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.
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…
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)
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…
Minerals are sometimes precious, like diamonds. But most minerals are very common, like sodium, which is found in salt. How are minerals found and identified? How are our mineral resources distributed? Visit the USGS Mineral Resource Program to find mineral resources in your state. How are satellite images used to identify potential mineral sources? You can also find out how minerals are identified using spectroscopy. How are potentially harmful minerals, like mercury, dealt with? Visit the…
Soils are made of particles of different types and sizes. The space between particles is called pore space. Pore space determines the amount of water that a given volume of soil can hold. Porosity is the percentage of the total volume of soil that consists of pore space. Compare the porosity of different types of soil. Which types of soil hold the most water? Can you see this under a microscope?
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)
Here's a project that involves a different kind of sandbox than the ones you usually think of. This one has a moving wall inside, acting like a piston, to compress the sand. You can make layers using two different colors of sand, and then see what happens when you compress the layers with the piston. If you're handy with woodworking tools, this is a good project to give you a feel for the effects of geological forces that deform the Earth's crust.
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Long (2-4 weeks)
To do this project you should have some experience building things from wood. You will also need access to a reasonably well-equipped wood shop for building the apparatus used in this experiment