Geology in the twenty-first century is a fascinating, exciting, incredibly diverse and multidisciplinary subject. New Zealand, on the active margin of the Pacific, with its volcanoes, earthquakes, dramatic and varied geomorphology, and its 500 million years of pre and post-Gondwana geological history, is one of the best places on Earth to study geological processes relating to the tectonics of continental margins, ancient and modern. Our position in mid-southern latitudes and relative proximity to Antarctica means that New Zealand is a key location for climate change research.
Geologists are time-travellers. Their scientific detective work on events in deep geological time helps us to understand the present, and both past and present are key to predicting the future. Geologists (or earth scientists) investigate these phenomena in order to understand how our planet works, by studying its materials and structure, natural processes, resources and history, and the origin and evolution of life itself.
Geologists seek to understand the causes of volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis and are directly involved in the monitoring, prediction and assessment of such hazards. Conservation issues are part of any major programme of land utilisation and the geologist has an important role in the planning process and in assessing environmental impact.
Geologists have been responsible for the development of one of the most exciting new scientific theories of the twentieth century – plate tectonics – which provides a unifying explanation for the origin and locations of all the major geological features and Earth building processes of the planet. Geologists also search for the natural resources which sustain our technological society, not least of all, water. The construction of buildings, bridges, roads, dams and reservoirs requires geological expertise in the investigation of foundations.
Being a multidisciplinary subject, Geology draws on most other sciences. Combinations of Geology with one or more of Chemistry, Physics, Biological Sciences, Mathematics, Computer Science or Geography are powerful (see Related subjects). Geology has had major influences in archaeology, anthropology and classics – students studying these subjects will find a first-year Geology course beneficial.
The Department of Geological Sciences at UC is one of the top geoscience research departments in the country, where students are taught exciting, up-to-date courses by research active and informed staff. The department also has high teaching standards and a student-orientated culture of support. First-year students have their own laboratory for practical classes and teaching staff are readily contactable in their offices or via email.
Field sciences are a distinctive feature of the subjects offered at the University of Canterbury and are supported through a range of field facilities at Cass, Harihari, Kaikoura and Westport. Field studies are carried out in the locations and environments around these field stations.
Entry into first-year Geology courses is open to all students who are eligible to enter a New Zealand university. There are no specific requirements for starting first-year studies in Geology, and while some knowledge of basic science is preferable it is not essential. Most students find the subject and our courses a fascinating and valued educational experience, whether they choose to major in Geology or not.
Our two core first-year courses are GEOL 111 and GEOL 112. Both involve lectures and one practical class per week plus one day in the field. These courses provide a broad introduction to Geology and both should be taken if second-year Geology is contemplated. All you need is enthusiasm and an interest in the world around you.
GEOL 113 is an optional first-year course that will be of interest to science and non-science students alike; this course is in the BA as well as the BSc schedule. Many students do in fact take all three first-year Geology courses.
Students should also note that 60 points from the following subjects is required for entry into honours in Geology and Engineering Geology: Astronomy, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geography, Mathematics (15 points required for Engineering Geology), Physics and Statistics (see Related subjects). Fifteen (15) points of Statistics is required for entry into honours in Hazard and Disaster Management and honours in Engineering Geology.
The six core 200-level Geology courses develop and expand on much of the first-year material. Important geological principles and techniques are taught here, such as the interpretation of sediments, volcanic processes, how rocks deform in the Earth's crust, how ancient geological events are dated and the identification of minerals and rocks using the microscope.
GEOL 240 and GEOL 241 are field studies courses in which the techniques of geological observation, data collection and field mapping are taught. Excursions are run to several different locations, including to Westport on the West Coast of the South Island where there is a modern, well-equipped field station.
The 300-level courses cover a wide range of topics for the student majoring in Geology.
Students who wish to go beyond a BSc have three options in basic Geology: BSc(Hons), MSc or a Postgraduate Diploma in Science. UC is also the only university in New Zealand offering postgraduate degrees in Engineering Geology and Hazard and Disaster Management.
Geology graduates may also enrol for a BSc(Hons), Postgraduate Diploma or MSc in Environmental Science and incorporate fourth-year Geology courses into that degree. Students with either a BSc(Hons) or MSc may proceed to the research degree of PhD.
A career in geology offers a very wide spectrum of work environments and employment matched by few other professional disciplines. Geologists are well paid and have rewarding lifestyles with ample job satisfaction. There is a significant trend of increasing numbers of women making geology their preferred career.
Geology graduates find positions as research scientists, policy analysts, exploration geophysicists, mining and exploration geologists, practitioner engineering geologist with consultancies, natural hazard analysts and consultants, coal and petroleum geologists, teachers, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialists, environmental impact officers and consultants, hydrogeologists, seismic interpreters, resource advisors, research technicians, soil technicians and research assistants, museum curators, and more.
They are employed in the mining and petroleum industries, national and local government, planning and conservation organisations, university teaching and research, secondary teaching, museums and science centres, energy companies, consulting and engineering firms, research institutes and exploration firms.
Geology also offers a pathway at postgraduate level into exciting and relevant fields such as hazard and disaster management and engineering geology.
For further career information, please go to www.canterbury.ac.nz/careers