Portal:Earth sciences

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The Earth Sciences Portal

Introduction

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Earth sciences (also known as geoscience, the geosciences or Earth Science) is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. They are a special type of planetary sciences which deal with the structure and composition of the Earth, its origins, physical features, changing aspects, and all of its natural phenomena. Earth is the only planet known to have life, and hence the only planet with biological processes and a biosphere.

The major disciplines of Earth sciences use physics, mathematics, and chemistry to build a quantitative understanding of the principal areas or spheres of the Earth system. As in many sciences, the Earth can be studied both experimentally and theoretically. Also, there are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth Science.

Although mining and precious stones have been in human interests throughout the history of civilization, their development into the sciences of economic geology and mineralogy did not occur until the 18th century. The study of the earth, particularly palaeontology, blossomed in the 19th century and the growth of other disciplines like geophysics in the 20th century led to the development of the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s, which has had a similar impact on the Earth sciences as the theory of evolution had on biology. Earth sciences today are closely linked to climate research and the petroleum and mineral exploration industries.

Applications of Earth sciences include the exploration and exploitation of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, cartography, weather forecasting patterns, and warning of volcanic eruptions. Earth sciences are related to the environmental sciences as well as the other subfields of planetary astronomy.

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Mary Anning with her dog, Tray, painted before 1833
Mary Anning (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) was a British fossil collector, dealer, and paleontologist who became known around the world for a number of important finds she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset, where she lived. Her work contributed to fundamental changes that occurred during her lifetime in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.

Anning searched for fossils in the area's Blue Lias cliffs, particularly during the winter months when landslides exposed new fossils that had to be collected quickly before they were lost to the sea. It was dangerous work, and she nearly lost her life in 1833 during a landslide that killed her dog, Tray. Her discoveries included the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified, which she and her brother Joseph found when she was just twelve years old; the first two plesiosaur skeletons ever found; the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany; and some important fish fossils. Her observations played a key role in the discovery that coprolites, known as bezoar stones at the time, were fossilised faeces. She also discovered that belemnite fossils contained fossilised ink sacs like those of modern cephalopods. When geologist Henry De la Beche painted Duria Antiquior, the first widely circulated pictorial representation of a scene from prehistoric life derived from fossil reconstructions, he based it largely on fossils Anning had found, and sold prints of it for her benefit.

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Oceans
Credit: Alexandre Van de Sande

Oceans cover almost three quarters (71%) of the surface of the Earth, and nearly half of the world's marine waters are over 3000 m deep. This global, interconnected body of salt water, called the World Ocean, is divided by the continents and archipelagos into the following five bodies, from the largest to the smallest: the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean. Official boundaries are defined by the International Hydrographic Organization.

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For a more comprehensive treatment of topics, see Outline of earth science and Index of earth science articles

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