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In the lab, I look for all kinds of clues that will help me get a picture of what the area used to be like. I look for the for the following things:
  • signs of life (like shells and burrows)
  • types of sediment (like sand, or sand mixed with mud)
  • coloration (the chemicals in the mud and water will often determine the colors)
  • how thick sections are, which tells how long an area remained the same way. The thicker the layer, the longer the time.
  • what overlies what—this is crucial to determine the history of the area.
I put all of these clues together and then I'm able to make a pretty good guess about what my study area used to look like over the years. I put the evidence together to make a story that seems to make sense.

So, now that I think I know what happened in the past, how do I predict what might happen in the future? I'll look offshore, in the shallow and deep areas, and study the waves. I look at how the waves interact with the coastline—where they're hitting and what happens when they do. I predict the size of the waves at different times of year. I study the sand below the waves to determine the offshore movement, which will then affect the coastlines. It's a lot of physics! I'll consider all that I've learned about the past and all that I think I know about the future, and I'll make my best guess at what's likely to happen to that particular coastline.

My job is dynamic, because coastal change is something you can depend on. As a coastal geologist, I love being able to figure out and recommend different sorts of solutions for communities.

Click here for more details about how to become a geologist.

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