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What draws you to the earth sciences?

  1. Jun 22, 2013 #1
    Earth scientists of PF, why did you choose this field? When did you realize you wanted to study the earth? It seems that many people don't find an interest in the earth sciences until later in their academic careers. I'd like to hear your stories!
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  3. Jun 23, 2013 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    I got drawn into Earth Sciences (environmental physics) only briefly ... it's the complexity that tends to put people off but you do get to travel a lot. NZ has a big conservation thing so you get a ot of opportunities here - and the proximity of the Antarctic. But I was lured in by the possibility of joining a group modelling the weather on Mars ;)
  4. Jun 23, 2013 #3


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    I'm not professionally involved in 'earth sciences' directly at the moment, but indirectly vis-a-vis dispostion of high level radioactive waste and spent fuel. Repository integrity is an interest. One possible waste form for high level radwaste (from reprocessed fuel) is vitrified glass form, while another is synthetic rock ('synroc'), which represents a chemical stable mineral system that mimics geologically stable igneous rock.

    My interest in earth sciences is manifold and goes back to studying geography and geology, or rocks and minerals, in elementary school. It was from those early studies in science that evolved into an interest in chemistry and physics.

    These days, much of my work is in the realm of modeling and simulation, or computational physics. Much of the work involves engineering scale down to the atomic scale. In contrast, modeling and simulation in earth sciences (geophysics) involves scales from atomic to earth size (on the order of 10,000 km). Adding the moon to that, and the largest scale increases to 105 to 106 km.

    I also have an interest in stellar and plasma astrophysics, and cosmology, and those scales are of course, much larger.

    All in all, computational physics is associated with mass, lengths/displacement, time, velocity/momentum, and energy - all related to - mass and energy form and transport.

    With respect to Earth Sciences, Rice University's Earth Sciences Department has a nice description of the research.

    There are many intriguing aspects to earth and planetary sciences, and astrobiology.
  5. Jun 24, 2013 #4
    Currently I am intrigued by the "big picture". When and how did the continental cratons form? How did the mantle evolve to its present state? What initiated plate tectonics? How does it work? How does mantle convection work -- and how does it couple the surface to the base of the mantle where large degree 2 structures are clearly observed? Why is there a hemispherical (degree 1) pattern in the inner core? What is the composition of the Earth? How does this all relate to other planets? How much of a goldilocks planet is the Earth, really?
  6. Jul 3, 2013 #5
    I initially chose to study the atmosphere, oceans and climate partly because of my own curiosity and partly because of their relevence to our every day lives. It has turned out to be much more interesting than I could have anticipated. I now look at mundane phenomena like clouds, rain, trees and soil with a much deeper understanding of their importance in the "Earth System" and actually get a lot of pleasure from that. I only hope that during the course of my career I can further that understanding a little bit.

    I am personally fascinated by the use of novel strategies and technologies for aquiring environmental data. Whether it be fleets of autonomous robots, open access web cams, satellite remote sensing platforms, mobile phone masts, high resolution computer models or just peoples eyeballs. These technologies are helping to resolve the problem, that has previously plagued the earth sciences, of there simply not being enough data and it not being in the right places. While dealing with such quantities of data is providing new problems for computer scientists :p. All in all, I find it very exciting.

    Probably in the 3rd year of my 4 year physics degree but I'd always been kind of curious. Its a shame it isn't taught in a more interesting way at the 16 - 18yr old level or I may have gone into it straight away. Having said that, the theoretical background of a physics degree has been indispensible.
  7. Jul 3, 2013 #6

    D H

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    I'm not an earth scientist, but ...

    Gravity! :tongue2:

    No, seriously! Having a good model of Earth's gravity field is essential to predicting how things orbit the Earth. For an even better understanding one needs to incorporate Earth tides and then ocean tides into the mix.
  8. Jul 3, 2013 #7
    Was there something that made you start thinking about fields outside of physics (but closely related)? What happened in your 3rd year, did you take an atmospheric class? I'm curious because I'm going through the same sort of thing with geophysics :tongue:

    I completely agree with this statement... Looking back now, it irritates me that the earth science class at my high school was for the kids who weren't "strong" in math/science. All the "smart" kids took biology. If I would have known I may have majored in geophysics, though I really enjoy all of my math/physics classes just as well.

    Thanks for sharing :)
  9. Jul 4, 2013 #8
    It happened partly by choice and partly by chance. I did a geophysics REU at another university (chance) and then when I went back, took the only available courses to me at the time from the earth science deptartment (choice). They were atmospheric physics, planetary science and fluid dynamics. After that I knew where I wanted to go.
  10. Jul 4, 2013 #9
    Wow, that seems strangely similar to my situation. I'm actually doing a geophysics (seismology) REU right now and loving it. I'm planning to take as many geophysics/geology electives as I can for my last two years.
  11. Sep 7, 2013 #10
    I have always been interested in geography and different landforms. When I entered college I started out thinking I wanted to get a geology degree simply to enter the oil and gas industry and make lots of money. However, after taking several environmental science classes, my favorite aspects of geo-science are environmental science and the subject of climate change. Harder to find a career in that though lol
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