Environmental Systems

Every major event in the history of life has been accompanied by environmental change. Photosynthesizing cyanobacteria led to the Great Oxygenation Event and the formation of animal life. Greenhouse gases and toxic metals from massive supervolcanoes triggered the Great Dying with a rapid global warming of 10oC, but also paved the way for the rise of the dinosaurs and mammals. Sea level changes as the last ice sheets began to melt altered ocean currents, speeding glacial retreat and allowing humans to spread into North America. Studying past patterns of the Earth’s biosphere expands our understanding of the interconnected systems of the natural world that we experience today. The context gained from this fundamental research is vital to our appreciation of the extent and impact of modern environmental change—providing valuable information to help guide our future. MORE