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Studying Geoscience in Germany

Geoscientists research the earth and its history.
An article by Daniel Kastner

Studying Geoscience in Germany
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That is what it’s about

Geoscientists deal with everything that happens in and under the earth. "They listen to the earth," says Martin Meschede, Vice President of the German Geological Society - Geological Association and Professor at the Institute of Geography and Geology of the University of Greifswald. For geoscientists, when the earth shakes in Indonesia, it's "like a lab that provides them with new data," says Meschede. They analyse such phenomena and draw conclusions about the earth. Whether it is building a skyscraper or a dam in a particular area, or whether a coastline is in danger of tsunamis or earthquakes - these are questions that geoscientists can answer. Geosciences as subjects combine several disciplines: Geology is about the origin, development and construction of the earth. It examines how continents, oceans, mountains, volcanoes and glaciers came into existence. Mineralogy deals with the composition of minerals and rocks, palaeontology with the development of life - among other things, fossils. Geophysics explores the earth with physical investigation methods.

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This is how the course runs

In geoscientific introductory lectures the students get an overview of the most important topics. Mathematics, physics and chemistry are also included. Through exercises on rock determination, microscopy, geography and the handling of satellite data, they acquire practical knowledge. In the laboratory, they learn about measuring and analysis methods, for example on the chemical and mineralogical composition of rocks. At many universities, up to 50 days of fieldwork are planned in the bachelor's program. For example, students use a microwave radar to study the condition of the Earth's surface in a given area, or they travel on research vessels and take drill samples from the seabed. "Geology is best learned in the field," says Martin Meschede. Important to know: Part of the costs for the field exercises must be financed by the students themselves. The course contents differ from university to university. Therefore, it is best to first inform yourself about the main topics such as sedimentology, volcanology, structural geology, marine or hydrogeology.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • Which fossils can be found in 100 million year old rock samples?
  • How do you orient yourself with the compass, GPS and map in the terrain?
  • What causes and consequences did the last ice age have?
  • How do crystals form?
  • Why are there other types of rocks on the Moon than on Earth?
  • What criteria would an underground nuclear repository have to fulfil?
  • How did life arise on Earth?

The subject suits you,...

...if you are interested in stones and history, like to be outdoors and have a good spatial imagination. A large part of the study takes place outdoors - it is important to be prepared for rain or heat and take care of yourself even when the next town is far away. It is also important that you can deal well with people, because due to close cooperation during field internships, the mood in the course is often quite familial. An interest in physics, chemistry and biology should definitely be brought along, as these subjects are used, for example, in the analysis of soil samples, groundwater or fossils. Geophysicists also have to deal with maths and computer science - they spend a lot of time on the computer and in front of gauges.

Is there a numerus clausus?

Around one third of the degree programs are occupied by an NC. This is usually in the upper grade range.

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