The field of Earth Science is broad, encompassing physical processes associated with the Earth, and studies of Earth history which track the evolution of the planet through time. Shasta College offers eight Earth Science degree tracks, most centered about a particular facet of the Earth Systems, including preparation for the Earth Science teacher.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Earth Sciences is the spatial, or field-related, aspects of the discipline as you hike canyons, climb, mountains, or voyage to field sties. In some specialties, there is also a temporal aspect which allows the Earth Scientists to "travel" through time to investigate the ancient Earth. The Earth Sciences not only can be an adventure through terrestrial space, but an adventure through terrestrial time.
Consider the following examples
El Nino is an oceanographic phenomenon related to meteorological changes in the Trade Winds. As it develops, global weather patterns change as drought grips once fertile crop land and floods rage through deserts, impacting human lives and the global economy. Your job as an Earth Scientist is to set into place ocean/atmosphere monitoring stations that will chart the changes associated with the next El Nino in an effort to forecast weather changes and warn the world of the next occurrence.
- Visit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a site that describes physical earth science.
You may also find yourself searching through rock layers in an effort to recognize the signature of past El Nino events. Your effort might be to determine how long ago these events started, can they be related to natural or human-caused conditions, and how frequent and intense they have been through time. This latter endeavor is an example of historical geoscience.
Tracking through the desert southwest of the United States, you investigate rock layers exposed in the walls of a canyon and over a broader area. You collect fossils, observe strata one layer on top of another, and faults and fractures that disrupt the rock layers. As you map these relationships, you are able to project those relationships into the subsurface, creating a "picture", or geologic cross section. Your studies reveal that the rocks below your feet record an ancient marine basin once teaming with life, now folded and faulted into a suspected petroleum trap.
- Visit Triassic Fluvial Systems, Colorado Plateau, a site that describes Earth History.
Now that a suspected petroleum trap has been identified, the area must be drilled with the well diggings carefully monitored as they are brought to the surface. As the rock comes up from the well hole, the site geoscientist can determine if the project is on target, potentially saving his company millions of dollars. This latter aspect is an example of applied geoscience.
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