Geologists study the nature, composition and structure of the earth to increase scientific knowledge and locate materials and minerals. They also advise on the extraction of minerals, as well as environmental protection and rehabilitation of land after mining.
Duties & Tasks
Geologists may perform the following tasks:
- explore specific areas of the earth to work out its structure and the types of rocks or minerals that exist
- study rock cores, cuttings and samples
- study geostatistics and sampling theory
- study fossilised life forms and date rock strata
- study the nature and effects of natural events such as erosion, sedimentation, glaciation, earthquakes and volcanic hazards
- locate and manage groundwater resources, investigate groundwater contamination and land salinity
- undertake geochemical sampling of stream sediment and soils
- undertake ground magnetic and gravity surveys
- examine geological specimens in laboratories using optical and electron microscopes, X-ray diffraction and chemical and mechanical techniques
- assist in determining the economic viability of extracting earth resources
- advise on the geological suitability of sites for structures such as tunnels, roads, coastal installations, bridges and water supply schemes
- contribute information about land use, planning and rehabilitation, and the effects of pollution on seabeds to environmental assessments
- use computers to integrate and interpret data sets of geological information
- prepare geological models to describe processes and predict future situations
- prepare geological reports and maps.
An engineering geologist works with engineers to carry out detailed geological mapping before major construction work; assesses the qualities of building stone and quarry rocks used for building and road construction; and assesses geological structures for open cut and underground mine safety, and foundations for building.
An environmental geologist studies the nature of ground and surface waters, soil movement, erosion and degradation, salinisation and coastal erosion; the effects of pollution and human activity on rivers; and the environmental effects of mining, nuclear energy and waste disposal.
A field/exploration geologist carries out surveys to determine the geological structure, distribution and age of rocks and can indicate where particular natural resources are likely to be found.
A geochemist/mineralogist/petrologist studies the mineral and chemical composition of rocks using equipment such as optical and electron microscopes, X-ray diffraction, atomic absorption and mass spectrometry. They may also be involved in examining the transport of pollutants through rock masses.
A geomorphologist studies the origin and age of landforms and land surfaces.
A hydrogeologist/hydrologist evaluates and manages the quality, quantity, reliability and sustainability of all aspects of water resources. Hydrologists are concerned with surface water processes such as rainfall, run-off, evaporation, river flows, floods and droughts, erosion and water pollution. Hydrogeologists are concerned with groundwater and the soil-moisture variation, amount, speed and direction of groundwater flow, extraction and replenishment of groundwater, and water chemistry and pollution.
A mathematical geologist predicts the outcome of geological problems by applying the most appropriate data and computer models.
Mine Site Geologist
A mine site geologist controls the grade (or quality) of the ore mined. They also locate extensions to ore deposits by deciding which areas of an ore body should be mined at a particular time, and defining the ore limits at the mine based on economic considerations.
A palaeontologist examines, classifies and describes animal and plant fossils found in sedimentary rocks. Understanding the evolutionary order of the fossil record is particularly important in oil exploration.
A petroleum geologist explores and charts stratigraphic arrangement, composition and the structure of the earth's surface layers to locate petroleum and natural gas. They estimate the extent of reserves using seismic and geological survey evidence and recommend the most appropriate drilling and production methods.
A stratigrapher deals with the order in which sedimentary rock strata have been deposited, their age and the processes by which they were formed.
A structural geologist assists engineers by advising how rock structures can influence failure of weight bearing loads in bedrock when seeking building foundations. They also conduct water and seepage into deeper zones and aquifers.
Geologists work in laboratories, offices and in the field. They may work independently or as members of a mixed team of professional and non-professional staff. They may have contact with the public, especially if needing permission to go onto private land. Fieldwork can involve spending time in remote desert, tropical or Antarctic/arctic regions. The hours of work can be irregular and it may be necessary to spend long periods away from home.
- enjoy technical and engineering activities
- willing to adhere to safety requirements
- able to work independently or as part of a team
- able to prepare accurate records and reports
- able to cope with the physical demands of the job
- prepared to work outdoors in a range of environments.