Environmental Geologist

What is an environmental geologist? Environmental geologists study the structure of the earth with a direct focus of understanding human interactions with the land, particularly to predict or anticipate geological issues and provide information to help minimize impacts on the environment. This occupation is an extension of various scientific disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and biology.

At a Glance

Imagine you're a hydrogeology project manager at a mining company, responsible for monitoring the environmental impact of its operations. Your job involves coordinating with a team to conduct field surveys, collect samples, and analyze data to ensure the company's activities comply with environmental standards.

You discover signs of potential water contamination during a routine inspection at a new mining site. The water samples from the nearby river, crucial for the local ecosystem and community, show unexpected levels of pollutants. When this discovery is made, it is necessary to investigate promptly and comprehensively to determine the pollution's origin and scope.

Back at the office, you compile the data and draft a report detailing the findings. The report suggests that the construction activities caused runoff, leading to the contamination. Recognizing the seriousness of the issue, you propose several mitigation strategies, including improved waste management practices and installing filtration systems to prevent future incidents.

After presenting the report to the management, they approve the recommended measures. The quick response and implementation of these strategies demonstrate the company's commitment to environmental responsibility and community safety.

As an environmental geologist, you identify environmental risks associated with industrial activities and devise practical solutions to mitigate these risks, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and the well-being of surrounding communities.

Job Duties

Job duties vary from one position to the next, but in general, environmental geologists are involved in the following activities:

  • Perform detailed site evaluations to identify geological features, assess environmental risks, and evaluate the impact of human activities on natural resources.
  • Test water from various bodies for chemical, physical, and biological properties to ensure compliance with environmental standards and identify sources of pollution.
  • Gather and examine soil samples to check for pollutants, analyze soil composition, and assess suitability for construction, farming, and other applications.
  • Create detailed environmental impact assessments for upcoming projects, outlining potential effects on ecosystems and recommending mitigation strategies.
  • Plan, oversee, and execute cleanup projects for polluted sites, selecting appropriate remediation methods and managing project schedules and budgets.
  • Comply with local and national environmental regulations by obtaining necessary permits and documenting adherence to laws.
  • Use geographic information systems and data analysis software to organize environmental data, identify patterns, prepare reports, and support decision-making.
  • Share findings, recommendations, and information about environmental risks with stakeholders, government agencies, clients, and the public in clear, detailed reports and presentations.
  • Stay current on the latest developments in environmental geology, participate in professional development, and contribute to scientific research.

It is important to note that the majority of work in this occupation involves being in remote locations and covers large areas. Transportation may vary by foot, plane, boat, snowmobiles or trucks.

Work Environment

Environmental geologists operate within the office, field, and laboratory. In each of these settings, individuals in this occupation carry out various duties.

The office:

  • Use geographic information systems and statistical software to analyze spatial and environmental data from fieldwork and lab research.
  • Produce comprehensive reports and presentations highlighting research findings, evaluating environmental impacts, and proposing remediation measures for stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and clients.
  • Keep current with environmental legislation, scientific breakthroughs, and industry norms through thorough literature review, shaping project strategies, and ensuring compliance.
  • Oversee project timelines, finances, and resources to meet client expectations and regulatory requirements.
  • Collaborate with engineers, biologists, and project managers in interdisciplinary teams to align project objectives and approaches.
  • Interpret and enforce environmental regulations to ensure all projects comply with provincial, territorial, and federal laws.
  • Prepare and submit permit applications and necessary documentation for environmental projects, including site assessments, impact studies, and mitigation strategies.
  • Advise clients and project teams on regulatory requirements, risk management strategies, and best practices in environmental conservation.

The field:

  • Perform field investigations to assess soil, water, and rock conditions, identifying environmental hazards such as contamination or erosion.
  • Use global positioning systems and mapping technology to delineate study areas, collect samples, and document environmental conditions.
  • Evaluate ecosystems and habitats, analyzing the impact of human activities and natural occurrences on conservation efforts.
  • Gather and analyze soil, water, and air samples for pollutants, physical properties, and biological indicators.
  • Conduct on-site tests using portable equipment to measure pH, conductivity, and temperature.
  • To track environmental changes, install and oversee monitoring equipment like water level recorders and air quality sensors.
  • To mitigate adverse effects, participate in environmental restoration projects, such as reforestation, wetland restoration, or erosion control.
  • Monitor construction and development projects to ensure compliance with environmental protection standards and practices.

The lab

  • Use laboratory equipment such as spectrometers, chromatographs, and microscopes to analyze soil, water, and air samples, detect pollutants, and investigate geochemical properties.
  • Analyze laboratory findings to evaluate environmental quality, identify sources of pollution, and determine potential health and ecological risks.
  • Work closely with laboratory technicians and specialists to ensure the accuracy and reliability of test methods and results.
  • Refine and improve analytical techniques to enhance the detection of environmental contaminants or to investigate geological phenomena more effectively.
  • Implement quality control measures in line with industry standards and regulations to ensure the integrity and accuracy of laboratory data.
  • Manage and organize laboratory data using specialized databases and software, facilitating efficient data analysis and the preparation of reports.
  • Prepare comprehensive reports that detail laboratory procedures, findings, and recommendations and share these insights with colleagues and stakeholders for informed decision-making.

Possible work environment hazards for an Environmental Geologist could include:

  • Chemical exposure hazard.
  • Physical injury risk from rugged or uneven terrain.
  • Wildlife encounter.
  • Extreme weather conditions.
  • Machinery and equipment safety

Where to Work

Environmental geologists are employed across various sectors, encompassing government agencies, private companies, and educational institutions, such as:

  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Government environmental agencies
  • Oil and gas companies
  • Mining companies
  • Construction and land development compaines
  • Research institutions and universities
  • Non-profit environmental advocacy orginizations
  • Water treatment facilities
  • National parks and protected areas
  • Renewable energy compaines

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Boad

Education and Skills


If you are a high school student considering a career as an environmental geologist, you should have a keen interest in:

  • Environmental Conservation
  • Earth Sciences
  • Field Research
  • Sustainable Development
  • Data Analysis

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an environmental geologist, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Geology
  • Environmental Science
  • Earth Science
  • Hydrology
  • Environmental Geology

To work as a geoscientist in Canada, you must register with the professional association in the province or territory of your employment. Multiple registrations may be required if your work spans across provinces or territories. This registration allows you to legally practice in that area and carry the title Professional Geoscientist (P.Geo.).

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Geological mapping and sampling techniques
  • Geospatial analysis using geographic information systems
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Hydrology and water quality analysis
  • Soil science
  • Remote sensing.
  • Statistical data analysis and modeling
  • Environmental legislation and policy
  • Hazardous waste management
  • Project management


Personal and Professional Skills

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication skills
  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem solving.
  • Time management
  • Leadership
  • Ethical judgment
  • Resilience

Environmental employers seek professionals who combine technical knowledge with personal and professional skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Christina Turcotte

As a high school student growing up in New Brunswick, Christina Turcotte found that she had an aptitude for math and sciences-particularly biology. So, when she enrolled at the University of New Brunswick, biology was her first choice. "I had no idea that an interest in biology could lead to a career in geology," Christina says. During her second year at university, Christina was urged by a friend to join the university geological society.

Field trips to mines and geological formations across New Brunswick opened her eyes to a new set of possibilities. She switched majors and, within four years, had earned a B.Sc. in geology with a major in environmental geochemistry. Today, Christina is working for a Montreal-based environmental consulting firm. Her job keeps her in the field most of the time, for instance, examining commercial and industrial buildings for PCBs, asbestos, and improperly dumped chemicals or overseeing the removal of underground tanks. "The work I do requires well-developed investigative skills," Christina says. "People skills are also high on the list because you have to be reassuring, firm and fair in dealing with clients. When I return to the office, interpretation skills come into play. You have to combine evidence from sources such as samples, historical research, aerial photographs and interviews to form a complete picture of a particular site."

Your Impact

An environmental geologist studies how geophysical events like erosion or tectonic motion (i.e. Earthquakes) directly affect human populations and the surrounding environment. Alternatively, they may look to discover natural resource reserves and work to prevent the resources from being exploited for commercial purposes.

Work in this field involves conducting studies on sites affected by climate change and analyzing natural disasters such as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and storms.

Environmental geologists may be consulted on projects for sites for potential infrastructure like roads, dams, bridges, and tunnels, to ensure that it does not pose a risk to wildlife and ecosystems. They also analyze the effects of urban and industrial expansion and are vital to finding successful strategies for minimizing the potential negative effects.

It is important to note that specific projects carried out by environmental geologists may require you to spend extended periods outdoors.

Initially, when you hear of a geologist, you think of someone who collects rocks and studies minerals, oil, and the deeper layers of the earth. But environmental geology is one of the most important branches of science as it impacts every single person, every day.

We sometimes tend to be oblivious to how our every-day actions dictate the sustenance of the earth. As climate change becomes a prevailing topic, a clear and proper understanding of the science behind the earth and the resources we use makes it all the more important to combatting the effects of climate change before the effects become permanent.

Environmental geology is a fundamental important branch of science as it directly impacts every single person on the planet every single day. There is simply no way to avoid the environment around you.

The purpose of an environmental geologist is to create a sustainable environment and help us live with greater environmental awareness.

Occupational Classification

Individuals employed as environmental geologists may be classified in one or more of the following occupational groupings:

NOC Code: 2113- Geoscientists and Oceanographer

NOC Code: 2144- Geological Engineer

NOC Code: 2212- Geological and Mineral Technologists and Technicians

What is a NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data, describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

The NOC is developed and updated in partnership with Statistics Canada to coincide with the 5- year census cycles. It is based on in-depth occupational research and consultations conducted across Canada, to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market.

ECO Canada Logo

Site en cours de développement

Nous travaillons actuellement sur la version française du site que nous espérons lancer très bientôt!

Merci pour votre patience et compréhension pendant que nous finalisons la version améliorée du site.

Website in Development

We are working to launch the French site very soon!

Thank you for your patience while we finalize the new and improved version of our website.