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A Maryland University of National Distinction
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Department of Geography & Geosciences
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What is Earth Science?

Earth scientists or geoscientists gather and interpret data about the Earth and other planets. They use their knowledge to increase our understanding of Earth processes and to improve the quality of human life. By applying their knowledge of forces and factors that shape the Earth, geoscientists seek to reconstruct the past and anticipate the future. Their work and career paths vary widely because the geosciences are so broad and diverse. The National Science Foundation considers geology, geophysics, hydrology, oceanography, marine science, atmospheric science, planetary science, meteorology, environmental science, and soil science as the major geoscience disciplines. To the geoscientist, the Earth is an outdoor laboratory filled with opportunities to observe Earth processes in action, and many geoscientists work in the field. The following list gives a small glimpse of what geoscientists who have graduated from Salisbury University do in some of these disciplines.

Environmental geologists study the interaction between the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and human activities. They work to solve problems associated with pollution, waste management, urbanization, and development.

Geomorphologists study Earth's landforms and landscapes in relation to the geologic and climatic processes and human activities which form them including the physical properties and movement of glaciers and ice sheets. Geomorphologists also study natural hazards, such as flooding and landslides.

Marine geologists and oceanographers investigate the physical, chemical, biological, and geologic dynamics of oceans as well as the ocean-floor and ocean-continent boundaries. They also study the ocean basins, the continental shelves, and the coastal environments on continental borders.

Soil scientists study soils and their properties to determine how to sustain agricultural productivity and to detect and remediate contaminated soils.

Atmospheric science begins with a good understanding of climate, wind systems, and ocean currents. Atmospheric scientists must be familiar with local conditions and with weather events throughout the country. They study, predict, and report on everything from daily weather conditions to such dangerous phenomena as tornadoes and wind shear (updrafts and downdrafts of special importance to pilots). In addition to working for television and radio stations, weather forecasters work for the government and for large agribusiness corporations. In addition to their background in geography, they should have studied earth science, physics, and some chemistry.

Earth science education - Now that more and more earth science courses are being offered in high schools and colleges, the need for qualified earth science teachers has risen dramatically. Courses are geared to state curriculum requirements in earth science and normally include a selection of physical science courses such as geology, meteorology, oceanography, hydrology, chemistry, and computer science as well as some geography courses. While teaching is not the highest-paid profession, there are numerous benefits, including time off for travel or professional development and the understanding that you are making a real difference in the lives of young people.

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