Planet Earth and the biosphere have evolved together for more than 3.5 billion years. Geobiology is the science that studies this co-evolution of life and environment in Earth's distant past and in present ecosystems.
Local geobiological processes at present determine e.g. Whether estuaries and water reservoirs remain stable or whether they will drift into oxygen starvation. On a global scale, the interplay between life and the environment drives our planet's climate e.g. through generation and removal of greenhouse gases.
A changing atmosphere and climate, in turn, may lead to the loss of biodiversity and a shift in ecosystems. Humans cause major perturbations in these subtle ecological balances, which impacts the environment in significant negative ways. If we want to learn how the Earth-Life system reacts to human perturbation we have to understand how geobiological networks responded to disturbances in the past; we have to learn how to read Earth's laboratory notebook.
A chronicle of Earth's past ecosystems and their geochemical cycles is recorded in fresh sediments and sedimentary rocks millions to billions of years old. At RSES, we read these subtle microbial and environmental signatures using molecular fossils (biomarkers), elemental abundances and isotopic ratios in sedimentary rocks, corals and shells of planktonic organisms.