Monday, March 16, 2009

10 Things Geo Majors Should Know

Callan has started a fiendish meme: what are ten things all geology majors should know? The fiendish part is that you can't repeat things that others have already listed. So I'm getting in on this Ponzi scheme at the outset. I kind of cheated on the last one... but I do think it's important. The other lists I've seen are below mine

1. Should be confident that he/she could point out evidence of change anywhere on the Earth's surface.

2. Should know how to (and preferably, be eager to) talk to non-scientists about their subject.

3. Know how to use ternary diagrams.

4. Know basic mapping skills; with a Brunton compass and a topo map, take appropriate
measurements both for recording data and navigation.

5. Given an outcrop, tell a story about how it came to be. This does not mean "get every detail right," but at the core of our discipline is a love of stories and change over time. Bachelors degree holders should have developed some skill with this.

6. Be able to generate alternative hypotheses (no one-handed geologists!) and recognize ways to look for evidence supporting and refuting one or others.

7. Be able to (in broad strokes) sketch out the history of the earth in an astronomical context, and compare and contrast the earth to the other terrestrial planets.

8. Discuss in some detail modern civilization's utter dependence on geologic resources, including (but not limited to) water, energy, metals, building materials and nutritional materials (particularly with respect to fertilizers).

9. Describe how geology is intertwined with other sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, meteorology, oceanography, astronomy) and with mathematics (it's no accident that a major branch of mathematics is called GEOmetry).

10. Be able to honestly say "I think rocks are really cool..." or some variation thereof.

Eric's List:
1. Hydraulic Geometry: this concept relates fluvial discharge to slope, channel width, channel depth, and velocity, and explicitly shows how delicate adjustments in one can result in changes in the others.

2. Paleocurrent indicators, and how to describe, interpret, and measure them (especially from trough axes)!

3. What are Froude and Reynold's Numbers, and what do they mean!?!

4. That a lithofacies is the sum of all textural, sedimentary structural, and lithological attributes that uniquely defines a given lithosome, and how THIS DIFFERS from a depositional environment model.

5. The basic sedimentary basin types (i.e., retroarc forelands, forearc, etc), and what subsidence patterns generally define them.

6. Why there are locks on the Panama Canal (the Geoid!)

7. The difference between lithostratigraphy and chronostratigraphy

8. How to draw a Wheeler Diagram

9. The timing and location of the major orogenies

10. Walther's Law

Chris' List:
1. The difference between absolute and relative radiometric dating.

2. Uranium-lead dating and how each element on the uranium 238 decay chain interacts differently with the environment.

3. The difference between a continent and a tectonic plate.

4. The properties of felsic, intermediate and mafic lava types.

5. How and why the melting temperature of a rock changes depending on the the concentration of volatiles therein.

6. What an ophiolite is and the significance of very old ophiolites.

7. The structure of the deep Earth (the upper and lower mantle including the MoHo and other zones)

8. The biological explanation for the formation of banded iron formations.

9. The insignificant difference between a volcanic sill and a volcanic dike.

10. How to spot changing environments in a stratigraphic column.

Callan’s list:
The relationship between cooling rate and crystal size in igneous rocks.

The fact that rocks can flow, given sufficient temperature and pressure [and low strain rate, for the purists out there].

The idea that sedimentary rocks reflect specific depositional settings. By studying modern depositional settings and the sediments they contain, we can interpret ancient sedimentary rocks in light of the conditions under which they accumulated.

The fact that the chemical stability of molecular configurations (minerals) changes with different temperatures and pressures (metamorphism).

Large Igneous Provinces, and their potential role in tectonics and expressing mantle plumes.

Elastic rebound theory for the origin of earthquakes.

The notion of partial melting, and its relationship to Bowen’s Reaction Series.

An understanding of the carbon cycle, and an understanding of the atmospheric physics that facilitate global warming.

The role that rivers play in shaping the landscape: nickpoints, terraces, quarrying, abrasion, drilling of potholes, etc.

The Earth is 4.6 billion years old, which is extremely old in comparison to human life — and the reasons we think it’s so old [Pb isotopes, etc.].

Mel’s list:

Evidence for plate tectonics.

That fossils (and trace fossils) can provide more information about the rocks they reside in - depositional environment, chronology and correlation, water temperature, stratigraphic up, relative rate of deposition, water depth, etc.

And vice versa, the rocks can tell you a lot about the fossils that are contained within them - geography, taphonomy, chronology and correlation, etc.

The relationship between sediment production –> sediment transport –> sediment deposition.

How to identify minerals.

Differentiation and fractionation and how they apply to the planet, the solar system, and isotopes.

How aquifers work (or don’t work if we drain them too quickly).

Where our energy supply comes from. All facets from petroleum products, to solar radiation, to conductive metals extraction, etc. (These are also useful for seeking gainful employment as a geologist.)

Pedogenesis. How it takes thousands of years of chemical reactions and transport to generate the soils we use for agriculture. (And how we should be taking better care of them.)

1 comment:

Silver Fox said...

Oh, oh. It looks like I overlapped a little with Mel's list.