It’s a key part of everyday life and provides a window into Earth’s history. Think back to some of the world’s wonders. The Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef. These beauties wouldn’t be possible without all kinds of rocks and mineral formations.
But geology extends far beyond the world’s wonders. The field has exciting applications in our daily lives as well, from the gemstones in jewelry to the materials we use to build houses to finding the energy that powers our world. Take a look below to dig up some hidden gems about geology and the people who study it.
1. Geologists are multifaceted.
We may think of them as rock experts, but geologists don’t only study rocks – they examine their movements across Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history. It takes really smart people to tackle Earth’s mysteries.
2. Geoscientists have a way with words.
Speaking “geo” is a bit of an art form, and Latin is not a dead language to geologists. From mineralogy (the study of minerals) to geodesy (mathematics dealing with the shape of the Earth) to stratigraphy (analysis of the order and position of rock layers, or strata) to petrology (the study of the origin of rocks), there’s no shortage of expertise for geologists with specific interests.
3. Rocks aren’t just one thing …
When it comes to rocks, there’s more than meets the eye. They’re made up of varying mixtures of minerals and metals. And with more than 4,000 minerals in the world, there are plenty of combinations for geologists to study, from gemstones to precious metals. However, the most common mineral is one you probably know: shiny, sparkly quartz, which forms many of the world’s sandy beaches.
4. … however, they do have a type.
Three types, to be specific. Igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic are all categories used by geologists to distinguish rock types. Igneous rocks, like basalt and granite, are solidified molten magma. Sedimentary rocks, like shale and limestone, are formed as sediment accumulates and compacts into stone. And metamorphic rocks, like their name suggests, are rocks that have been changed by heat, pressure or chemicals into something new. Marble, for example, is the butterfly to limestone’s caterpillar.
5. Most rocks have fiery origins.
Speaking of magma, minerals are born of a process beginning with volcanic eruptions, after which cooling lava hardens into many of Earth’s minerals. In fact, in the geological world, volcanoes are known as the planet’s architects, as they’ve created more than 80% of Earth’s surface.
6. They’re quite literally the bedrock of history.
A record of time is kept in the geological formations around us. Fossils provide a snapshot of the past, while rock formations and movements tell a story of what happened through history. They’re all laid out on maps for geologists to read and reread for new insights.
7. Geologists are Earth’s detectives.
They sniff out clues, getting to the rock bottom of things by using data to create maps, combining lab work and field work to make predictions. Geologists do it all.
8. Geologists can be energy hunters.
Exploration geologists are tasked with finding the next big discoveries in the energy world, using maps, seismic data and even molecules. Their role at ExxonMobil can take them to the Gulf of Mexico or offshore Guyana, where they’re instrumental to groundbreaking discoveries.