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Studying Geoscience

Geoscientists study the earth and its history.
An article by Maren Wernecke in collaboration with Jan Ludwig

Studying Geoscience
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That is what it’s about

If there is an earthquake in Tajikistan or a volcano erupts in Nicaragua, it's time for geoscientists to step in. They explore and analyse these kinds of phenomena and draw conclusions about the earth. Geosciences is a collective term for several disciplines which are grouped together in a degree course in different ways. Geology deals with the emergence, development and structure of the earth. It asks questions about the forces and processes that gave rise to the continents, oceans, mountains, volcanoes and glaciers. Mineralogy deals with the composition of minerals and rocks and palaeontology focuses on the development of life which is tracked using fossils. Geophysics, which explores the earth using physical investigation methods, is also often part of the degree course in Geoscience. In the introduction lectures, students get an overview of the most important issues in Geoscience. Mathematics, physics and chemistry are also included. The practical part constitutes about one-third of the academic studies: in exercises on rock identification, cartography, aerial photography and microscopy students acquire practical knowledge; in the laboratory, they learn about measuring and analysis methods. Up to 50 excursion days are planned in the Bachelor's degree courses at many universities. "Field exercises are very important for learning about spatiotemporal thinking typical of geology, in other words, getting an idea of how space has changed over time," says Jan Behrmann, president of the Deutsche Geologische Gesellschaft – Geologische Vereinigung (German Geological Society – Geological Association). Geologists read the layers of rock like a book about the history of the earth. Based on their properties, they can identify where there were oceans, lakes, reefs or glaciers millions of years ago. The students have to finance part of the excursion costs themselves which can sometimes add up to several hundred euros. The curriculum at the different universities varies significantly in the later Bachelor's semesters. Which is why students should find out ahead of time about the areas of specialisation. Specialisations include, e.g. sedimentology, volcanology, structural geology, hydrogeology, raw material geology, seismology or marine geology.

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suitability, obstacles, misconceptions

Anyone who wants to study Geosciences should be interested in the earth as a system, should have the ability to visualise space well and an affinity for chemistry, physics and mathematics. "Students should also enjoy exploring nature in the outdoors," says Behrmann. Work in the field takes place even in the rain, cold or heat and sometimes far from civilisation. The close cooperation during excursions often gives rise to an informal atmosphere in the degree course. Geoscience students, however, also have to be able to communicate beyond the boundaries of the subject because most of them work later on in companies with engineering and economic experts. The subject only has course entrance restrictions at a small number of universities; often grades in the two or three range are sufficient.

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