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Geoscience Education

Please excuse the mess while we shift around some tectonic plates to better serve you.

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Welcome

Welcome to the North Carolina Geological Survey's Geoscience Education page.

The primary point of contact for this page is Outreach Geologist Will Blocher. Please reach out to him if you have questions or suggestions pertaining to this page.

Our Goal

The goal of the North Carolina Geological Survey's Geoscience Education program is...

To promote the geology literacy of the citizens of every county in North Carolina by teaching geology and empowering others to do the same.

We at the Survey believe that this is important because we know that geology is relevant to the well-being of the North Carolinian, and we know from personal experience that the study of geology is fulfilling. It's our hope that every student in North Carolina will acquire the skills they need to interpret geological information, graduate high school aware of the possibilities of geology carreers and post-secondary education, and enjoy a deeper relationship with the state, the continent, and the planet they call home.

Why Should We Study Geology?

Geology is Useful!

Geology is Useful!

If it's not grown, it's mined!*

That's an old saying, and the more you think about it, the more you realize how true it is. Think about all the things you use or interact with throughout the day - everything - even the clothes you're wearing! If it wasn't grown on a farm, it probably came from raw materials that came out of the Earth. Sometimes it's obvious, like in the case of the metal that we use to make cars or buildings, or the minerals that we cut and polish into gemstones. Sometimes it's less obvious. Did you think about your clothes yet? If they aren't 100% cotton or wool, they probably are made of synthetic fibers made from oil. Are you reading this on an electronic device? It's made almost entirely of geological resources!

And you don't find those resources by just going out and digging a hole (unless you're lucky). At some point in the process, you have to get a geologist involved!

Learn more about the mineral resources of North Carolina.

*Oh, and if it is grown, it's probably grown in soil, and 90% of the solid material in soil is derived from rocks. Just saying.

Geology Saves Lives!

Geology Saves Lives!

The Earth is the safest place to live that we know of.

Still, it has it's share of dangers, like landslides, sinkholes, earthquakes, naturally occurring radioactive material, and sometimes even volcanoes! Are these random hazards that could strike at any time?

They may be hard to predict, but they are all results of geological processes. By studying those processes, we can better understand how and where it's safe to build our houses so they don't get buried in landslides, swallowed up by sinkholes, shaken to pieces by earthquakes, irradiated by radioactive bedrock, or destroyed by volcanoes.

Learn more about geological hazards.

Geology is Exciting!

Geology is Exciting!

The Earth (and North Carolina in particular) has a thrilling and dramatic geological history! It's an exciting tale of roiling magma, crashing tectonic plates, rifting continents, the formation and destruction of entire oceans, monstrous lizards, giant sharks, the building of mountain ranges, and the carving of vast canyons. And the best part is: the story isn't over! We've picked it up right in the middle. The processes that have shaped the Earth for billions of years are still going on today.

Well, the lizard monster part - that's over.

Our sharks are smaller now, too.

Geology is Full of Mystery!

Geology is Full of Mystery!

What exactly causes the volcanoes in Hawaii and Yellowstone National Park?
Why does Earth's magnetic field wander around and sometimes completely flip over?
Why does continental collision sometimes make mountain ranges that are curved?
Can earthquakes be predicted?

There are so many interesting, unanswered questions in the Earth sciences. You might wonder how geologists even begin to answer questions like these.

Lots of people think geologists study rocks. That's kind of true, but it's a little bit like saying "meteorologists study thermometers" or "sociologists study surveys."

Geologists study the processes that have shaped and continue to shape the Earth. We might do that by studying rocks, but only because the rock layers that make up the Earth hold clues about those processes.

"Geologists have a saying - rocks remember."
- American astronaut Neil Armstrong

Geologists from all around the world work together by sharing and interpreting the clues they find in the "rock record." Together we solve some very complex mysteries, but we discover more mysteries all the time. Maybe you'll help us out?

Geology is Beautiful!

Geology is Beautiful!

The study of geology will show you a new side of the place you call home, and can lead you to some of the most beautiful places on Earth! You can find the beauty of geology at the top of a mountain or down a microscope.

Each of these photos was taken by NCGS Geologist Will Blocher or his friends on their geological adventures. Click any photo to see it at full-size.


The Narrows of Zion National Park
"The Narrows" of Zion National Park, Utah. Geology student for scale!


A crumbling lava tube from the Tabernacle Hill Cinder Cone Volcano in Utah
A crumbling lava tube from the Tabernacle Hill Volcano in Utah


The southernmost active volcano in the world, Mount Erebus of Antarctica, as seen from the cockpit of a Twin Otter aircraft
The southernmost active volcano in the world, Mount Erebus of Antarctica, as seen from the cockpit of a Twin Otter aircraft.


Ancient blue ice of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet covered in drifting snow.
Ancient blue ice of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet partially covered in drifting snow.


A thin section of a peridotite viewed through the cross-polarized light of a petrographic microscope.
A thin-section of an olivine gabbro viewed through the cross-polarized light of a petrographic microscope. This is a rock that originates deep in the Earth, and yet, similar thin-sections have been made from rocks collected on the moon.
Hmmm... Mysterious....


A thin section of a crenulated mica schist viewed through the cross-polarized light of a petrographic microscope.
A thin-section of a mica schist viewed through the cross-polarized light of a petrographic microscope. The flaky micas of this schist have deformed and recrystallized in response to extreme stress, giving the rock a millimeter-scale wavy texture called "crenulation."