Monday, 29 February 2016

On the Subject of Being a GeoGeek.

Links open in a new window. Some pics are mine, some aren't.

Decided to write a blog post about why I love geology so much! It’s a pretty big part of my life and I’ve written about it before on the Geology Matters webpages but that post really covers my life in Saudi Arabia when I was a child – though living in Saudi was probably the main reason I like rocks so much (it’s no coincidence that my fave rock type is dune bedded desert sandstone…). Writing this post has been inspired by Jen who I follow on Tumblr! In fact, the setting up of a new blog was mostly inspired by her.

My big bro, my big sis, and me! In the wilds of Saudi Arabia.

So, I’ve formally studied geology at GCSE, A Level and I now have a degree in the subject. I’ve travelled all around the UK to look at rocks, been to Italy, Spain, Saudi.. all over the place in the name of rocks. Why do I love it so much? That’s a long answer.

I love being able to read the rocks, I love the link between geology and society, I love figuring things out and figuring out my place in amongst it all. I love turning over a piece of mudstone and finding fossils, I love clambering over scree heaps and up (and then down) very steep deer tracks that were not made for Lauras. I enjoy the being out in shitty horrible sideways rain (seriously, I do) but I don’t enjoy the trying to keep my notebook dry. I love that there is a story in a rock and that I have the skill to read it. I love poring over geological maps to figure out sequences and I love being able to read the maps in the first place. Geology (and earth science) covers SO MUCH and SO MANY different aspects, topics, ideas and specialities.

Dune bedded desert sandstone on the beach at Exmouth, UK.

Geology is a subject that has quite literally saved my life. Through my darkest times with depression, it was always geology that kept me going. The only reason I have any A Levels at all is because it was the only local college to offer geology and so I stayed for that. I didn’t go to university until was 21 – it was geology that made me realise I wanted more than low skilled, low paid jobs. It was geology that made me realise I could have a better life. It was geology that got me through. When I dropped out of uni two years later (thanks, depression!), it was the passion for this subject that made me want to go back. I can’t and couldn’t and probably never will imagine my life without geology. Some of my best and happiest memories involve geology – field trips, mapping, discovering new features in a quarry that we thought we had figured out. So much good stuff!

A lot of people call me a geogeek, which I’ve now turned into my own little thing. Yes, I am a geogeek. Yes, I love rocks more than I love people. Yes, I love sharing my passion and knowledge with others, and opening their eyes to the world around them. So now I’m 27, and my twenties have been mostly geological and I couldn’t be happier. The places I go and the people I meet who all share this passion for rocks makes me realise that I’m not alone in being a geogeek, and that geology is actually pretty awesome. Being able to look at a cliff and figure out a story is pretty neat. Being able to unravel a series of clues and formulate an answer on how it all came to be is pretty cool.  

It’s pretty useful too, geology is the basis for many speciality careers such as geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering for building skyscrapers, underground railways and more; landfill design [PDF] for disposing of our waste and preventing pollution; hydrogeology to get our drinking water; economic geology for having resources to build roads, make smart technology, and move away from non-renewable resources. It also can cover nuclear works and using geology to store our nuclear waste in GDFs. But that’s another story – and maybe a masters degree for the future.

Me in Glen Sannox, Isle of Arran. Before I hiked up-stream in wellies and then nearly passed out with heatstroke!

So while I still haven’t fully decided which direction I want to take with my life, I am currently working towards conservation and hopefully become more specialised into geoconservation. Looking after geological sites of interest for further study by interested parties, preserving sites that show the geological story of the local landscape, and maybe even bigger scale work such as geoparks, geoheritage & geotourism. Being able to share my knowledge and passion for this subject is the main reason I want to work in this sector. Showing people the world in a new way is hugely rewarding to me. How many people don’t realise how geology affects them day to day? How many people just don’t think about it? Mostly it’s so discreet and indirect it isn’t worth a second thought – but your car is made of metals that were found by a geologist. Your smart phone has rare earth elements that were found by a geologist. The petrol in your car, the coal used in our power stations, the creation of strong foundations for skyscrapers, wind turbines, tower blocks – designed by engineering geologists. The fossils you look at in museums – palaeontology. Pretty building stones used as facades – more geology.

Pic from here. Shows the line of the Appalachians across America and into Europe!

Basically, to sum up, I love geology because IT IS SO COOL. It’s all around, it affects us pretty much every day, it has helped create society (what I call geo-socio-economics, by which I mean quarries for aggregates to make roads, stone to make houses, water supplies etc). It’s just… everywhere, and I love it for being everywhere, and I love that I can drive for five minutes (Rubery & Lickey) or for two hours and be at a site of special geological interest and learn something new about somewhere I’ve never been. I love that I can piece together large chunks of time and end up with the story of why Britain is the way it is, or why there’s a chain of mountains that stretches from America to Europe (above pic), or why there are fossils and a coral reef in the middle of Dudley. I just absolutely love it, and it’s helped me do things I never thought I’d do, and it gave me something to live for (cheesy but true), and it fills my days with curiosity and awe and wonder and I hope that never changes.

I stole this from Google a couple of years ago.