A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitutes the Earth and other terrestrial planets, as well as the processes that shape them. Geologists usually study geology, although backgrounds in physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences are also useful. Field work is an important component of geology, although many subdisciplines incorporate laboratory work.

Geologists work in the energy and mining sectors searching for natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, precious and base metals. They are also in the forefront of preventing and mitigating damage from natural hazards and disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and landslides. Their studies are used to warn the general public of the occurrence of these events. Geologists are also important contributors to climate change discussions.

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"The Geologist" - Carl Spitzweg, circa 1860
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Petroleum industry
Related jobs


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Scotsman James Hutton, father of modern geology

James Hutton is often viewed as the first modern geologist.[1] In 1785 he presented a paper entitled Theory of the Earth to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In his paper, he explained his theory that the Earth must be much older than had previously been supposed to allow enough time for mountains to be eroded and for sediments to form new rocks at the bottom of the sea, which in turn were raised up to become dry land. Hutton published a two-volume version of his ideas in 1795 (Vol. 1, Vol. 2). Followers of Hutton were known as Plutonists because they believed that some rocks were formed by vulcanism, which is the deposition of lava from volcanoes, as opposed to the Neptunists, led by Abraham Werner, who believed that all rocks had settled out of a large ocean whose level gradually dropped over time.

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"Geologists at work" from the U.S. Geological and Geographic Survey of the Territories. (1874 - 06/30/1879) Photographer: William Henry Jackson

The first geological map of the United States was produced in 1809 by William Maclure.[2][3] In 1807, Maclure commenced the self-imposed task of making a geological survey of the United States. Almost every state in the Union was traversed and mapped by him; the Allegheny Mountains being crossed and recrossed some 50 times.[4] The results of his unaided labors were submitted to the American Philosophical Society in a memoir entitled Observations on the Geology of the United States explanatory of a Geological Map, and published in the Society's Transactions, together with the nation's first geological map.[5] This antedates William Smith's geological map of England by six years, although it was constructed using a different classification of rocks.

Sir Charles Lyell first published his famous book, Principles of Geology,[6] in 1830. This book, which influenced the thought of Charles Darwin, successfully promoted the doctrine of uniformitarianism. This theory states that slow geological processes have occurred throughout the Earth's history and are still occurring today. In contrast, catastrophism is the theory that Earth's features formed in single, catastrophic events and remained unchanged thereafter. Though Hutton believed in uniformitarianism, the idea was not widely accepted at the time.

Training / Schooling

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A young geologist learns about flow banding

For an aspiring geologist, training typically includes significant coursework in physics, mathematics, and chemistry, in addition to classes offered through the geology department; historical and physical geology, igneous and metamorphic petrology and petrography, hydrogeology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, mineralogy, palaeontology, physical geography and structural geology are among the many required areas of study. Most geologists also need skills in GIS and other mapping techniques. Geology students often spend portions of the year, especially the summer though sometimes during a January term, living and working under field conditions with faculty members (often referred to as "field camp"). Many non-geologists often take geology courses or have expertise in geology that they find valuable to their fields; this is common in the fields of geography, engineering, chemistry, urban planning, environmental studies, among others.

Areas of specialization

A geologist working in the Arctic
Geologists exploring Jurassic sedimentary rocks in Makhtesh Gadol, Negev Desert, Israel
Tephrochronology iceland
Geologist explaining the importance of volcanic ash layers to students on field in Iceland

Geologists may concentrate their studies or research in one or more of the following disciplines:

  • Economic geology: the study of ore genesis, and the mechanisms of ore creation, geostatistics.
  • Engineering geology: application of the geologic sciences to engineering practice for the purpose of assuring that the geologic factors affecting the location, design, construction, operation and maintenance of engineering works are recognized and adequately provided for;
  • Geophysics: the applied branch deals with the application of physical methods such as gravity, seismicity, electricity, magnetic properties to study the earth.
  • Geochemistry: the applied branch deals with the study of the chemical makeup and behaviour of rocks, and the study of the behaviour of their minerals.
  • Geochronology: the study of isotope geology specifically toward determining the date within the past of rock formation, metamorphism, mineralization and geological events (notably, meteorite impacts).
  • Geomorphology: the study of landforms and the processes that create them
  • Hydrogeology: the study of the origin, occurrence and movement of groundwater water in a subsurface geological system.
  • Igneous petrology: the study of igneous processes such as igneous differentiation, fractional crystallization, intrusive and volcanological phenomena.
  • Isotope geology: the case of the isotopic composition of rocks to determine the processes of rock and planetary formation.
  • Metamorphic petrology: the study of the effects of metamorphism on minerals and rocks.
  • Marine geology: the study of the seafloor; involves geophysical, geochemical, sedimentological and paleontological investigations of the ocean floor and coastal margins. Marine geology has strong ties to physical oceanography and plate tectonics.
  • Palaeoclimatology: the application of geological science to determine the climatic conditions present in the Earth's atmosphere within the Earth's history.
  • Palaeontology: the classification and taxonomy of fossils within the geological record and the construction of a palaeontological history of the Earth.
  • Pedology: the study of soil, soil formation, and regolith formation.
  • Petroleum geology: the study of sedimentary basins applied to the search for hydrocarbons (oil exploration).
  • Planetary geology: the study of geology as it relates to other celestial bodies, namely planets and their moons. This includes the subdiscipline of lunar geology, selenology, and martian geology, areology.
  • Sedimentology: the study of sedimentary rocks, strata, formations, eustasy and the processes of modern-day sedimentary and erosive systems.
  • Seismology: The study of earthquakes.
  • Structural geology: the study of folds, faults, foliation and rock microstructure to determine the deformational history of rocks and regions.
  • Volcanology: the study of volcanoes, their eruptions, lavas, magma processes and hazards.


"Picturesque camp made by a lone geologist on the cinders of Inferno". This photo was taken during a U.S. Department of the Interior Geological Survey in 1921

Professional geologists work for a wide range of government agencies, private firms, and non-profit and academic institutions. They are usually hired on a contract basis or hold permanent positions within private firms or official agencies (such as the United States Geologic Survey).

Local, state, and national governments hire geologists to work on geological projects that are of interest to the public community. The investigation of a country's natural resources is often a key role when working for government institutions; the work of the geologist in this field can be made publicly available to help the community make more informed decisions related to the exploitation of resources, management of the environment and the safety of critical infrastructure - all of which is expected to bring greater wellbeing to the country.[7] This 'wellbeing' is often in the form of greater tax revenues from new or extended mining projects or through better infrastructure and/or natural disaster planning.

Geologist mud logging, common in petroleum and water-well drilling

An engineering geologist is employed to investigate geologic hazards and geologic constraints for the planning, design and construction of public and private engineering projects, forensic and post-mortem studies, and environmental impact analysis. Exploration geologists use all aspects of geology and geophysics to locate and study natural resources. In many countries or U.S. states without specialized environmental remediation licensure programs, the environmental remediation field is often dominated by professional geologists, particularly hydrogeologists, with professional concentrations in this aspect of the field. Petroleum and mining companies use mudloggers, and large-scale land developers use the skills of geologists and engineering geologists to help them locate oil and minerals, adapt to local features such as karst topography or earthquake risk, and comply with environmental regulations.

Geologists in academia usually hold an advanced degree in a specialized area within their geological discipline and are employed by universities.

Professional designation

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The rock hammer and hand lens (or loupe) are two of the most characteristic tools carried by geologists in the field.

In Canada, National Instrument 43-101 requires reports containing estimates of mineral resources and reserves to be prepared by, or under the supervision of, a Qualified Person (QP) who has at least five years of experience with the reported minerals and is a member of a professional association. The QP accepts personal liability for the professional quality of the report and underlying work.[8]

The rules and guidelines codified in National Instrument 43-101 were introduced after a scandal in 1997 where Bre-X geologists salted drill core samples at a gold exploration property in Busang, Indonesia. The falsified drilling results misled Bre-X investors and upon discovery of the fraud, the company collapsed in the largest gold mining scam in history.[9]

See also


  1. ^ James Hutton: The Founder of Modern Geology Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, American Museum of Natural History
  2. ^ William Maclure (1817). Observations on the Geology of the United States of America: With Some Remarks on the Effect Produced on the Nature and Fertility of Soils, by the Decomposition of the Different Classes of Rocks; and an Application to the Fertility of Every State in the Union, in Reference to the Accompanying Geological Map ... author.
  3. ^ "Title Page: Observations on the geology of the United States of America".
  4. ^ Page 39 in Greene, J.C. and Burke, J.G. (1978) The Science of Minerals in the Age of Jefferson. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 68, No. 4, pp. 1-113
  5. ^ "Map of the United States of America".
  6. ^ Charles Lyell. (1991). Principles of geology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-49797-6.
  7. ^ Geoscience Australia, Our Role, December 16, 2010,, Accessed: May 12, 2011
  8. ^ "AIPG - American Institute of Professional Geologists".
  9. ^ Grundhauser, Eric (21 August 2015). "The $6 Billion Gold Mine That Wasn't There". Slate. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
Animal Collective

Animal Collective is an American experimental pop band formed in Baltimore, Maryland in 2003. Its members and founders are Avey Tare (David Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Deakin (Josh Dibb), and Geologist (Brian Weitz). The band's music is characterized by studio experimentation, vocal harmonies, and an exploration of various genres which include freak folk, noise rock, ambient drone, and psychedelia. Records released under the name "Animal Collective" may include contributions from any or all of its members. In the case of Dibb, who often takes breaks from recording and performing with the band, his time off does not constitute full leave.The band members met in school and started recording together in various forms of collaboration from a young age. Originally a duo comprising Lennox and Portner, the collective was not officially established until all four members came together for the album Here Comes the Indian (2003). Most prior collaborations between the band members were then retroactively classified under Animal Collective's discography. In 1999, they established the record label Paw Tracks, issuing what is now considered their debut album, Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished (2000), as well as work by other artists. In 2009, the band released their most commercially successful album, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Its rich, reverb-heavy sound proved influential to much subsequent popular music.

Brent Dalrymple

G. Brent Dalrymple (born May 9, 1937) is an American geologist, author of The Age of the Earth and Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies, and National Medal of Science winner.He was born in Alhambra, California. After receiving a Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, Dalrymple went to work at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Menlo Park, California. In 1994 he left the USGS to accept a position at Oregon State University, where he served on the faculty until retiring in 2001. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 2003, Dalrymple was awarded the National Medal of Science. He was presented with the Medal at a ceremony in 2005.Since 2013, Dalrymple has been listed on the Advisory Council of the National Center for Science Education.

Daniel Barringer (geologist)

For other people named Daniel Barringer, see Daniel Barringer (disambiguation).Daniel Barringer (May 25, 1860 – November 30, 1929) was a geologist best known as the first person to prove the existence of an impact crater on the Earth, the Meteor Crater in Arizona. The site, owned privately by Barringer and now by his family, has been renamed the Barringer Crater in his honor, although this name is mainly used in the scientific community.

Daniel Barringer, was the son of Daniel Moreau Barringer, a nephew of Confederate General Rufus Barringer and a cousin of Paul Brandon Barringer. He graduated from Princeton University in 1879 at the age of 19, and in 1882 graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Law. He later studied geology and mineralogy at Harvard University and at the University of Virginia, respectively.

In 1892, Barringer, along with his friend Richard A. F. Penrose, Jr., and others, purchased a gold and silver mine near Cochise, Arizona. Later, Barringer also discovered the Commonwealth Silver Mine in Pearce, Arizona. These mining ventures made him a wealthy man.

Economic geology

Economic geology is concerned with earth materials that can be used for economic and/or industrial purposes. These materials include precious and base metals, nonmetallic minerals, construction-grade stone, petroleum minerals, coal, and water. Economic geology is a subdiscipline of the geosciences; according to Lindgren (1933) it is “the application of geology”. Today, it may be called the scientific study of the Earth’s sources of mineral raw materials and the practical application of the acquired knowledge. The term commonly refers to metallic mineral deposits and mineral resources. The techniques employed by other earth science disciplines (such as geochemistry, mineralogy, geophysics, petrology and structural geology) might all be used to understand, describe, and exploit an ore deposit.

Economic geology is studied and practiced by geologists. Economic geology may be of interest to other professions such as engineers, environmental scientists, and conservationists because of the far-reaching impact that extractive industries have on society, the economy, and the environment.

Engineering geology

Engineering geology is the application of the geology to engineering study for the purpose of assuring that the geological factors regarding the location, design, construction, operation and maintenance of engineering works are recognized and accounted for. Engineering geologists provide geological and geotechnical recommendations, analysis, and design associated with human development and various types of structures. The realm of the engineering geologist is essentially in the area of earth-structure interactions, or investigation of how the earth or earth processes impact human made structures and human activities.

Engineering geology studies may be performed during the planning, environmental impact analysis, civil or structural engineering design, value engineering and construction phases of public and private works projects, and during post-construction and forensic phases of projects. Works completed by engineering geologists include; geological hazard assessments, geotechnical, material properties, landslide and slope stability, erosion, flooding, dewatering, and seismic investigations, etc. Engineering geology studies are performed by a geologist or engineering geologist that is educated, trained and has obtained experience related to the recognition and interpretation of natural processes, the understanding of how these processes impact human made structures (and vice versa), and knowledge of methods by which to mitigate against hazards resulting from adverse natural or human made conditions. The principal objective of the engineering geologist is the protection of life and property against damage caused by various geological conditions.

The practice of engineering geology is also very closely related to the practice of geological engineering and geotechnical engineering. If there is a difference in the content of the disciplines, it mainly lies in the training or experience of the practitioner.

Gilbert (Martian crater)

Gilbert is a large Martian crater located in the south of the planet in the Mare Australe quadrangle. It is one of several large craters in the heavily pock-marked upland region. It was named in 1973 in honour of American geologist Grove K. Gilbert.

James Dwight Dana

James Dwight Dana FRS FRSE (February 12, 1813 – April 14, 1895) was an American geologist, mineralogist, volcanologist, and zoologist. He made pioneering studies of mountain-building, volcanic activity, and the origin and structure of continents and oceans around the world.

M. S. Krishnan (geologist)

Maharajapuram Seetharaman Krishnan (24 August 1898 – 24 April 1970) was an Indian Geologist. He was the first Indian to serve as the Director of the Geological Survey of India.

Marine geology

Marine geology or geological oceanography is the study of the history and structure of the ocean floor. It involves geophysical, geochemical, sedimentological and paleontological investigations of the ocean floor and coastal zone. Marine geology has strong ties to geophysics and to physical oceanography.

Marine geological studies were of extreme importance in providing the critical evidence for sea floor spreading and plate tectonics in the years following World War II. The deep ocean floor is the last essentially unexplored frontier and detailed mapping in support of both military (submarine) objectives and economic (petroleum and metal mining) objectives drives the research.

Mount Hector (Alberta)

Mount Hector is a mountain in Banff National Park, Canada. The mountain was named in 1884 by George M. Dawson after James Hector, a geologist on the Palliser Expedition. The mountain is located beside the Icefields Parkway, 17 km (11 mi) north of Lake Louise.

The first ascent was made in 1895 by Philip S. Abbot, Charles Fay and Charles S. Thompson.

Petroleum geologist

A petroleum geologist is an earth scientist who works in the field of petroleum geology, which involves all aspects of oil discovery and production. Petroleum geologists are usually linked to the actual discovery of oil and the identification of possible oil deposits or leads. It can be a very labor-intensive task involving several different fields of science and elaborate equipment. Petroleum geologists look at the structural and sedimentary aspects of the stratum/strata to identify possible oil traps.

Planetary geology

Planetary geology, alternatively known as astrogeology or exogeology, is a planetary science discipline concerned with the geology of the celestial bodies such as the planets and their moons, asteroids, comets, and meteorites. Although the geo- prefix typically indicates topics of or relating to the Earth, planetary geology is named as such for historical and convenience reasons; applying geological science to other planetary bodies. Due to the types of investigations involved, it is also closely linked with Earth-based geology.

Planetary geology includes such topics as determining the internal structure of the terrestrial planets, and also looks at planetary volcanism and surface processes such as impact craters, fluvial and aeolian processes. The structures of the giant planets and their moons are also examined, as is the make-up of the minor bodies of the Solar System, such as asteroids, the Kuiper Belt, and comets.

Priestley Glacier

The Priestley Glacier is a major valley glacier, about 96 km (60 mi) long, originating at the edge of the polar plateau of Victoria Land. The glacier drains southeast between the Deep Freeze and Eisenhower ranges to enter the northern end of the Nansen Ice Sheet.

First explored by the Northern Party of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910–13, and named for Raymond E. Priestley, geologist with the Northern Party.

Priestley Névé (73°35′S 160°20′E) is the névé at the head of Priestley Glacier in Victoria Land. Named by the New Zealand Antarctic Place-Names Committee (NZ-APC) in about 1966 in association with Priestley Glacier.

Psychometry (paranormal)

Psychometry (from Greek: ψυχή, psukhē, "spirit, soul" and μέτρον, metron, "measure"), also known as token-object reading, or psychoscopy, is a form of extrasensory perception characterized by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object. Supporters assert that an object may have an energy field that transfers knowledge regarding that object's history.There is no scientific evidence that psychometry exists and the concept has been widely criticized.

Smith (Martian crater)

Smith is an impact crater on Mars, located in the Mare Australe quadrangle at 66.1°S latitude and 102.9°W longitude. It measures 74.33 kilometers in diameter and was named after English geologist William Smith (1769–1839). The name was approved in 1973, by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature.

Structural geology

Structural geology is the study of the three-dimensional distribution of rock units with respect to their deformational histories. The primary goal of structural geology is to use measurements of present-day rock geometries to uncover information about the history of deformation (strain) in the rocks, and ultimately, to understand the stress field that resulted in the observed strain and geometries. This understanding of the dynamics of the stress field can be linked to important events in the geologic past; a common goal is to understand the structural evolution of a particular area with respect to regionally widespread patterns of rock deformation (e.g., mountain building, rifting) due to plate tectonics.

Warren Upham

Warren Upham (8 March 1850 – 29 January 1934) was a geologist, archaeologist, and librarian who is best known for his studies of glacial Lake Agassiz. Upham worked as a geologist in New Hampshire before moving in 1879 to Minnesota to study the resources and glacial geology of that state. Upham's first major report on Lake Agassiz was published in 1890 by the Geological Survey of Canada, but the main product of his many years of study ("The Glacial Lake Agassiz") was published in 1895 as Monograph 25 of the U.S. Geological Survey's monograph series.

Upham graduated from Dartmouth College in 1871 and worked under Minnesota state geologist Newton H. Winchell. The Minnesota Historical Society published his landmark 735-page volume on place name origins, Minnesota Geographic Names: Their Origin and Historic Significance in 1920.

A revised and enlarged third edition of this monumental work was published by the Minnesota Historical Society in 2001.

William Smith (geologist)

William 'Strata' Smith (23 March 1769 – 28 August 1839) was an English geologist, credited with creating the first nationwide geological map. At the time his map was first published he was overlooked by the scientific community; his relatively humble education and family connections prevented him from mixing easily in learned society. Financially ruined, Smith spent time in debtors' prison. It was only late in his life that Smith received recognition for his accomplishments, and became known as the "Father of English Geology".

Women in geology

Women in geology concerns the history and contributions of women to the field of geology. There has been a long history of women in the field, but they have tended to be under-represented. In the era before the eighteenth century, science and geological science had not been as formalized as they would become later. Hence early geologists tended to be informal observers and collectors, whether they were male or female. Notable examples of this period include Hildegard of Bingen who wrote works concerning stones and Barbara Uthmann who supervised her husband's mining operations after his death. Mrs. Uthmann was also a relative of Georg Agricola. In addition to these names varied aristocratic women had scientific collections of rocks or minerals.In the nineteenth century a new professional class of geologists emerged that included women. In this period the British tended to have far more women of significance to geology.In 1977 the Association for Women Geoscientists was formed to support women in this field as they remained under-represented. There have been advances since then although retention remains a problem.

History of geology
Сomposition and structure
Historical geology

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