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The Moment a Geologist Was Born
Who Are NASA's Earth Explorers?

The elementary school student wondering how El Niño will affect tomorrow's weather. The scientist studying connections between ozone and climate change. And the farmer using satellite pictures to keep track of crops. All of these people are Earth Explorers -- they are all curious about the Earth system. This series will introduce you to NASA Earth Explorers, young and old, with many backgrounds and interests.

Do you know what you want to be when you grow up? Amanda Hintz thought she wanted to be an artist. But a trip to Iceland changed her mind. Now she's a geologist. She studies the land, rocks and volcanoes.

Amanda Hintz crouches near a glowing lava flow

During an "Interpretation of Active Volcanoes" class, Amanda Hintz visited an active lava flow on Kilauea, Hawaii. Image Credit: NASA

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Iceland is a country on a large island in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Amanda went on a field trip there about 10 years ago. Science teachers from her college led the trip. Amanda's grandparents gave her money to go on the trip.

Amanda was amazed by what she saw in Iceland. She says it is a beautiful place with tall mountains and deep valleys. She remembers standing on a mountain range called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the longest mountain range in the world. Most of it is underwater in the Atlantic Ocean. Iceland is one of the few places where it rises above the sea.

"Iceland changed my life forever," Amanda said. "I was so struck by what I was seeing. This was what I had been reading about in books. This was real geology."

Amanda had to take a lot of math to become a geologist. Math was a subject she tried to stay away from in high school.

"But everything changed once I decided I was going to be a geologist," Amanda said. "I knew that if I wanted a degree in geology, I was going to have to ... deal with a lot of math."

Now she says kids shouldn't be afraid of math like she was. She says that subjects get easier once you learn how they are used in real life.

Satellite image of the ash plume from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano

In this satellite image taken on May 10, 2010, the ash plume from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano stretches in a southeasterly direction over the northern Atlantic Ocean. Image Credit: NASA

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What's Amanda's favorite part of geology? She really likes to study volcanoes.

Did you hear about the Icelandic volcano that began erupting in April? Clouds of ash from the volcano made it dangerous for airplanes to fly. People all over the world had to change their travel plans. The airlines lost a lot of money because of the volcano.

Amanda says the Icelandic volcano shows how important her job is. She looks for clues that could help tell how long an eruption might last. A lot of people wondered exactly that when the Icelandic volcano started to erupt.

"There is a demand for the type of work I'm doing," Amanda said.

Related Resources:
Meet the Next Earth Explorers

Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies