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About Ask-A-Geologist

earth About Ask-A-Geologist


How does Ask-A-Geologist work?

Your questions are saved until 3:15 AM Pacific Time, daily.

Then, custom software forwards each question to a different USGS scientist.

Sometimes we get more questions than we can answer. We don't reply to the extra questions because of spam problems.

We research the answer to your question, then reply directly to you.

Our goal is to reply within three working days.

Who answers the questions?

USGS scientists: employees, retirees, and contractors, volunteer to answer questions. Most scientists work on these questions on their own time, during lunch or after work. Their job titles include geologist, hydrologist, cartographer, and technician. Their experience ranges from recent college graduates to senior scientists with more than 40 years of experience.

Questions are not assigned by specialty, so your question about earthquakes might go to a specialist in ground water. All Ask-A-Geologist scientists have a general background in the earth sciences, and an enthusiasm for answering a broad range of questions. Many scientists enjoy finding answers to questions outside their specialty. Ask-A-Geologist scientists often learn new things and make new contacts that help their regular work in multidisciplinary projects.

How many questions have we answered? (and other statistics)


A brief history of Ask-A-Geologist

October 1994

Ask-A-Geologist starts as an experiment with 35 USGS scientists in Palo Alto, California. One scientist answers all the questions received on a given day of the month. In the first month, Ask-A-Geologist receives 127 messages.

September 1995

Ask-A-Geologist shut down due to widespread layoffs at USGS.

October 1995

Ask-A-Geologist is revived and reinvented, using over 300 scientists nationwide to answer questions. Each message received is forwarded to a different scientist.

The Ask-A-Geologist project wins the U.S. Department of Interior Innovation Award.

November 1995

Ask-A-Geologist receives 209 messages.

December 1995

Ask-A-Geologist shut down this month due to US Government shutdown.

October 1996

Ask-A-Geologist receives 595 messages.

October 1997

Ask-A-Geologist receives 1121 messages.

January 1998

Due to overwhelming demand, new software limits the number of questions answered each day.

Ask-A-Geologist receives 1147 messages. About 60% get answers.

October 1998

Ask-A-Geologist software rewritten to save all the messages for a day, then forward to scientists for answers. Scientists can answer questions more efficiently.

Ask-A-Geologist receives 1505 messages. About 50% get answers.

October 1999

Ask-A-Geologist receives 1723 messages. About 51% get answers.

November 2004

Published Sound Waves article on Ten Years of Ask-A-Geologist.

April 2012

Ask-A-Geologist receives 313 messages, mostly spam. About 6% get answers.

May 2013

Ask-A-Geologist receives 78 real questions, and answers all of them! Our spam filters are working!

October 2013

Ask-A-Geologist shut down for 18 days due to US Government shutdown.

May 2014

On average over the previous year, Ask-A-Geologist received 84 real questions per month, and answered 88% of those questions. 94% of Ask-A-Geologist emails were spam.

October 2014

Published Sound Waves article on Twenty Years of Ask-A-Geologist.

More Information

For more information about Ask-A-Geologist, contact Rex Sanders, . Rex cannot answer earth science questions!


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Page Contact Information: Rex Sanders, USGS,
Page Last Modified: 19 April 2016