What is Geochemistry?

Dee S.
Dee S.

Geochemistry is the study of the chemical makeup of the Earth, as well as the other planets. Those interested in studying it often focus on the chemical reactions and processes which show them how various soils and rocks are created. They also study how the chemical components that move through the earth interact with the atmosphere and the hydrosphere.

Geochemistry may involve the drinking water in a given area.
Geochemistry may involve the drinking water in a given area.

Although geochemistry is a large field of study, there are several primary subsets: isotope geochemistry, biogeochemistry, organic geochemistry, and environmental geochemistry. Isotope geochemistry is the study of the elements and the isotopes of those elements on the surface and within the earth. Biogeochemistry focuses on how life affects the chemical components of the earth. Organic geochemists study how components that came from living matter affect the earth. Lastly, environmental geochemists focus on how mineral exploration, environmental issues, and hydrological exploration affect the earth.

Many aspects of geochemistry are designed to protect people. For example, groundwater geochemists study groundwater quality through sampling and analysis. Groundwater can contain toxins that affect people’s health as well as the environment. Human activities and environmental exploitation of the land can lead to poor groundwater quality. Groundwater quality directly affects the quality of the drinking water in a given area – if groundwater is of poor quality, drinking water will be of poor quality, as well.

Geochemists understand that there is an abundance of information deep within the liquids, mineral deposits, and gases found within and on the earth. They must then take this information and apply it for scientific and industrial needs. For example, oil companies are interested in the chemical makeup of rocks, so they know where oil can be found. Scientists may study the earth’s components to develop theories on how and why the earth is changing. In addition, environmental management companies may consult with a geochemist to help them determine the best way to dispose of hazardous or toxic materials.

There are various scientific journals that interested individuals can read to learn more. For example, Geochemistry International allows readers to understand deeper concepts, such as those found in biogeochemistry and chemistry of the environment, as they are applied across Europe and Asia. These sources give educators an opportunity to learn more and to teach others what they have learned

Becoming a geochemist is not a quick process. Taking earth science classes in college, proceeding to a master’s degree program, and then, continuing on to receive a doctorate are all possible at colleges and universities across the globe. A wide range of knowledge in math, toxicology, physics, soil chemistry, hydrology, and plant ecology are often suggested; however, there is no set path. Depending on the employer and the employee's level of job experience, some classes are more valuable than others.

Dee S.
Dee S.

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to wiseGEEK.

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