Disciplines Practiced in Applied Geosciences

The geosciences (or Earth sciences) are comprised of scientific studies of the planet Earth. These include atmospheric sciences, environmental sciences, soil sciences, glaciology, geography, geology, geophysics, hydrology, oceanography, limnology, and space sciences.

Within the geosciences, there are numerous subdisciplines. For instance, as an Environmental or Engineering Geologist, you could specialize in groundwater, environmental (contaminant) remediation, geologic hazards, dam and tunnel design, coastal erosion, land-use planning, environmental impacts and mitigation, disaster management plans and policies, and a variety of associated disciplines. For a detailed list of many of the sub-disciplines within applied geoscience, visit this extensive list on the PROGRESS website .

The members of AEG come from a wide range of applied geoscience disciplines, professional backgrounds, and interests. In this article we are highlighting three examples of geoscience careers and the types of daily activities these practitioners are involved with in their current positions.

 Patricia M Bryan
President and Principal Geologist
Bryan Environmental Consultants, Inc. (Homewood, IL)

How would you describe your work?
I operate my own environmental consulting firm. I serve as the project manager and geologist on projects, and I prepare proposals, oversee accounts payable and receivable, oversee team members, and manage the company’s certifications as a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE). We work for private industry, local and state governments and agencies, the Illinois Tollway and Illinois DOT, other consultants, and construction companies. Projects include site investigation and remediation, remediation and construction oversight, surveys for asbestos containing materials (ACM)/lead-based paint (LBP), reviewing design documents, abatement oversight, Phase I environmental site assessments (ESAs), and geotechnical investigations.

 How did you become interested in Geology? 
I first became aware of geology in my fourth-grade science class. My fascination with geology continued while I was completing the Girl Scout Geology Badge. Just as my interest was growing my Uncle was finishing his PhD in geology. He gave me some samples of his amazing mineral collection, and I cherish them to this day.

Why are you a member of AEG? 
AEG has provided a technical forum for me to continue learning throughout my professional career. Meetings, both local and national, field trips and, symposia, have all enriched my knowledge base in Geology.

 Amanda Forsburg
Senior Project Scientist
 Langan Engineering & Environmental Services
(Parsippany, NJ)

How would you describe your work?
As an environmental consultant, I research site history, develop the scope, and manage site investigations, predominantly for properties in New York City. I frequently interact with both City and State environmental regulatory agencies to ensure that our investigations meet regulatory requirements, and to design and implement remedial actions for site cleanup. 

How did you become interested in Geology? 
I matriculated at Bucknell University with an Environmental Studies major; however, my freshman seminar was a geology course. That professor strongly encouraged participating in undergraduate research, and I was eager to take advantage of that opportunity. I quickly discovered that geology is both fascinating and fun; I declared a double major and spent three summers walking streams and collecting data in Central Pennsylvania. I was fortunate to have such engaged professors and advisors who promoted both opportunities for research and a well-rounded education.

Why are you a member of AEG? 
A senior colleague recommended AEG when I was looking for an opportunity to get involved with a professional organization several years ago. He encouraged me to attend a local chapter meeting, noting that AEG is a fun group of people who enjoy talking about geology. What could be better? I eventually joined the AEG New York-Philadelphia Chapter board as Secretary and later served as Student Outreach Co-Chair. My involvement has allowed me to make wonderful connections with peers and further my understanding of geology in my local area.

 Eldon Gath
Earth Consultants International
(Southern California)

How would you describe your work?
The honest answer is “Everything and Anything.” It used to be 100% project dominated but when you start a company it has to also include staff and project management, accounting stuff, employee medical and benefit packages, writing proposals, meeting (zooming) with clients and potential clients, dealing with IT issues and software, serving as needed for AEG and other professional societies, writing papers, dealing with the Small Business Administration, trying to predict the future, reading (trying to) the hundreds of new technical papers, and wondering when I am going to retire, but then we get another cool project and I can get out in the field and do geology again.

We deal with geologic hazard identification, quantification, and mitigation for city and development planning, utility and infrastructure design/retrofit, and litigation-related forensics and expert assistance. My engineering geologic specialties are fault identification and characterization, landslide identification and remediation, regional hazard mitigation and development planning, and anything that requires out-of-the-box thinking. 

How did you become interested in Geology? 
Drinking beer around a campfire on a geologic field trip to understand glacial geologic features in Minnesota, and realizing that chemists never get to do this. Instant conversion.

Why are you a member of AEG? 
Once I realized that I WAS an Engineering Geologist, I felt the need to support the only professional organization that represents us, and through 30 years of engagement have never regretted a day (well there were a few). I joined GSA in college when I decided to be a Geologist; I joined AEG when I realized that I had become an Engineering Geologist; I joined AAPG and later AGU because they had the best structural geology papers; I joined EERI and SSA when I started to focus my professional career on earthquake geology and fault activity assessments; I joined AMQUA and INQUA when Quaternary Geology became important to understand tectonic geomorphic processes in a temporal context; I joined the European Geological Union and IAEG when I started to work internationally; and I also belong to FIVE southern-California geological societies because this is where I live.

I still belong to all of these organizations (and a few more) because I get professional and personal value from them. I strongly think that geologists who do not at least belong to professional organizations are not advancing as professionals, but are simply going through the motions; and those who do not actually get involved in at least some organization(s) are not true professionals but simply employees.

These are just a few examples of the many career opportunities and varied work activities of an Applied Geoscientist. The field has many different disciplines available to meet your particular interests and strengths. To learn more about the various types of applied geology that our members’ practice and some exciting projects that they are working on, check out our newsletter, AEG News.




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