Spotlight on Geosciences and Planet Earth

Understanding our dynamic planet

We think of the Earth beneath our feet and in the landscape around us as being solid, immutable. In fact, the landscape around us is changing on a daily basis due to the actions of wind, water and plate tectonics—and even the entire planet can shift in earthquakes!

The geosciences are our window into the Earth and the processes that shape it. From our work in seismology, mineralogy and diamond-anvil high-pressure studies, we have formed ideas about what we might find on a journey to the center of the Earth. We use geodesy and other tools to observe both sudden and slow movement of the Earth’s crust and surface, in earthquakes, eruptions, landslides or the slow grind of the tectonic plates. We also map and study the hazards that can affect us in day-to-day life: where are the faults, the quakes, the landslides; when, and why, will the volcano next door erupt.

Geoscientists look at the Earth in time frames ranging from microseconds to millennia, and at scales ranging from the microscopic (studying phase changes in minerals) to the macroscopic (imaging the Earth’s core, mantle and crust). Since natural hazards pose a continuing danger and mineral and energy resources are vital to development, what we learn is not just academic!

Meet Cal Scientists!

What are these Cal scientists learning about planet Earth? How does their research relate to our everyday lives? And what do they like best about doing science? Just click on each picture to find out!

Ronald Amundson Professor Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy & Management Division of Ecosystem Sciences Peggy Hellweg Research Geophysicist Berkeley Seismological Laboratory
Inez Fung Professor, Atmospheric Science Co-Director, Berkeley Institute of the Environment Dept. of Earth and Planetary Science Rick McKenzie Staff Research Associate Berkeley Seismological Laboratory
Valerie Zimmer Graduate Student Civil & Environmental Engineering, Geotechnical Group Kevin Mayeda Seismologist Berkeley Seismological Lab