Geophysicists are scientists who use physics to study the physical properties
of Earth. They study all parts, from the core of the Earth right up to the
Geophysicists specialize in many different areas. Some study volcanoes
and earthquakes, while others study bodies of water, Earth rotation, atmospheric
conditions and other areas. They use various methods to study the Earth, including
gravitational, electromagnetic and seismic methods.
Geophysicists use their training in practical ways to help predict earthquakes,
track satellites orbiting Earth and help locate mineral deposits.
While geophysicists are scientists, you won't find them in laboratories
doing research all the time. Much of their time is spent outdoors doing field
"Many people think of geophysics as mathematically oriented laboratory
work. In actual fact, it involves a lot of hands-on fieldwork and creativity,"
says Neil Anderson. He is a geophysicist at the University of Missouri.
His fieldwork has taken him to many different countries, including Norway,
Spain, Mexico, South Africa and Iceland.
Most geophysicists work for petroleum companies and mining companies. They
do research to find mineral and oil deposits. Many also teach at the college
and university level. Geophysicists also work for engineering companies, government,
environmental consulting companies and other small businesses.
Computers are an important tool. They're now used to help geophysicists
locate mineral deposits below the Earth's surface, provide up-to-the-minute
geographical maps and help geophysicists communicate and share information,
which cuts down on the amount of fieldwork they have to do.
"Most geophysics is now done in front of a computer and many advancements
are made possible because of advancements in computers," says Wayne Pennington,
a geophysicist from Michigan.
For example, the use of portable computers in the field is quite common,
notes the Canadian Geoscience Council on its website.
"In remote areas, these are often powered by portable solar units. Field
mapping is digitized, allowing an easy and rapid transfer of data at the end
of the field season."
Geophysicists have to keep up with new computer innovations. "The sophistication
of geophysical hardware and software increases constantly and each new advance
creates new uses. Features that couldn't be imaged with yesterday's tools
can be easily mapped with today's," says Anderson.
"Using this state-of-the-art computer equipment has been one of my most
interesting experiences," says Andy Trupin, a geophysicist from New York.
Experts say a good geophysicist is one who isn't afraid to hit the books
and who also enjoys the great outdoors.