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  • Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

Why geology matters in field guiding

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

BY: Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

For field guides, knowing about geology means that you can bring to life what many of your guests may take for granted – the ground! 

Geology is important because all ecosystems are supported by the layers of rock that make up our planet. And if these rock layers could talk, what do you think they would tell us? 

Well, thanks to geology, we don’t have to guess at everything. 

In fact, the work done by geologists has filled us in on the timeline of the Earth, provided details of each historic period, and even given us a glimpse of the creatures who roamed the planet before. 

So let’s dig up some dirt about geology, and discover why it’s important to nature field guides. 

What is the study of geology?

What is geology about? The study of the earth.

Geology is the study of the Earth. Geologists focus on understanding the:

  1. physical structure of the Earth

  2. materials that make up the Earth

  3. history of the Earth

  4. processes that act on the Earth 

  5. organisms that inhabited the Earth in the past.

One of the most valuable things we’ve learnt from geology is how our planet, and the organisms that live on it, have changed over time. 

What is geology about?

Geology is about applying our understanding of the Earth to help us interact with it responsibly.

If you were to ask the question, “What is geology about?” you’d probably be answered with another question, “Which field of geology do you want to know about?”

This is because geologists work in a wide variety of fields from mining to waterworks and agriculture to construction. 

But, a general answer is that geology is about applying our understanding of the Earth to help us interact with it responsibly. 

And of course, there are geologists whose main job is to continue gathering information about the Earth, so there’s no telling how much our understanding will grow in the future. 

How do field guides use geology in the field?

Field guides use geology to talk about all the trees, the plants, and the animals. 

When guiding guests along a bushveld trail, you can talk about all the trimmings – the trees, the plants, and the animals. 

But what brings it all together? What’s made up of the matter of yesterday, as well as the stuff of years gone by? The ground of course.

The ground is a catalogue of time, bearing the marks of species gone by. And by using your understanding of geology out in the field, you can build on your guests’ understanding of nature and help them understand how every part of an ecosystem is connected. 

After all, how would the great acacia tree be able to withstand the winds in the savannah without its roots being anchored in the ground? How would termites build their galleries without the soil?

Geology helps us make sense of the earth and helps us understand how to interact with it.

And, how would we ever be able to successfully grow our crops, or build our houses if we couldn’t understand the foundations they were set on?

While the reason why geology matters in field guiding is clear, it also matters in so many other aspects of our lives, and we could all benefit from learning more about it.

Find out more about Bushwise Field Guides’ online course for nature enthusiasts, and broaden your understanding of why geology matters in field guiding, and in life in general. 




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