Ask a Geologist

Anthony Love with rock

Geoscientists do more than just look at rocks and minerals. We are happy to answer questions that you may have about the natural environment around you - rocks, minerals, fossils, landslides, earthquakes, water quality, fracking, climate... we have expertise in all fields of earth science.

For more specific information, check out our research programs in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences to learn more about what our faculty do.

Questions about local geology

We have a number of useful pages about local geology, local earthquakes, local water resources, fracking in North Carolina, landslides in western NC, among others.

Help with mineral/rock identification

A first pass at determining what mineral you have can be done with our mineral ID tables. Most minerals collected in western NC will be found in these tables. If you think that your mineral cannot be described by these options, send an email with all the details of your inquiry, including high-resolution, clear images, to Anthony Love at askageologist@appstate.edu for assistance. Anthony may be able to answer your question directly, or he may forward it to a faculy member the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department who can answer it.

If you think you have a meteorite...

  • See how heavy it is.  Does it feel unusually heavy for its size, and does a magnet stick to it?  Or is relatively light or full of holes and nonmagnetic?  If it's relatively light or normal weight compared to other rocks, and contains holes, and is not magnetic, it's likely a piece of  volcanic rock used as ballast/fill or slag from an old industrial furnace. Volcanic rocks and furnace slag sometimes look like a meteorite but they are lighter and generally not magnetic. 
  • It used to be very common to use furnace slag in place of rip-rap or gravel, and furnace slag is commonly found along old railroad tracks where steam trains used to travel. 
  • Volcanic rocks and other large, unusual-looking rocks can be found on NC beaches near shipping ports, where they were used as ship ballast, and can later wash ashore with storm surges.

Before you contact Anthony, this site is a fantastic resource for determining if you have a meteorite:  METEORITE OR METEORWRONG? Self-Test Check-List

Help with fossil identification

For fossil identification, send an email with all the details of your inquiry, including high resolution images, to Anthony Love at askageologist@appstate.edu for assistance. Anthony will forward it to a faculy member who can answer it.

Visit us!

You can also visit the F. Kenneth & Marjorie J. McKinney Geology Teaching Museum at Appalachian State University to learn more about geology. It's free and open to the public.