If you are intrigued by science, mathematics, or computer science, and enjoy solving scientific puzzles, there's a career waiting for you in the geosciences. You will work on interesting and important problems. You might work in an office, at a laboratory, on a research ship, on a glacier, or in the desert or mountains. You might work close to home, or if you like to travel, perhaps you would like to work internationally. Some geoscientists are highly specialized in a very specific area of study. Others are very broadly focused and cross the boundaries between several disciplines. The geosciences truly hold a world of possibilities for you.

Are the geosciences right for you? We assume you have an interest in science and math, but choosing a career is not easy. The first step is to answer a couple of questions: What about science and math interests you? What areas do you find fun and stimulating? For most of us, these simple questions are difficult to answer. And the answers change as you gain more knowledge. As you take more classes and learn more about all the wonderful possibilities, the more your own unique answers become apparent.

The second step is to do your homework--do some research on the careers people have in the geosciences. Does what they do interest you? There are many professional geoscientists in your state. Some work for government agencies. You can check out the state geological surveys by going to this Web site: http://www.stategeologists.org/ , or the federal geological survey at http://www.usgs.gov/ . All major universities and many other colleges and universities have geology departments, and their Web sites are usually good sources of information on what the professors and students are doing in the geosciences. Major employers of geoscientists include government agencies, the energy industry (oil, natural gas, coal, geothermal, and nuclear), environmental (environmental scientists and hydrologists) and engineering companies, and the mining industry.

There are many other sites on the Web that provide excellent information, and there are outreach programs at agencies and universities, such as career fairs (see, for example, http://www.earthsciweek.org/index.html ), where you can talk to geoscientists about what they do. A program we're involved with at the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin is "GeoFORCE Texas ." This is a summer program for South Texas students in grades 8-12 who have an aptitude for science and math. GeoFORCE Texas increases students' awareness of the scope of the geosciences and opportunities for careers in the geosciences and helps prepare the students for college. And it's fun. Each summer the students investigate the geology of different parts of the country and meet inspiring geoscientists ( http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/geoforce/where/locationlinks.html ).

A recurring theme of GeoFORCE Texas is "You can do it!" It's more than a slogan. It's absolutely true. As you consider your many opportunities to find a rewarding career in the sciences, please take a look at the geosciences. There may be something that will spark your interest for a lifetime. Are the geosciences challenging? Yes they are, but "You can do it!"

GeoFORCE Texas is sponsored by industry representatives such as Shell. For more information on GeoFORCE Texas or if you have questions about how to get involved in the geosciences, contact Julie Spink, GeoFORCE Texas Program Manager at jspink@jsg.utexas.edu .


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