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.

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When an earthquake occurs, seismic shock waves travel out through the earth from the source of the event. The shock waves travel through the earth or along the Earth's surface, and can be recorded at remote monitoring stations. Some of the waves that travel through the earth are blocked or refracted by the Earth's liquid core, which means that monitoring stations located certain distances from the earthquake do not detect these waves. This creates a "seismic shadow" that you can use to… Read more
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Have you ever had to dig a hole in really hard soil? It is a lot of work! In this science project you can make an instrument to test the soil and find out how compacted it is, before you dig! Read more
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Did you know that waves travel through the Earth's crust all the time? One major source of these waves is earthquakes, although ground motion can also be caused by something man-made, such as a mine blast or nuclear explosion, or other natural events, such as landslides or volcanic activity. How does an earthquake cause these waves? 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… Read more
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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… Read more
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Think about mountain ranges, canyons, sand dunes, or any other interesting geological feature you may live near enough to visit. The surface of the Earth is always changing due to a balance of forces both above and below the surface. Below-surface forces cause the Earth's crust to be faulted, folded, tilted, and lifted. Above-surface forces are primarily due to the natural processes of weathering and erosion. Can you show the effects of these forces using scale models, demonstrations,… Read more
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What causes landslides? The USGS Landslide Hazards Program conducts research needed to answer major questions related to landslide hazards. Where and when will landslides occur? How big will the landslides be? How fast and how far will they move? What areas will the landslides affect or damage? How frequently do landslides occur in a given locality? Investigate the patterns of landslide occurrence in your area. Are they related to locations, geology, or topography? Are they more frequent… Read more
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Today it is widely accepted that the Earth's crust consists of a series of huge plates that slowly move. The low parts of the plates are beneath the world's oceans, and the high parts of the plates are landmasses. New plate material is generated at deep sea ocean ridges in a process called sea-floor spreading. Material from plates is also recycled at trenches, where dense, oceanic crust dives back (subducts) underneath an adjacent plate towards the upper mantle. Figure 1 shows a map of the… Read more
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Is soil structure an important factor in earthquake dynamics? Investigate soil liquefaction and how different soil types respond to earthquake movements. Are movements more dramatic in sandy/loamy or clay type soils? Which soil structures are most stable? Which are the most volatile? (MCEER, 2005) Read more
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Have you ever taken a step onto what appeared to be dry ground, only to find yourself ankle-deep in mud? Yuck! When you walk through damp soil, it can be a very messy experience. How can you tell if soil is wet or dry before you step on it? In this science project, you will investigate whether the color of the soil can help you determine how dry or wet it is. Read more
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What variables contribute to the properties of the soil in an area? Investigate the role of climate, weather, topography, time, parent material, vegetation, and biological and chemical agents on soil formation. How are soils characterized? There are 3 basic particle sizes which create three basic soil types: sand, silt, and clay. Investigate the properties of the three different types of soil by observing grain size, shape, hardness, color, chemical composition, pore space, aeration,… Read more
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