December 23, 2017

What to Buy a Geologist for Christmas: 2017 Edition

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

My Christmas cards may be very late this year, but at least I’ve managed to fill up a dinosaur stocking with presents for my son.

My annual What to Buy a Geologist for Christmas list is very late this year… along with some of my other holiday traditions. For example, I’m generally quite diligent about sending cards, but I have not yet mailed a single Christmas card! I think that my cards will only go out in January or maybe even February. At least I have a good excuse: my son is 10 weeks old and understandably takes up most of my time these days.

Never fear, however. This year’s edition of the What to Buy a Geologist for Christmas list is special: I’ve compiled 10 last minute gifts suitable for those of you who (like me) may be a little behind on your holiday preparations. All of the gifts listed below can be sent electronically or made with one day’s preparation.

You can also browse the previous lists here:

2010 – Part I

2010 – Part II







Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! I hope to blog more regularly in 2018, so stay tuned!


Gift #1: An e-book 

Does the geologist in your family own a Kindle or tablet? Most likely they do. In that case, why not send them a geology-themed e-book? Three suggested books are given below, and you can find hundreds of more options on Amazon and other websites.

Image from Amazon

Aerial Geology by Mary Caperton Morton

Thanks to Callan Bentley for suggesting the above book. This is available as an e-book. However, if you’re willing to have your gift be a few days late, the physical copy of this would also make an excellent coffee table book.

Image from Amazon

The Story of Earth by Robert Hazen

Image from Amazon

The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt by William Nothdurft with Josh Smith.

Cost: Variable, about $10-$15 on average


Gift #2: An e-textbook 

Is the geologist in your family a student? In that case, they will no doubt appreciate the gift of an e-textbook or of a physical textbook. Textbooks are very, very expensive (they can be $100 or more!), and in order to become a fully-trained geologist you need to read quite a few textbooks. If you know that the student is going to need a particular set of books for next semester, then I recommend writing up a voucher that says something along the lines of “Good for One Geology Textbook”.

Otherwise, you can consider purchasing an e-textbook. For example, at the moment (through December 31st) Springer has a very good sale on e-textbooks with 120,000 titles (only some of these are geology books… but still!) on sale for $19.99. For example, a few titles you could consider purchasing are Stratigraphy: A Modern Synthesis, Planetary Geology, and Groundwater Geochemistry. Personally, I plan to purchase Marine Geochemistry as a Christmas gift for myself.

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Cost: Variable, about $20 to $200


Gift #3: A Subscription to EARTH Magazine

The geologist in your family is sure to enjoy a subscription to EARTH magazine. I always enjoy reading the articles!

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Cost: $20 for the digital edition or $45 for the print edition


Gift #4: Membership Fees

Geologists generally need to buy annual memberships to one or more geological organizations. Joining these organizations provides access to conferences, journals, and other services. For example, geologists in the USA are generally members of organizations such as the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union, and the Mineralogical Society of America. Here in South Africa I’ve joined the Geological Society of South Africa. Most of these organizations cost money to join, and I’m sure that the geologist in your family would appreciate it if you offered to pay for one or more of these membership fees for 2018.

Cost: Variable, generally $50 to $100


Gift #5: Software Fees

These days, much geology is actually done while sitting behind a computer screen. So, the geologist in your family probably has to use one or several different types of geological software programs. These programs can be expensive and often have annual use fees. If the geologist in your family works in industry, the software is likely paid for by their employer. However, if the geologist in your family is a student or works as a consultant, he or she likely has to pay for software. Why not offer to pay for software such as ArcGIS, Geosoft, or Strater? If you’re not sure what software to purchase, a copy of Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator is always a good choice since geologists use these programs to make figures. Or you can simply write a voucher “Good for One Geologic Software Program Up to Value of X”.

Cost: Highly variable, from about $25 to thousands of dollars. Students can often access software at reduced rates.


Gift #6: A Park Pass

There is so much wonderful geology to be seen in state and national parks. However, many of these parks have entry fees, which can sometimes be quite costly. The geologist in your family is sure to appreciate a park pass. For example, every year my husband and I generally purchase a Wild Card Pass that gives us entry into various parks here in South Africa.

Cost: Variable, $80 for an America the Beautiful Pass


Gift #7: A Cake 

Are you a baker? If so, then why not spend tomorrow making a special geology-themed cake for the geologist in your family? If you want to keep the cake simple, you can bake a plain cake and put some dinosaur figurines on top (personally, that’s about the limit of my baking skills!). However, if you’re good at baking you could consider a more complex cake, such as one with stratigraphic layers or one shaped like a volcano.

Image taken from here:

Image taken from here:

Image taken from here:

Cost: Variable, about $15 to $30 for ingredients.


Gift #8: Field Snacks 

Does the geologist in your family go into the field often? In that case, he or she is bound to enjoy a gift of field snacks, such as little bags of trail mix. You can find all sorts of trail mix recipes online, for example here. You could also consider giving energy bars or little bags of dried fruit or nuts.

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Cost: Variable – $15 to $50 for the ingredients, depending how much you want to give and how fancy you want the snacks to be.


Gift #9: A Jar of Sand 

No, seriously, a jar of sand. Geologists love sand, especially if it is an interesting color, such as red garnet sand or black basalt sand. Really, though, just about any jar of sand will do as the geologist in your family is likely to find something interesting to see when a little bit of the sand is put under a microscope. So, go down to your local beach, scoop up some sand into a jar, put a few seashells or pebbles on top to make the jar look pretty, write a little note explaining where the sand was collected, and — presto — you have the perfect gift for a geologist! If you really want to be festive you can put a Christmas bow on top of the jar.

Image from this lovely blog post:

Cost: Free — or perhaps a few dollars if you want to buy a pretty jar


Gift #10: A Charity Donation

Last but not least, why not make a donation to a scientific charity on behalf of the geologist in your family? There are many worthy organizations that could use support. Personally, I like to donate to the National Center for Science Education, which promotes climate change education and also carries out other very excellent work.

Cost: Whatever you like. Perhaps $25.