Mineral Evolution and Ecology, and the Co-evolution of Life and Rocks

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Earth’s geological and biological evolution are intertwined in remarkable ways that are coming into sharper focus thanks to studies of the diversity and distribution of minerals. Robert Hazen will explore the emerging field of ‘mineral evolution’ and reveal how Earth, which is unique among known worlds in its biosphere, is unique in its geosphere as well.

In this lecture, Robert Hazen will examine how Earth’s near-surface environment has evolved as a consequence of selective physical, chemical and biological processes — an evolution that is preserved in the mineralogical record. Recent studies of mineral diversification through time reveal correlations with major geochemical, tectonic and biological events, including large changes in ocean chemistry, the supercontinent cycle, the origins of life, the increase in atmospheric oxygen and the rise of the terrestrial biosphere. Growing data resources also point to new opportunities for applying statistical methods and visualization strategies for deep-time — or geologic time — data. Among our most provocative findings: Earth is mineralogically unique in the cosmos.

About the Speaker

Robert Hazen received degrees in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in earth science from Harvard University. A senior staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory, Hazen is also executive director of the Deep Carbon Observatory and author of numerous articles and books, including “The Story of Earth”. Hazen’s recent research focuses on possible roles of minerals in the origin of life, mineral evolution and the coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

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