Fundamental Skills

A well-trained geologist should have a good grasp of four areas of fundamental skills:

  1. Fieldwork

  2. Laboratory Studies

  3. Computer Modeling and Numerical Calculation

  4. Environmental and Resource Assessment


This involves the mapping and study of new terrains, including the continents, the ocean floors, and planetary surfaces. Competent fieldwork is needed to provide much of the evidence in deciphering Earth history. It is also critically important to the accurate collection and documentation of samples for laboratory study, and to the design of remediation strategies for contaminated sites. The Department of Geology at UC has a strong, long-standing tradition of field work with endowed funds to support it. The geology library contains excellent up-to-date collections of a large variety of maps and guidebooks. Our location provides us with immediate access to world-reknown exposures of Ordovician rocks and fossils, and thus makes possible the discovery, description, and analysis of the actual occurrences of a wide range of earth materials.

Laboratory Studies

The incorporation of analytical techniques developed in chemistry, physics, and materials science has led to the emergence of specialized fields such as geochemistry and geophysics. Geochemistry, for example, provides much of the theoretical basis for the study of aqueous solutions, gases, minerals (mineralogy) and rocks (petrology). It also forms the basis for studies that:

  • Examine the atomic structure and behavior of minerals in the natural environment
  • Guide the study of the geologic evolution of the Earth using rock chemistry and rock chronology
  • Explore and develop mineral deposits
  • Evaluate the quality of groundwater
  • Provide a framework for development and management of disposal sites for hazardous and toxic wastes.

Computer Modeling

Computer programming and knowledge of mathematics play increasingly important roles in geology. In some instances they are essential in the transformation of instrumental measurements in the laboratory and the field into usable information about the Earth. In others, they are used to create numerical models that seek to simulate geological processes, such as those active in rivers and groundwaters, sediment dispersal and accumulation patterns, and igneous and convective processes in the Earth's interior.

Environmental Assessment

Assessments of critical environmental problems are based on many of the other competencies described above, and lead geologists into considerations of social, economic, and political factors. The same is true for assessments of mineral resources and fossil fuel abundance, which in all cases must be constructively and practically related to economics and politics at local, national, and international levels.

Fundamental Skills