When Daniel Minisini moved from Italy to Houston back in 2010 he looked around and no longer saw mountains. But while he was on his quest to discover mountains, he discovered something else: a large number of geologists in the city.
That inspired him to create a YouTube channel called “Mini Geology,” on which he interviews and documents geologists from across the world.
“I discovered a resounding density of geologists in town,” he said. “I just started chatting about mountains with them, and video-recording. I discovered that Houston is for geologists what Rome is for priests – they all come to the city at least once in their life.”
A recent episode takes place at the University of Houston, where he asks people what they would like to know about geology.
“What the rocks say about history,” one person said.
“Maybe how volcanoes change our world,” another said.
Others said they’d like to know about the earth’s layers, rocks and fossils.
“I love geology,” one respondent said.
Another episode examined the differences between geologists and physicists.
“Geology won’t go away,” said Vic Baker, a professor at the University of Arizona, in the video.
Minisini said he chooses interviewees based on the relevance of their experiences. The interviews are informal – sometimes he interviews a geologist while collecting samples, other times the geologist might be sipping a beer on his porch.
“All the geologists I had the chance to interview have been extremely generous donating their time, knowledge, experience and suggestions,” he added.
Born in Spain and raised in Italy and the United States, Minisini has a doctorate in sedimentology and stratigraphy and is now a regional geologist at Shell in Houston. He’s also a marathoner.
“Professionally, I try to understand the genesis of mud and mudstone through different methods, at different scales and integrating multiple disciplines,” he said.
A New Sub-discipline?
He said the interviews on his Mini Geology channel showcase how geologists approach problems – in their work and their life. In a way, he said, the interviews uncover the mindset of geologists – something that is not evident elsewhere, but which he believes should be a new sub-discipline. That discipline would examine scientific questions, methods of investigation, the ethics of publication, the efforts of the scientific outreach, the role the geologist plays in society and more.
He notes that the philosopher Seneca said the true voyage of discovery does not consist of searching for new landscapes, but of having a new pair of eyes.
“Following up this analogy,” he said, “I’d say that I train my eyes listening to old folks, teasing youngsters, experiencing art and reading satire. The ideas emerge from this magma, shaping them like an historian and reshaping them like a journalist.”
Mini Geology is a not-for-profit venture that Minisini works on in his free time, he noted. He said he’d like to interact more with students and he’s unsure about the impact it has as an educational tool.
However, several institutions have taken note. The Department of Geosciences at Rice University and the Bureau of Economic Geology have included a link to Mini Geology on their webpages, while the European Geosciences Union has covered the content. The Houston-based radio program KPFT hosts a monthly program about it as well.
Minisini, for one, hopes he is spreading information about geologists and what they do, showcasing their talents and skills.
“I am convinced that if the congresses around the world would have more geologists sitting on those chairs, the world would spin around in a different, better way,” he said.