When you ask the question “What is geology?” most people will initially respond that it is the study of rocks. This is true, but geology is also so much more than that. The truth is that geology is an intricate part of your everyday life.
- Geology is the study of the solid Earth. Geologists study how rocks and minerals form. The way mountains rise up is part of geology. The way mountains erode away is another part. Geologists also study fossils and Earth’s history. There are many other branches of geology. There is so much to know about our home planet that most geologists become specialists in one area. For example, a mineralogist studies minerals.
- One of the related fields of geology is mineralogy: the study of minerals. Geologists rely on minerals for many reasons. Not only are some minerals considered resources we use, such as gypsum, but they are the basis for the formation of rocks. Minerals are classified in different ways based on the elements that they contain. Matter (elements) makes up the minerals and minerals make up rocks.
- In this section we will learn about the rock cycle. Learning the rock cycle and understanding the processes involved helps all of us. Aall rocks are eroded into fine particles. This is how soil forms, through the breakdown of rocks. We need soil to survive—imagine trying to grow vegetables without it. This is an immediate connection to the food chain. The rock cycle also gives scientists and engineers an idea on where energy sources and building materials such as marble or granite may be found.
- When most people think about the resources we use, most of them will immediately think about water and air and fossil fuels. However, one resource that is absolutely vital to our existence is soil. In this section, we will see how soil is formed, we will see why all soils are not the same, and we will see what the soil looks like in different biomes. You may recall from the rock cycle that soil is formed from the weathering of rocks, but this is just one piece of what goes into soil formation.
- Plate tectonics is often seen as the missing piece of the puzzle for geologists. Plate tectonics explains, either directly or indirectly, just about every topic discussed in geology. It is the glue that binds everything together.
- Understanding crustal deformation helps explain the forces necessary to bend and fold rocks like those shown above which help create mountains. This section will discuss the types of forces needed to accomplish such a powerful feat. Have you ever wondered how strong those forces would have to be? The answer to that is beyond our comprehension.
- Volcanoes are one of the most dynamic, powerful and destructive forces on the Earth. While they are majestic in appearance, they are often sleeping giants just waiting to wake up and make us take notice. Some of you may have seen volcanic eruptions in person or on TV. Volcanoes are the geologists’ window into the Earth’s interior. If you recall from the previous section, plate tectonics directly influences the location and types of volcanoes we find across the globe.
- Landslides and avalanches may not be something we really think about unless we live in an area prone to them, but mass wasting can occur just about anywhere. If you recall from when we learned about the rock cycle, erosion is a powerful and continuous process.
- This section focuses on hydrology. It goes without saying how important water is to all life on the planet. We simply cannot survive without it. Water is what sets the Earth apart from the other planets in our solar system. While the oceans cover roughly 74% of the Earth’s surface and are the driving force behind the hydrologic cycle, it is the availability of freshwater that is of most concern today.