The Truth Behind a Geology Degree

There’s a lot of colouring in.

I am a baby in the Geological studies world. I’ve only just finished my first year of studying Geology and Physical Geography where I spent a lot of time having absolutely no idea what was going on and coming out of lectures thinking they were in a different language. I didn’t really know what I was expecting, I mean, I chose to study those specific modules at that specific university so I can’t really complain right? There were a lot of things that I would have benefitted from knowing before choosing Earth Sciences.

1. It’s a lot more Difficult than I Expected

If you’re currently studying geography A level or even geology A level (if your college is cool enough), and you think you may want to study geology at degree level then prepare yourself because that basic knowledge of volcanoes is assumed and they hurl you in at the deep end. In my second lecture of dynamic solid earth which started with geochemistry, we covered a semester of A level chemistry in 45 minutes. Bearing in mind, I hadn’t studied chemistry in 2 years, I was so lost. And I was terrified. I did not sign up for chemistry. No thank you.

I still am not sure what this was going on about. If anyone ever says the words “Stereonets” to you, run away.

It didn’t stop there. In the second semester we had a module on palaeontology and palaeobiology which took up 5 contact hours a week. More than this, I was convinced that my lecturer was speaking a different language most of the time. Learning about the anal system of a Brachiopod was really not my forté and stressed me out more than it should’ve. It wasn’t really what I thought I’d be studying and it’s definitely something to look for when looking at Earth Science degrees.

2. You’re Doing a Legit Science

When you tell people that you study geology, their initial reaction is “ew you study rocks” but then they do understand that it’s a difficult and well respected degree to have. You learn everything from GMOs to statistics. You’re likely to have an understanding of both essays and scientific research. Your job prospects are pretty damn good, especially if you have geography in there with it.

3. You do Colour In

Okay okay so you tell anyone that you’re studying Geography and Geology and they say “so all you do is colouring in right?” Well, they are kinda right. You do A LOT of colouring in if I’m honest. Sometimes it’s literally drawing fossils with your GCSE art qualifications and sometimes it’s drawing fault lines in the field.

If someone’s accuses you of drawing, you proudly agree that that is the majority of your degree and then find some way of judging their degree. For example, if they study engineering they also draw and if they study communications, all they do is learn how to talk to people.

4. There are Field Trips and They are Cold

Having just finished my first year, I can confidently say that sleeping in a caravan in Pembrokeshire in March while it was snowing has not been a highlight of my university experience. Luckily for me, I managed to escape after 2 days but that’s another story.

With an Earth Science degree, you will 100% have at least 1 field trip every year. It’s actually a requirement from the Geological Society in order to become a certified geologist. The field trips actually are so helpful (especially if you have no idea what’s going on in lectures). Being able to see features in the field help to solidify how the processes of rocks form and just like what was going on 350 million years ago (a lot btw).

Try to enjoy being cold while drawing pictures of rocks, it’s some of the best times of your degree.

5. Not Everyone is like Howard from Fresh Meat

After watching Fresh Meat, I genuinely thought that all geologists were nerdy male scientists who spent their time travelling to holiday destinations with cool rock formations. I was partially wrong. In my degree, I would say that it is a 50/50 split between genders and most of the people are actually normal and will do normal student things (like clubbing and taking part in societies). Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely nerds on my course, but I’ve managed to make a group of friends who don’t just talk about rocks all the time.

6. No Matter How Hard you Try, you LOVE Rocks

So when I joined my degree I was set that I thought rocks were boring and that I would hate staring at them for extended periods of time. That maybe lasted 4 weeks. Looking at rocks like the one below under a microscope really changed how I think everyone felt about rocks. They’re stunning. Not only this, but they tell a story about the environment, the climate and the geography of what that time period was like.

The moment I realised I love staring at rocks was during a practical and we were staring at a trilobite. I just remember thinking that this species went extinct like 250 million years ago but we can still look at them today to deduce where the trilobite would have lived, the environment in which it died and what this meant for the global climate at the time. I just thought that it was kinda cool that a tiny dead organism could show that.

Just accept that you get excited by rocks and move on.

Is a Jurassic World coming for us?

It is, of course, a very important subject at the moment, with the film coming out imminently. Most people will watch Jurassic World and think that it’s a ridiculous idea created by Hollywood for a few billion views, and yes, they are probably right. I know what I’m going to say will sound like a bit of a stretch, and I know that the idea of recreating dinosaurs is a ridiculous stretch. However, when I watch Jurassic World, I see something with a deeper meaning. 

The whole point of Jurassic Park in the first place was to create a park where you could step back in time and see what used to live on planet Earth. Clearly, it wasn’t a success. The part that actually was a success was the actual recreation of the dinosaurs. You see, studying paleontology, I can understand that extracting DNA from amber that has been exceptionally preserved can successfully aid in recreating these creatures. From that perspective, it was a success. 

The meaning that hides behind Jurassic World can represent how this power humans have over creation can lead to our societal collapse. By introducing species where we don’t understand the consequences to our ecosystems, we’re destroying much more than just a park. I know we haven’t done it to the same extent but we are invading our ecosystems by bringing alien species into them. This was done in Australia whereby foxes were introduced to reduce the numbers of rabbits and hares. However, the foxes (like teenagers), decided to be lazy and hunt the slower koalas instead, thus the rabbit problem was never solved and the koalas suffered. The food chain was thrown out of sync as a result. I know what you’re thinking, it’s only rabbits and foxes, right? Not much of a problem? Well, by doing this, the food chain was completely altered. The foxes didn’t have a natural predator, and neither did the rabbits. 

Late Cretaceous food web 

Comparing this to Jurassic World, you can clearly see that the dinosaurs at the top of the food chain (your t-rex’s etc), don’t have a natural predator. There is no way they can survive without scientific intervention because they don’t have a natural food chain to live in. Scientists created an ecosystem for them thinking this would prevent predation of humans. However, the climatic conditions and the flora/fauna could not be completely accurate as during the Jurassic for example, there was a supercontinent called Pangaea whereby the dino species could move up and down latitudes if the climate changed. However, since the Mesozoic (when the dinosaurs lived), flora and fauna have changed due to the break-up of Pangaea into different continents (as we recognise them today), this is not possible anymore. The scientists attempted to restrict the habitat of the dinosaurs to a small island which is not how they would have lived originally. The dinosaur food web would not have been the same as they tried to create it (as most went extinct 66 Mya). This ‘experiment’ was clearly not going to work but humans did not see it failing. They thought they could control nature. They thought they could play God?

There is a reason humans and dinosaurs didn’t co-exist and there is a reason that they shouldn’t. 

I know this sounded ridiculous and if you’ve kept reading, thank you. I’m trying to prove the power that humans can have over creation and how we should try to think about the consequences when messing with nature. Humans cannot act as though they are more powerful than creation. Afterall, we have only been on this Earth for 10,000 years whereas the ecosystems we’re destroying have been living for millions of years. Nature doesn’t have any obligation to keep allowing us to survive in it (Gaia Hypothesis) and will continue to keep living after humans are gone. We can’t act as God when we’re just a part of creation. We need to think about the consequences of our actions. We have to try and work with nature instead of acting against it.

So to answer the opening statement: is a Jurassic World coming for us? Well, maybe not in terms of actual dinosaurs, but in terms of humans taking power over the Earth to a point where we can’t control it anymore, yes I think it could. So if you watch Jurassic World, try to think about what humans are doing in the real world to destroy nature and how life finds a way.

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Cover photo