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Geophysicists study the physical processes that occur within the Earth or the atmosphere. Among many other phenomena, professionals investigate the properties of magnetism, gravity, seismic waves, and heat transfer. Since there are so many sub-specialties within the science, there are several dozen different geophysicist jobs held by expert researchers. Most geophysicist jobs are found at universities, nonprofit research labs, and government agencies. Some professionals utilize their knowledge of physical properties to aid in mining, drilling, and construction efforts.
Research geophysicist jobs are usually held by experts in geodesics, geodynamics, or geomagnetism. Geodesics involves measurements and motion of the Earth. A professional tries to refine established measurements by studying satellite images and conducting field triangulation studies with the aid of global positioning systems. Geodesists also research the effects of gravitation and Earth's rotation on tidal changes and glacial movement.
Geodynamics scientists are concerned with physical phenomena such as earthquakes, volcanoes, climate change, and deep ocean vents. Seismologists track the movements and properties of tectonic plates using highly sophisticated equipment, attempting to explain and predict earthquakes. Volcanologists measure the internal temperature and stability of areas prone to eruptions. Other geodynamics experts research electrical activity and cloud formation to better understand weather patterns.
Scientists who specialize in geomagnetism studies investigate how and why the magnetic field fluctuates over time. Like seismologists, geomagnetism experts utilize a number of sophisticated scales and measuring tools to determine accurate readings of the direction and strength of the Earth's magnetic field. Researchers can determine how magnetism changes, and sometimes completely reverses, by studying fossils, rocks, and sediments that contain preserved physical markers of past magnetic orientations.
Some geophysicist jobs are held by scientists who specialize in analyzing the physical makeup of particular geographic regions. A professional employed by a construction company helps engineers determine the stability of an area in order to determine if it is safe to build a dam, highway, or tunnel. Mining and drilling companies often rely on geophysics consultants to locate new supplies of oil and minerals, both on land and below ocean beds.
A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum requirement for most geophysicist jobs. Individuals who hold bachelor's degrees in geology, geography, or physics are typically qualified to become research assistants at universities or consultants with construction, mining, and drilling firms. A person who wants to conduct independent studies typically needs an advanced degree in geophysics and several years of experience in the field.
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