Are you interested in the environment? Do you care about our water supply; is there enough for everyone, how clean is it etc.? Would you like to be working outside for some of your working day? Have you thought about becoming a geo-hydrologist? This is another job that is critically needed in South Africa and, with our continued water issues, is definitely a cutting-edge career.

What is a Geo-hydrologist?
A geo-hydrologist is a scientist who is involved in the study of groundwater. Water is really important to everything we do from drinking, washing and food production. Understanding the way water flows under the ground is also important when construction takes place, be it roads or houses. Geo-hydrologists (also known as hydrogeologist or an environmental geologists) assess where the ground water is flowing and how it may affect the construction that takes place above it. It also assesses how much groundwater can be used to supplement our current water supplies that are often inadequate for the country’s needs.

As you can see, the word Geo-hydrologist is formed from two words: geologist and hydrologist. This position combines the skills of both to specifically look at the geology and hydrology of an area.

A Geologist:
Someone who is a geologist studies the Earth and all the elements that make up the Earth (and other planets). This includes all the rocks, water and gases that make up the earth and the various processes that affect them. This includes earthquakes, landslides, floods etc. that will impact the Earth and all the life that lives on it.

A Hydrologist:
This is someone who looks most closely at water; both surface and groundwater. They look at elements such as rainfall patterns to see how this affects both rivers and groundwater (rivers under the surface of the earth) and the way water is evaporated or flows into the sea.

The geo-hydrologist looks at the elements such as rock that make up the Earth and the way that water flows through the environment. This informs them about the impact water will have on the surrounding geology. The also look specifically at groundwater and its supply as a way of supplementing surface water.

What do you need to study in order to become a geo-hydrologist?
To study as an undergraduate in this field you need to have done Maths and Physics for Grade 12 and scored over 60% for these subjects as well as two languages.

In order to specialise as a geo-hydrologist, you need a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree. You can also have a relevant degree from other areas of science such as Geology, Physics, Mathematics etc. or a relevant Postgraduate Diploma from an approved tertiary institution. This, then, enables you to do a master’s degree (MSc) in Geo-hydrology.

It is also possible to work in this field if you have a related degree and have sufficient experience in the field.

In order to be recognised in this field, you need to register with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions.

What does a geo-hydrologist do on any particular day?
Days can be very varied for a geo-hydrologist. You are often out in the field where you will take water samples and perform environmental assessments at a particular site. You may also be involved in the process of drilling for groundwater. You will also do risk assessments and interpret data and liaise with clients about this information. You may well have travel as well as work in a lab assessing your data.

What kind of person do you need to be in order to be a Geo-hydrologist?
– Be passionate and curious about the environment and enjoy travelling and nature
– Be prepared to work in remote locations
– Be comfortable working both indoors and outdoors
– Be a good team player
– Be professional and responsible at all times
– Have integrity and ethical values
– Be comfortable without a daily routine as your day will take unexpected turns
– Be observant and like problem-solving

FunDza’s Ndibulele Sotondoshe interviewed Geo-hydrologist Zandri Rademan
about her work.

What does it take to be a Geo-hydrologist?
Firstly and most importantly it is imperative that you be interested in working in the outdoors under any weather conditions. Geology is certainly not for the faint of heart and I always say the reason I chose geology as a profession is because I wanted to work in the field as much as possible. If you enjoy your work environment your job already becomes x10 easier.

You need to be physically fit for the job you want to do. Many geologists spend hours hiking to outcrops, lifting heavy core trays and working with cumbersome equipment. You also need to be prepared to work away from family for long periods, and live in rough conditions in remote locations.

What is the most challenging part about being a geologist?
Being away from home and family for long periods in primitive living conditions in the field. And also the physically demanding nature of the work

What is it that you enjoy the most about your job?
No one day is the same, every day and every new project holds a new challenge in a new geological setting. The camaraderie amongst fellow geologists is also always fantastic, everyone tends to be relatively like-minded individuals with an innate love for rocks.

Any advice for someone wanting to become a geologist?
It might be a good idea to go to a few open days and visit the Earth Science/Geological Departments at universities. Also think to do a learnership/job-shadowing week or month over the holidays at a geological consultancy company or mine to gain a better idea and see first-hand what the job entails. Also, don’t be afraid to ask any geologists you may know for advice—we tend to love talking about our love for rocks!

Simply put: this is the ideal work for individuals who love rocks, seek adventure, love the outdoors/environment and want to know more about the Earth and its processes.

Where can you study to become a Geo-hydrologist?
University of Pretoria
University of the Witwatersrand
University of the Free State
Central University of Technology Free State
Rhodes University (post-graduate)
North-West University
University of Venda

You can also study various related undergraduate degrees at a large variety of universities in South Africa.

As water become more scarce in our country, the need for professionals involved in this field become more and more urgent. Although it takes a number of years to become a geo-hydrologist, you will be rewarded with making a real change to the lives of people and animals that live on our planet. You will also have a career that gives you a varied routine with opportunities to work out in the field at times. Not only will you be able to find a job reasonably easily, you will also be able to earn a really good salary. Definitely a career path to consider!

You can read more about being a Geo-hydrologist here.