What is earth science?
Earth science is a multidisciplinary field that integrates key elements of geology, geography, geochemistry and environmental science to tackle modern problems across our rapidly changing planet. Earth science can include the study of the Earth’s surface and any matter on, above or below it; the atmosphere around us; our oceans; all the way up to the space beyond our planet (planetary and cosmochemistry).
Earth science delves deep into the past and considers consequences far into the future.
It tracks 4.6 billion years of geological history, considering the ways in which the Earth (and the Solar System) has evolved from a mass of molten rock to moving continents, changing oceans and teeming life forms.
Earth science is categorised into different branches, with a variety of specialisations and careers available in fields such as geology, geography, geochemistry, environmental science, palaeontology, planetary science, cosmochemistry, natural hazards, climate science, meteorology, soil science and hydrology.
Aspects of geology, including minerals, rocks, and landforms are studied alongside plate tectonics and Earth history to understand formation of mineral deposits and natural hazards. Today, more than ever, exploration, discovery and mining of strategic critical new minerals and metals (lithium, tantalum, tungsten, copper and cobalt) and other resources (hydrogen, helium, etc), are needed to help address a whole range of emerging technological and environmental issues facing society as we transition away from carbon energy towards green energy alternatives.
Soil science investigates how soils sustain life on earth, and how soil properties and processes influence plant growth, water cycling and quality, as well as gaseous exchanges with the atmosphere.
Geochemistry focuses on the exchange of elements between the different “-spheres” or “-omes” on Earth and other planets, which may include the release of nutrients to the ocean from weathering of rocks to the damaging impacts of heavy metals and environmental contamination.
Hydrology is concerned with water resources management. Common issues in countries around the world include water quality, water pollution and treatment, salinity, irrigation hydrology, seawater intrusion, the role of water in climate change and global hydrology.
Meteorology, known by most as a study of the weather, looks at the atmosphere and air around us more broadly. Beyond forecasting rain or sun for the nightly news, the science of meteorology—coupled with geology and geochemistry—explores long-term climactic trends that are integral to our understanding of climate change – past, present and future.
What does an earth scientist do?
Earth science forms the foundation of many scientific investigations and has broad applications.
When you work in Earth science, you may be part of a geological or environmental team investigating aspects of climate change or natural hazards. You may also work with ground water, surface water, landform development, soil fertility, sustainability of Earth’s resources, responsible exploration and mining of minerals, water, pollution monitoring, and on indigenous issues relating to the environment.
As an earth scientist, you will have the formal qualifications and knowledge needed to tackle a range of issues and careers related to climate change adaption and resilience. You will understand the theory of climate systems and change over timescales, spanning from early geological times to the present. You will also develop the scientific and analytical expertise to apply your knowledge to new and innovative solutions, driving an evidence-based approach to change in our current world.
Working in the Earth Sciences, you will have the opportunity to travel to diverse field locations and spend time onsite on mines, in rural or urban settings, and in the wilderness and national parks, even out on the open ocean, collecting samples and conducting assessments. You may also work back at the laboratory, analysing geochemical materials and writing reports to translate your findings into practical action plans.
Working in earth science in Australia, another avenue you may pursue is to specialise in Australian landscape and habitat protection and conservation. Here you would consider the Australian soil mantle and human interactions with these elements of the natural environment. Resource companies are among the businesses that regularly engage the expertise of soil scientists to undertake classification and mapping, as well as analysing soil components, organisms and ecology.
Coastal sediment and erosion management is yet another field that may leverage the specialist expertise of earth science. You could work on maritime projects, such as managing dredging campaigns or the construction of shipping channels and other navigational infrastructure, or with local councils and state governments on beach nourishment and coastline development.
You may also put your water resources management skills to work to design hydrology solutions for dams, reservoirs, rivers and lakes, in a range of urban or rural settings, both inland and coastal.
Increasingly, technology will also be part of your day-to-day working life in earth science, as you use software to model a range of scenarios and manage complex data requirements.
What jobs are there in earth science?
Jobs in earth science, and roles requiring the expertise of earth scientists, can be found across governments, consulting firms, research institutions and commercial businesses, in Australia and around the world.
As an earth scientist, you may find opportunities across many different industries, applying your understanding of how to develop cost-effective and innovative techniques to all sorts of geological and environmental management scenarios.
When you study a Bachelor of Science majoring in Earth Science at JCU, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to pursue careers such as:
- Soil scientist
- Environmental scientist
- Analytical geochemist
- Lab technician.
Why study Earth Science at JCU?
JCU Bachelor of Science students encounter a student experience like no other. When you study Earth Science at JCU, you can immerse yourself in the outback, rainforest and reef landscapes that define North Queensland. Benefit from the rich foundation of geology, geochemistry, geography, climate and environmental science subjects taught by passionate, world-class researchers at JCU.
Gain relevant practical skills by studying and assessing the surrounding environments, including the Wet and Dry Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. You will also have access to the JCU Fletcherview Research Station, as well as opportunities for practical learning about careers in mineral exploration and mining, environmental impact assessment, and soil and water science.
As an Earth Science student at JCU, you will experience field trips where you will collect, analyse and interpret data. You will gain a thorough understanding of human impact on the natural environment and learn how to develop solutions to lessen the impact.
JCU’s expert lecturers and small class sizes mean you’ll benefit from personalised learning opportunities and significant face-to-face time. Embrace the opportunity to work in a hands-on environment with your peers, and gain valuable communication and cooperation skills.
Some JCU subjects can also be used towards formal professional accreditations, such as a Certified Practising Soil Scientist.