Studying Geoscience in Germany
An article by Daniel Kastner. Cooperation from: Gabriele Meister
That is what it's about
"We geoscientists wonder: What's happening under our feet right now? What has happened there in the past, and what could happen in the future, for example with regard to climate change?" says Martin Meschede, deputy president of the German Geological Society - Geological Association and professor at the University of Greifswald. When a volcano erupts in Iceland or the earth shakes in Indonesia, it provides geoscientists with new data. Whether to build a dam in an area or where resource scarcity will worsen in the future and what to do about it: These are all questions that Earth Sciences deals with.
One subfield is geology. Traditional geology is about the origin and development of the earth. Geodynamics deals with the structure of the earth and how continents were formed. Applied geology deals with the occurrence and formation of raw materials, hydrogeology with groundwater. Mineralogy deals with the composition of minerals and rocks while palaeontology examines the development of life, for example using fossils. Geophysics explores the earth with physical investigation methods.
This is how the course runs
In geoscientific introductory lectures the students get an overview of the most important topics. Mathematics, physics and chemistry are also included. Through exercises on rock determination, microscopy, geography and the handling of satellite data, they acquire practical knowledge. In the laboratory, they learn about measuring and analysis methods, for example on the chemical and mineralogical composition of rocks.
At many universities, up to 50 days of fieldwork are planned in the bachelor's program. For example, the students use a ground penetrating radar to investigate the composition of the earth's surface in an area. Or they travel on research ships and take drilling samples from the seabed. When many field trips had to be cancelled because of Corona, Meschede used terrain models from US universities that could be digitally zoomed into. "But this is not a model for the future. "Geology is best learned in the field," he says.
Part of the costs for the field exercises must be paid for by the students. The subject is often offered with different emphases, for example sedimentology, volcanology, structural geology, marine or hydrogeology. You should find out beforehand what the university specialises in.
Typical questions raised within the subject
- How did different rocks of the earth form?
- What influence does the moon have on the earth system?
- Where are raw materials formed?
- What fossils are found in 100 million year old rock samples?
- What were the causes and consequences of the last ice age?
- How do we get enough clean drinking water?
- What criteria would an underground nuclear repository have to fulfil?
The subject suits you,...
This subject will suit you if you are interested in stones and history, like to be outdoors and have a good spatial imagination. Much of the degree takes place outdoors - students should be prepared for rain or heat and be able to navigate the terrain. The ability to work in a team is important, because especially during field placements you are on the road with other students for long periods. You should like physics, chemistry and biology, because you need knowledge in these subjects, for example to analyse soil samples, groundwater or fossils. Geophysicists must ALSO deal with mathematics and computer science - they spend a lot of time on the computer and in front of measuring equipment.
Is there a numerus clausus?
The vast majority of degree courses have no admission restrictions.