Careers in Geoscience: Geochemistry
Geochemists are employed by organisations in many different sectors of industry, government, environment, mineral exploration, oil and gas and others. They are specialist geologists dealing in geochemical effects and responses to a wide range of phenomena. Some examples of the fields in which they work are - predicting and measuring the surface geochemical response of ore deposits, the surface chemical characteristics of certain rock types and the implications for agriculture, characterisation and assessment of contaminated water supplies, the tracking of stream flows and toxic elements in the environment. Their work can be part office and laboratory based, although extensive fieldwork is necessary to collect and test sites and drill-hole samples.
Geochemists examine the distribution of chemical elements in rocks and minerals as well as the movement of these elements into the soil, air and water systems.
Typical duties include:
- Plan and execute scientific studies e.g. design a sampling program, visit field locations, and collect samples in order to solve specific problems or map specific natural processes
- Analysing samples, either in the field or in the laboratory
- Supervising the quality of analysis done by 3rd parties on behalf of the client organisation
- Supervision of database quality and fit-for-purpose exports and reports
- 2D and 3D modelling of geochemical data
- Thermodynamic modelling of specific reactions or processes
- Guide mineral, coal and oil/gas exploration using a variety of remote sensing imagery, geological and geochemical data
- Geochemical analysis of soils to assist agriculture or mineral exploration
- Sourcing and tracking chemical elements in the environment whether in soils, gases or water (surface and ground waters)
- Develop remediation plans to prevent acid mine drainage and to clean up toxic waste sites
- Contribute to natural resource use and environmental management policies
- Data analysis (of many variables, both elemental, spectral and other sample properties measures) in order to demonstrate evidence of the process being studied
- Preparing reports for clients, government, local councils etc.
The job carries a high level of responsibility, as the employee must ensure the accuracy and integrity of information and forecasts – initiating extraction processes is often very expensive and mistakes can be costly. Consequently, appropriate training is an important feature of the job.
Typical skills required are:
- Knowledge of a range of sciences and their applications
- Solid grounding in applied geology generally favourable
- Problem solving skills, analytical skills
- Ability to work within a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers
- Good organisational skills
- Computer literacy and ability to analyse numerical and graphical data in several software packages (e.g. EXCEL, ioGas, GIS platforms, 3D packages, R and statistical packages, Access)
- Basic understanding of statistics, particularly with reference to sampling
- Understanding of relational databases
- Good written and verbal communication skills
- Geochemistry, geological mapping, rock recognition, knowledge of geophysics, GIS and spatial skills
- Significant experience in the sector as a geologist is generally required before becoming a specialist geochemist.