Skill Building: Physical Science Concepts

Properties of Fluids in Reservoirs

Petroleum geologists play a vital role in locating energy resources. They use a variety of methods to collect the data they need to find reservoirs of oil and natural gas. When they find these reservoirs, petroleum geologists need to calculate their volume. They also need to estimate how much they can recover (remove) from the reservoir. This helps them to determine the possible value of the discovery. By using a model, this investigation will help you to understand the physical relationships between natural gas, oil, and water in a reservoir and how these relationships can affect recovery.

Ring of Fire

In this activity, you’ll identify plate boundaries as well as continents, countries, and bodies of water to become familiar with an area known as the “Ring of Fire.”

Rock Abrasion

Rocks break down into smaller pieces through weathering. Rocks and sediment grinding against each other wear away surfaces. This type of weathering is called abrasion, and it happens as wind and water rush over rocks. The rocks become smoother as rough and jagged edges break off. In this activity, you will model how abrasion works.

Rock Around the World

Scientists need your help. Those studying Mars are asking students from around the world to help them understand "the red planet." Send in a rock collected by you or your classroom from your region of the world, and NASA scientists will use a special tool like the one on the Mars Rover to tell you what it's made of. Then everyone can compare their rocks to the ones found on Mars.

Rock Pop

How can a cave form from solid rock? Most caves are found in limestone, a rock made of materials of calcium carbonate.  This rock is unusual because the solid minerals it is made of easily dissolve in weak acids.  The most common weak acid in the environment is actually water!

Sea and Ice Salinity

What is sea ice? It is simply frozen ocean water. Why is sea ice important? While it occurs mainly in polar regions, sea ice influences our global climate. Changing amounts of sea ice can affect ocean circulations, weather patterns, and temperatures around the world. Sea ice insulates the relatively warm ocean water from the cold polar atmosphere, except where cracks in the ice allow for the exchange of heat and moisture. The exchange of salt between sea ice and the ocean alters the density of ocean waters, thus influencing ocean circulation. Many animals, such as polar bears, seals, and walruses, depend on sea ice for their habitat. These species hunt, feed, and breed on the ice. Satellites provide the best way to observe sea ice, the factors that affect sea ice, and the ways sea ice affects global climate. Scheduled to launch in 2010, NASA’s Aquarius mission will measure global sea surface salinity with unprecedented resolution. Even small variations in sea surface salinity — the amount of salt present near the ocean’s surface — can have dramatic effects on sea ice, the water cycle, and ocean circulation.

Seismic Calendar

This activity allows you to investigate how often earthquakes of various magnitudes happen within a geographic region of your choice. You will use the online resources of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) to do the investigation. These resources are available at

Seismic Mapping

Scientists use seismic technology to map patterns of rock formations below the surface of the Earth. Different types of rocks affect sound waves. Geologists use these sound waves to locate rocks that may contain oil and/or natural gas. You can explore this principle with a tuning fork and various rocks. Gently strike a fork against the rocks. Note variations in sounds produced by different rocks. How could scientists use this information to help map the rock layers underground? In the following activity, you will explore one way scientists find oil beneath the Earth’s surface.

Sinkholes in a Cup

In this activity, learn how sinkhole formations in rocks form and the danger they pose to communities.

Soil Color and Redox Chemistry

Are soils like M&Ms™? Yes! Find out more in this awesome activity provided by the Soil Science Society of America.


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