Blog Post By: Chase, Sea Turtle Intern
When I tell people I’m an “environmental geoscientist'', they typically look at me kind of puzzled - what does the rock guy have to do with turtles?
Well, surprisingly enough: a lot.
To start, geoscience is a much broader study than geology. Geoscience is an expansion; it is not just the rocks and erosion of geology, but also climate, habitats, food webs, water resources, and the interactions between Earth’s many systems in order to sustain life.
Geoscience is green. It is the study of the ways things connect and web together. It is also rocks and sediments and oceans, but as a geoscientist, I focus on how those rocks, sediments, and oceans interact together to create an ecosystem.
Most importantly, geoscientists focus on the intersections of what we call Earth’s Four Systems: the hydrosphere (the Earth’s water resources), biosphere (everything that lives), atmosphere (climate, weather, and other air-related processes), and lithosphere (rocks and plates). Geoscience is the study of the Earth, meaning that geoscientists must fully understand the ways that the many systems interact with one another, and the results of those interactions.
For example, loggerhead sea turtles, part of the biosphere, live in the ocean, part of the hydrosphere, then nest on our beach, part of the lithosphere, in the right climate, part of the atmosphere. Whereas a geologist might observe the sand, or a climatologist might observe the temperature of the nests, a geoscientist looks at the way that the sand affects the temperature of the nest, which then affects the hatchlings, who, as a keystone species, affect the quality of Earth’s water systems.
To simplify things, geoscientists study the Earth as a big picture - how one thing affects another, and how the planet relies on those interconnections in order to survive.
For our sea turtles, geoscience plays many roles. Geoscientists can provide insight into the way that the beach erodes and changes, creating and altering sea turtles’ nesting. They observe the turtles’ predators, like ghost crabs and racoons, noting how the effects of the predation not just on sea turtles but also on the predators’ populations. They monitor how storms affect the beachfront and how they inhibit nesting sea turtles.
I research the ways that our planet and its changing face affect our turtles, and vice-versa.
Geoscience, although bearing the same prefix as geology, has a different focus than other branches of study. Geoscience is Earth Science. It is the study of Earth’s fickle connections, and the way that life itself interacts with the planet. It is the branch between biology and geology - the science connecting life to earth.
Sea Turtle Specialist