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Ventures into Geosciences
February 2007

Message from the Ventures Scholars Program

Dear Venture Scholars,

The Ventures Scholars Program would like to thank Shell Oil Company for providing funding to help you learn about our ever-changing Earth.

As you know, the planet is a complex system of physical, chemical, and biological processes. These processes work together to produce the Earth as it is today. A great way to start learning about the Earth is through Earth system science, an approach to Earth science that investigates how these physical, chemical, and biological processes are interlinked. If you like science and are curious about our planet and how it works, a career in the geosciences might be a great option for you.

This e-newsletter provides you with general information about Earth system science, remote sensing, and some of the other exciting technologies being used by geoscientists in their research. Satellites have become important scientific tools, for example.

Join us as we learn about the Earth systems that interact to form our planet.


Ann Benbow
American Geological Institute

Ventures Scholars Program

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What do you know about earth system science? Spend some time learning about the Earth as a complex system.


The Earth has many features and components that work together in important ways. As a complex system, the Earth has many different interacting physical, chemical, and biological processes. One way to study the Earth is to look at the interlinking “spheres” and to understand how these spheres are connected. The four main spheres are the atmosphere, the biosphere, the geosphere, and the hydrosphere.

· The atmosphere is the gaseous envelope that surrounds the Earth and consists of a mixture of gases composed primarily of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. It includes things such as the clouds and the ozone layer that protects life from dangerous radiation from the sun.

· The biosphere is the life zone of the Earth and includes all living organisms, including humans, and all organic matter that has not yet decomposed. Many organisms that once lived on the Earth no longer exist and are preserved as fossils. Fossils in ancient rocks can provide information about the environment in the past.

· The geosphere is the solid Earth that includes the continental and oceanic crust as well as the various layers of the Earth’s interior.

· The hydrosphere includes all of the Earth's water. Most of the water on Earth’s surface is in the oceans. Water can also exist in streams, lakes, ponds, soil, vapor, glaciers, and sea ice.

None of these spheres can be considered in isolation, because all of them are needed for us to understand the planet upon which we live. Earth system science incorporates chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics to study the past, current, and future states of the Earth. Examining the Earth’s spheres provides explanations for many of the most important features of how the Earth works. Scientists use this knowledge when they study other planets by comparing systems on other planets with those on Earth. Knowing about the Earth helps us to be better stewards of the planet and helps us to learn more about the other planets in the Solar System.

Spend some time learning about the Earth as a complex system by visiting some of the websites discussed below.

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View videos and websites to learn about our earth and related careers.



Learn more about Earth systems science by watching these short videos prepared by NASA. Join Ray and Danielle as they learn how satellite data are collected and used to better understand Earth processes. This website has five short videos on satellites, El Nino, global warming, drought, and hurricanes.

Click here
to watch the videos.


The Smithsonian Institution has a new traveling exhibit that uses satellite images to explore geography, ecology, meteorology, and geology. Learn how scientists use remote sensing and satellite technology to observe oceans, mountains, land surfaces, human activity, and changes in global climate. Satellites detect subtleties and variations that human eyes cannot, providing unique and beautiful views of our planet. The images have many important applications, from mapping city streets to understanding long-term climate changes.

Click here to view images at the Earth From Space website and find out whether the exhibit is coming to your area.


In 2004, an expedition of students, teachers and scientists visited Barro Colorado Island, Panama, to explore the rainforest. This JASON Project collaborated with scientists from NASA to study this complex ecosystem. Scientists in this project have used data collected at the local level as well as data from NASA satellites to provide a global perpective. You can now go online and learn how images from space can provide information on the climate, vegetation, and water resources of the rainforest.

An online exercise on the “Electromagnetic Spectrum” can show you how different types of vegetation reflect the sun’s rays in different ways. Investigate how satellites use “remote sensing” to collect information that scientists use to build an image filled with data on the vegetation and climates on the Earth’s surface.

Click here to try building your own satellite image by using the data collected in the JASON Project.


Space-based observations of the Earth are a relatively new tool that scientists use to investigate Earth systems. The nation’s first Earth-- observing satellite, the Television and Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS), was launched in 1960 – followed by the launch of TIROS II and TIROS III later that year. These satellites were the first designed to study the Earth’s weather patterns and identify hurricanes and tropical storms that otherwise might have gone undetected for days using conventional weather forecasting methods. Since the 1960s, NASA and others have launched many additional Earth- observing satellites that are used by scientists to understand weather patterns, changes in vegetation and land use, and temperature and chemical changes in the ocean’s surface.

Click here to learn more about the history of Earth- observing satellites.

NASA's website enables you to locate Earth-- observing satellites above the planet in real time. Once you locate a satellite, you can learn more about it and look at recent images and data.

Click here
to locate the satellites.


The Joint Oceanographic Institute supports scientists who study what is beneath the ocean. Scientists collect samples from drilling into the ocean crust to investigate changes in the Earth over time.

Click here
to learn more about scientists and technicians who use samples from deep in the ocean and what it takes to work on a research ship.


Explore the world of the geosciences through the experiences of professional geoscientists. Ever wondered what a hydro-geologist does? Or the science behind all the headlines about climate change? Want to learn more about how meteorologists predict weather?

Click here
to answer these questions and others by watching a video of professional geoscientists at the American Geological Institute’s career website.

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Would you like to communicate via e-mail with geoscience professors? Are you interested in participating in activities that will help you learn about geoscience career pathways?


Are you curious about the Earth and the Solar System? Do you have a strong interest in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and engineering? Do you enjoy puzzle solving and bringing together your interests in a range of areas to solve wider problems? Do you find the prospect of working on a wide range of Earth-related issues, from resource management to environmental protection exciting? Do you enjoy working outdoors? Then the geosciences may be the career path for you.

Become a part of the Geoscience Explorer’s Club and learn more about the geosciences in your community. Join the Ventures Scholars Program and the American Geological Institute, co-founders of this new group, as we learn about the systems that make up the Earth – atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere. These systems have been working together since the Earth’s beginning more than 4.6 billion years ago.

Geoscience Explorer Club members can also talk to geoscientists in their communities and apply their new knowledge about their environment to volunteer opportunities.

Activities will commence in February 2007. Please email with additional questions.

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Get involved! Learn about contests and competitions.


Earth Science Week is an annual event coordinated by the American Geological Institute to promote an understanding and appreciation of the value of Earth science and its importance in our daily lives. The event's national contests capped off a week of celebration as students, educators, and members of the public explored the importance of citizen science as part of the 2006 Earth Science Week theme “Be a Citizen Scientist!”. This year a record of more than 1,000 submissions were sent in from across the country for the three contests which included photography, visual arts, and an essay contest.

Click here to view the top submissions in the 2006 Earth Science Week Contests.


The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) is the world's largest pre-college celebration of science. Held annually in May, the Intel ISEF brings together nearly 1,500 students from more than 40 nations to compete for scholarships, tuition grants, internships, scientific field trips, and the grand prize: a $50,000 college scholarship. The 2007 Intel ISEF will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and will include several awards for projects in the Earth Sciences. Several professional organizations, colleges, and government agencies offer financial awards for projects in a wide range of geoscience topics.

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about your own science fair project! Earning a spot at the Intel ISEF requires you to win your local and state science fairs. Click here to find out if your local science fair is part of the Intel ISEF network.

Click here if you need help getting started. You can get advice about the research process and how to decide on a research project. Just start with curiosity about your environment and community and go from there!

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Shell E-News Corner

Thanks to Shell Oil Company, the Ventures Scholars Program has been able to provide Ventures Scholars with information about the geosciences. Please take a few minutes to peruse some of Shell's resources and information about workplace opportunities.

Subscribe to Shell's E-Newsletter

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Learn About US Careers at Shell

Learn about US Careers at Shell and explore current job openings. Educating yourself about your career options now will help you select college courses and your career pathway. Read more.

Workplace Opportunities at Shell

Go to the Shell E-News Corner regularly to learn about workplace opportunities at Shell. Shell also recruits students from some colleges. Click here to view a list of these colleges.

Energize Your Future with Shell

Welcome to the exciting world of energy! Shell is dedicated to finding efficient, environmentally friendly ways to meet society's energy demands, and to finding qualified people to get the job done. That's why we created this site for middle and high school students and teachers to take a look at the fascinating world of energy and discover the exciting career opportunities available.
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