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Reimagining Geology's Role In The Cosmos

galaxy planets stars dwarf
National Geographic

Dr. Carol Dehler is an associate professor in the geology department at Utah State University.  In preparation for a talk she’s giving Friday she explains in brief how geologists fit in with other sciences.


“So our major focus is on the planet earth and all of the systems on the planet, how what we call the lithosphere, so the rock part of the planet interacts with the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, so anything that can turn into liquids and then lastly the biosphere. And so how all of these spheres relate to one another, we call this earth science,” Dehler said.


We also call it geoscience or geology, which broadly translates to ‘the study of Earth.’


“But that doesn’t mean we’re not interested in anything beyond Earth. Some geologists study the moon, some geologists are on the Mars rover missions. So we’re very interested in applying our knowledge of the geology of Earth to other planets,” Dehler said.


An easy way to picture geology is by looking at a canyon wall or even a layered cake. These both show examples of stratification.  


“So strata just means layer; think Grand Canyon," she said. "Stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and you see all these beautiful bands, these different colors, and those are each layered rocks that represent different times in Earth history and also tell us something about varying environments throughout Earth history.”


By learning from microbes and zircon, the planet’s oldest known mineral, scientists can learn what and when big events occurred, like glaciation and atmospheric changes.


Science Unwrapped is part of an ongoing public lecture series hosted by the College of Science at Utah State. Following the presentation, the geology department will be helping individuals identify their own rocks and minerals. So bring your collection.

More details on Science Unwrapped can be found here.