Geologists study the Earth, trying to understand the forces that gradually shape and change the landscape and ocean floor, as well as forces that make themselves felt more suddenly, like earthquakes and volcanoes. The information geologist discover helps in many ways, from keeping populations safe from disasters like landslides to uncovering important ore deposits like titanium used for surgical equipment. Browse through our list of geology science and engineering projects and you may be surprised by all the things geologists work on.
Did you ever notice the cool patterns around your footprints when you take a walk in the wet sand at the beach? The pressure of your feet has effects far outside your footprints. Here's a project that uses a simple experimental apparatus to investigate how the volume of wet sand changes under pressure.
Soil liquefaction is a phenomenon where soil that is saturated with water suddenly loses its strength and behaves like a liquid. This usually occurs due to sudden, large stresses on the soil — for example, from an earthquake. This can be very dangerous for buildings sitting on top of the soil, as they can suddenly sink into the ground! The embedded video explains soil liquefaction in more detail.
Is there a way to prevent soil liquefaction? Do you think adding certain materials to…
Are you fascinated by dinosaurs, fossilized bones, and fossilized plants? Although this project is not based on actual fossils, you will get good practice at reconstructing an animal's skeleton from individual bones. You'll use what you find to identify the types of prey that owls consume.
What do rocks and clocks have in common? Both keep track of time.
Yes, radioactive isotopes present in rocks and other ancient material decay atom by atom at a steady rate, much as clocks tick time away. Geologists use those radioactive isotopes to date volcanic ash or granite formations like the giant Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Anthropologists, archeologists, and paleontologists also use radioactive isotopes to date mummies, pottery, and dinosaur fossils. Does this sound abstract…
If you live in an area where earthquakes happen, you might be especially interested in this science project. You will learn how to build your own seismograph and how to use it to detect ground motion.
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Long (2-4 weeks)
You will need access to some basic wood shop tools and experience using them for this science project.
Low ($20 - $50)
Adult supervision is required when using power tools and taking measurements outdoors near traffic.
When an earthquake happens, how are scientists able to determine the original location of the quake? In this project, you'll use archived data from a network of seismometers to find out for yourself. You'll create your own seismograms from the comfort of your own computer with an easy-to-use webpage interface. Then you'll analyze your seismograms to determine the distance of the quake from each seismometer station. By mapping your analyzed data, you will be able to determine the location of the…
This project shows you how to build a simple model system to simulate underground water flow. Underground water flow is important for understanding replenishment of underground aquifers, migration of underground contaminant plumes, and cave formation. With your model system, you can simulate various underground conditions, and test your predictions about the effects they have on water flow.
The papier-mâché volcano is a real classic, but there are many other ways to make an even more exciting and interesting science project focused on volcanoes!
To get started on your own volcano-based science project, you will want to first have an understanding of how volcanoes form. This is related to tectonic plates. The entire outer shell of the Earth, known as the lithosphere, is made up of tectonic plates that are constantly moving. There are seven or eight large tectonic…
Make your own fertile soil using kitchen scraps, manure, leaves, grass clippings, and other compostable materials. Which materials make the best compost? How does the amount of nitrogen change the rate at which the compost forms? How does a 'hot' compost pile compare to a 'cold' compost pile, or how does traditional composting compare to worm composting, or vermiculture?
Figure 1. Different composting methods yield different soils. In this picture, the soil on the left is vermicompost (the…
What is geomagnetism, and how does it affect the earth? Visit the USGS Geomagnetism program for more information about this invisible force (USGS, 2006). How is the earth's magnetic field patterned? Are the magnetic poles located at the exact North and South Pole? How can the fields be mapped on the Earth's surface? What is declination? Use the mapping tools to study changes in declination patterns over time. (USGS, 2006)
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