So I am a science nerd. I am literally the guy in high school who would run up to people and say "hey, I just learned quartz is formed from rapidly cooling magma. Isn't that awesome!" I'm actually currently working towards a high school biology degree but when I'm done with that I will continue with an earth science degree until I can teach college. Not just a dream, I WILL make it happen.

Anyway, I was wondering what sorts of tricks I can do right now to play with geology until I actually can get into the field. Like is it possible to analyze the composition of my own backyard using basic tools? I have the gusto, I literally just launched some R-candy rockets using a mix of 63% KNO3, 32% sucrose, 4% aluminium and 1% iron sulfate.

Also, is there any self employment for amateur geologist? Like if I figure out how to analyze my own yard, can I then do the same for others for a small fee? (I'm a substitute teacher now so I'm always broke).

What cool things can be done by an amateur geologist with no prior geological schooling (and very limited funding) but with a strong drive to understand the world we live in?

PS. I built a primitive forge from homemade clay bricks that I use to melt aluminum from scrap into art so is there any uses for that in amateur geology?

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    $\begingroup$ You want a foot in the door? Start reading RFPs (Request for Proposals) and learn how to do funding proposals. $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Oct 31, 2016 at 4:27
  • $\begingroup$ @farrenthorpe a bit overkill for that guy, don't you think? $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Oct 31, 2016 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'm just looking for intellectual stimulation mainly.If I can make a buck or two that'd be awesome but that's not my intent really. Being poor just isn't ideal is all. I'm after cheap techniques, I think, to discover what's around me with limited experience. I'm a tinkerer and like to get hands on experiences. $\endgroup$
    – Raven
    Nov 1, 2016 at 2:05

1 Answer 1


I'd suggest to get out and do some mapping. Get a map, look for local outcrops and mark them on your map. Try to find the same type of rocks or unit in more than one location and try to connect them. Compare it with published maps and see if it makes sense. Then start to think about the reasons why the units are located as they are and read a bit about tectonics. Your chemical interest is useful to define the rocks you find (e.g. use acid to recognize carbonates) and your biological interest is useful if you are fortunate enough to live in an area where you can find fossil bearing rocks to help you with the dating. The experiences you make whiles learning the trade can suggest what the local work market looks like. Learn GIS and mapping.

Geology is a great way to combine theoretical studies with fieldwork and use some excess energy. Let your interests define what branch of geology you would like to focus on.

From reddit

If you are looking for professional projects, I'd contact local engineering companies that work with infrastructure or similar and check if the need extra crew for fieldwork. There are sometimes casual workers needed for geophysical surveying or sampling.

Depending on where you live, groundwater could be another option, contact local drilling companies, learn how to handle a rig and learn some hydro-geology. With a detailed geological map of an area, groundwater modellers can make better decisions - maybe even paying something for the data.

  • $\begingroup$ I really liked your answer. Getting into mapping would definitely be a solid skill to develop early on and you gave me some ideas to work towards. Your image was also interesting. I think though that I'm after more something to play with that will also stimulate me intellectually. Sort of looking for that EUREKA! moment. Like I'm eventually going to have to better understand how to modify DNA in biology but while I'm learning that, I can play with GFP using a simple kit and have glow in the dark fish. The kits are just out of my price range atm. I'm looking for a geology equivalent of that. $\endgroup$
    – Raven
    Nov 1, 2016 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ When you are able to understand geological maps, you have a lot of wonderful eureka moment to look forward to. Maps also expose unsolved structural problems that one can use a lifetime, or a strike of clear sight to solve. The key is to think 3D, or better, always imagine three spatial dimensions plus time. $\endgroup$
    – user2821
    Nov 2, 2016 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ Great picture. Can I get a source? I would like to redistribute. $\endgroup$
    – Coastal
    Nov 2, 2016 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Coastal I just got it from a friend, but it's been floating around internet a while, so I think it wouldn't harm to share it in the answer too. However, it's not really accurate, as seismologists are probably the branch that spends most time in the field and most of us love camping more than most geodynamic modellers do. $\endgroup$
    – user2821
    Nov 22, 2016 at 8:52

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