Geoscience Concepts

a ranger talking with students on a rocky overlook with ocean and beach below
Acadia National Park, Maine.

NPS Photo by Carmedy West.

Seeing With Geologists' Eyes

Geology is the scientific discipline dedicated to understanding the physical features and processes of Earth, as well as the history of the planet and its inhabitants since its origin. A basic understanding of the fundamentals of geology can enhance your appreciation of geoheritage sites and scenic vistas.


Geology Fundamentals

  • river canyon
    Geologic Time

    Our National Parks contain a magnificent record of geologic time—rocks from each period of the geologic time scale are preserved.

  • Gypsum Chandelier in Lechuguilla Cave - Photo by Permission - Jean Krejca
    Rocks and Minerals

    Rocks and minerals are all around us! They are important for learning about earth materials, structure, and systems.

  • layered and tilted rock
    Plate Tectonics & Our National Parks

    Tectonic processes shape the landscape and form some of the most spectacular structures found in national parks.

  • paleontologist examining fossils
    Geology and the Scientific Method

    The scientific method is used in geology to find the best answer to questions about Earth's materials, processes, systems, and history.

  • sand stone cliffs
    Fundamental Geologic Principles

    Learn about the basic principles that geologists have been using for hundreds of years to solve puzzles of geologic history.

  • person seated looking toward eroded badlands
    Weathering and Erosion

    Through the actions of water, wind, ice, and gravity, erosion is constantly shaping the land.


Featured Video—American Geosciences Institute

Earth from Space

Video Series: Big Ideas in Geoscience

From the American Geosciences Institute come 9 videos on Big Ideas in Geoscience. Watch Earth form, learn about Earth's history, natural systems, evolution, geohazards, and more. See what processes shaped the Earth we know today.



Landscape-scale Geology

Every landscape shows its history, but not everyone sees it. You can learn to read the landscape by knowing a little bit about a region's geologic setting and some common landforms.


Reading the Landscape


Park Geology In-depth

If you would like to learn more about the parks you're planning to visit, geologic maps, books, and reports are available for many parks. With your knowledge of geoscience fundamentals, you can use these more technical resources to discover in-depth information about park geologic features and the geomorphic processes that continue to shape our parklands.


Education & Outreach


Related Links

Last updated: August 8, 2023


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