Today was a very frustrating day, I’m working with computer programs I am not familiar with at all and trying to do more with them then I feel capable of, in addition to that, my internship is up at the end of next week so I’m feeling the crunch to finish the last bit of my project. So in order to remind myself why I usually like to work in geology I decided to write myself a list of reasons why I love the earth sciences (this also has the additional benefit that it would give me answers when I am asked “Why do you study Geology?” besides my usual answer of “I like rocks!”)
1. Every rock tells a story (you just have to figure out what it is):
· If you have studied geology at all, you understand this and are probably fascinated by even the simplest stories rocks can tell: from coral reefs becoming beds of limestone, to lava flowing across the surface cooling into basalt, to the massive heat and pressure beneath the surface of the Earth which produces gneiss. All of these stories are fascinating; however, with more study the stories become even more interesting and subtle
· For example, my girlfriend and I were hiking in around the three extinct volcanoes near Albuquerque, and at the first peak we went to I noticed an obvious path for water to flow down and as I looked down the path I noticed that the rocks in the path were not all black like most of their brethren, instead their bottom quarters to halves were white. The rocks in the pathway of the water were being chemically weathered but only as far up as the water ran during the periodic flash floods. I wish I still had pictures from that day, but I’m not sure what happened to them, so I guess I’ll have to go back another time.
2. It is everywhere!
· Okay look down, well you are probably inside so imagine the ground under you, guess what that’s geology. Everywhere you go there is geology, even in boring flat places (like most of the places I’ve lived) have had some really interesting geologic events at some point, and if you read up on them before you drive through it, it will give you something to think about instead of slowing going insane due to boredom.
· In addition, nothing spices up a road trip like cursory identification of rock strata as you cruise through road cuts at 75 mph, especially if you are the driver (caution this will cause you to swerve into oncoming traffic). This is why I love the roadside geology book series, it really doesn’t get much better than driving across country and getting to see new geology as you do (and learning why it is there)
3. Thinking in geologic time
· I have a love hate relationship with this one while I think the concept is great and awe inspiring, but also it is hard to appreciate the time span of anything humans have ever done, empires last for hundreds of years while a geologic age is measured in millions of years, kind of screws up your appreciation for history. However, the idea of incredibly long processes slowing shaping and reshaping the landscape is a beautiful (and true) idea, some days I like to sit and look at different formations and think about the massive time it took for it to form (unless it is a volcanic formation usually those things didn’t take too long to form).
· Near Carlsbad, NM there is a part of Lincoln National Forest called Sitting Bull falls which is a spring fed waterfall. The spring comes up on sandstone and then comes into contact with limestone which was laid down during the Paleozoic, it is a beautiful example of differential erosion with the sandstone having barely eroded in that time, and the limestone having being cut away into a large hole around 50-60 feet below the coarser stuff up top.
4. People ask you questions
· I get asked a lot of random questions, from friends, family, and random people when I tell them I am a geology student, everything from “how do ocean waves work” to “what causes volcanoes” and a lot of other things. This is great since I love talking about science because 1. I like to hear the sound of my own voice and 2. Science is awesome and a lot of fun to talk about. Sure sometimes people try to trap you with questions about Global Climate Change and Evolution, but I welcome them, I have facts on my side, you just have crazy.
5. It is like a detective story
· I’ve always like detective stories, however, most thrillers and mysteries are pretty transparent to me now days, I think I just read and watched too many of the stories so I am too used to them now. However, trying to figure out what happened in the geologic history books (rocks and strata) is an intense mental exercise that requires you gather and then use every bit of information available for that area, and it is always incredible rewarding to finally understand how a feature formed and the consequences that holds for the area around it.
So those are my five favorite reasons to study geology, and honestly I think any one of them is a good reason to study it, and honestly I do feel a lot better now, sure some things might be frustrating when you first encounter them; however, the payoff once you overcome it is completely worth the effort in the first place.