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Geology life – Every time I introduce myself as a geologist, people ask me: 1) “wow, so you lick the stones

Geology life

Carboni, F.1

1University of Perugia, Italy

Every time I introduce myself as a geologist, people ask me: 1) “wow, so you lick the stones, study the volcanoes and the earthquakes?” and/or 2) “Why did you study geology?”. Usually, the latter is asked with a sense of “what kind of mental illness affects you?”. Therefore, I would like to show you why our job, which is just or lifestyle, is the best ever to choose.

Geology fields

Most of the people do not know who a geologist is or what a geologist can do. Consequently, during the last year of the high-school or the first year of the university, most of the students have no idea of what a geologist can actually do. What if I tell you, there are so many disciplines, I could not even write about all of them in a single post? So, let’s start to learn about the major sectors of geology.

Palaeontology and Palaeoecology

In this sector, you can use the fossils of dead organisms such as animals, plants or even pollens and spores, to reconstruct the ages of rocks and the paleoenvironments (so how the environments were in the past) in which they formed. This allows you to interpret the geological events (e.g., tectonic plates movement, climate variations, glaciations, ecc.) as well as the evolution processes of organisms through the geological time (Fig. 1a).

Stratigraphy and Sedimentology

With this field, you can study both old and recent sediments, of both marine and continental origins, to reconstruct their genesis and provenience from the analysis of their composition (by which minerals they are formed) as well as from their sedimentary structures and characteristics (Fig. 1b).

Structural Geology

Choosing this sector, you can understand (at least trying) how the Earth (as well as other planets) really works, through the natural processes, and how they are registered by the rocks. As a structural geologist you will be able to understand how and why rocks folds and broke, how mountain belts can be so high, and how plains or oceans form (Fig. 1c).

Geomorphology

With this sector, you can understand how and why the surface is modelled though time, due to the action of e.g., earthquakes, subsurface fluid flows (e.g., water, gases), gravity, wind, rain, sun, ice, and temperature variations. If you want, you can also study the evolution of the soils in respect of climate and vegetation variations (Fig. 1d).

Fig.1. a) Fossils of bivalves from the Dolomites (Italy); b) gypsum deposits and crystallization in Sicily (Italy); c) folded rocks in the Dolomites (Italy); d) erosional features from “Le Lame Rosse” in the Central Apennines (Italy). Personal photos.

Applied Geology

Here you can be the boss, with the related responsibilities, with the decisional power of defining whenever an area is geologically at risk or not. You could study the rockslides, the aquifers, the slopes stability, and the mechanical properties of rocks and soils, among others (Fig. 2a).

Petrography and petrology

In this field you can zoom inside every kind of rock, studying their nature and by which minerals they are composed, even knowing which pressure and temperature conditions the rocks registered. You will understand big geological structures (e.g., mountains, oceans, volcanoes, inner of Earth) only by looking at small rocks, that you can hold in your hand (Fig. 2b).

Mineralogy

Here you will go in detail about every mineral existing on Earth, and why not, also find new ones. You will look at the minerals’ atomic structure and composition, as well as their transformations at different pressure and temperature conditions, to comprehend the composition and evolution of the Earth and other planets (Fig. 2c).

Geochemistry and Vulcanology

Choosing this sector, you will apply all the chemistry you studied (and hopefully learned) at school, to understand the behaviour and the reactions of elements behind several geological/anthropic processes, such as hydrocarbon generation, gas emissions and storage, magma mixing and intrusions, volcanic eruptions and so on (Fig. 2d).

Fig.2. a) Planar sliding on evaporitic strata in Sicily (Italy) (courtesy of A. Petroccia); b) crenulation cleavage in low-grade metamorphic metapelite from the Nappe Zone of the Sardinian Variscan belt (Italy) (courtesy of A. Petroccia); c) gypsum minerals in Sicily (Italy) (personal photo); d) dikes intrusions from Madeira Island (courtesy of my mother).

Georesources

Within this sector, you can work on the characterization and valorisation of minerals and rocks of industrial, commercial, economic, and artistic interest. This means you could collaborate with huge international mining or petroleum companies, as well as with the humble artisan of your neighbourhood (Fig. 3a).

Geophysics

With this discipline, you would be a kind of magician, even a bit mystical, working with all kinds of geophysical methods (e.g., gravimetry, magnetometry, seismic) to study and model the Earth and other planets interiors. You have to be a little mix between Einstein, Volta, Newton, Oersted and so on, since you must have knowledge about a lot of physics (Fig. 3b).

Marine Geology and Oceanography

Here you will live like a pirate in Hawaiian shirt, sailing on scientific cruises with the aim to obtain data about the seafloor (e.g., submarine rockslides, geological structures, fluid escapes) and the interactions between fluids and rocks, using geophysical methods (Fig. 3c).

Planetary Geology

If you are tired of the Earth, you could work on other planets (but still at your office on Earth, sorry about that), using various methodologies mainly based on remote sensing (e.g., satellite data and images) and modelling, to understand the geological evolution of other planets, and maybe, of the entire Universe (Fig. 3d).

Fig.3. a) Salt mine of Realmonte in Sicily (Italy) (personal photo); b) 3D seismic profile data (by Morgan, 2004); c) artistic impression of a scientific submarine, performing a deep-sea survey of the seafloor (by Wolfl et al., 2019); d) geological map of Mars’ polar region (by Tanaka et al., 2014).

Conclusions

From the above-described geological sectors, you may have noticed how they often study similar aspects by using different points of view. Therefore, be ready to create national and international connections, along with travelling towards the most remote places on Earth (or just remaining at your office in front of the computer on in the laboratory).

If you are not a geologist, I hope you now understand that geologists do not only lick stones, and study volcanoes and earthquakes, but study the entire Earth system and even the Universe. If you are a student, I hope you now understand the infinite possibilities of jobs and life experiences you could have as a professional/researcher geologist.

Acknowledgements

I would really like to thank Alessandro Petroccia and the BeGeo organizing committee for giving me the opportunity to inaugurate this new blog with its first post; it has been a pleasure and an honour.

References

Carboni, F., Porreca, M., Valerio, E., Manzo, M., De Luca, C., Azzaro, S., Ercoli, M., Barchi, M.R., 2022a. Surface ruptures and off‑fault deformation of the October 2016 central Italy earthquakes from DInSAR data. Scientific Reports 12:3172. doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-07068-9.

Carboni, F., Koyi, H., Bicocchi, A., Barchi, M.R., 2022b. Modelling the 4D kinematics of extensional structures developed above discontinuous inclined ductile basal detachments. Journal of Structural Geology 157, 104570. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsg.2022.104570.

Dietl, C., Koyi, H.A., de Wall, H., Gößmann, M., 2006. Centrifuge modelling of plutons intruding shear zones: application to the Fürstenstein Intrusive Complex (Bavarian Forest, Germany). Geodinamica Acta, 19(3–4), 165–184. doi: https://doi.org/10.3166/ga.19.165-184.

Morgan, R., 2004.Structural controls on the positioning of submarine channels on the lower slopes of the Niger Delta. In Davies, R. J., cartwright, J. A., Stewart, S. A., Lappin, M. & UnderhilL, J. R. (eds). 3D Seismic Technology: Application to the Exploration of Sedimentary Basins. Geological Society Memoirs 29, 45–51. doi: https://doi.org/0435-4052/04/$159.

Tanaka, K.L., Skinner, J.A., Dohm, J.M., Irwin, R.P., Kolb, E.J., Fortezzo, C.M., Platz, T., Michael, G.G., Hare T.M., 2014. Geologic map of Mars. Report, Scientific Investigations Map 3292.

Wölfl, A-C., Snaith, H., Amirebrahimi, S., Devey C.W., Dorschel, B., Ferrini, V., Huvenne, V.A.I., Jakobsson, M., Jencks, J., Johnston G., Lamarche, G., Mayer, L., Millar, D., Pedersen, T.H., Picard, K., Reitz A., Schmitt, T., Visbeck, M., Weatherall, P. and Wigley, R., 2019. Seafloor Mapping – The Challenge of a Truly Global Ocean Bathymetry. Front. Mar. Sci. 6:283. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00283.

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