We study the history, interior, and exterior of Earth and other planets.
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We are fascinated with the natural processes that shape our world and cultivate the skills it takes to study them.
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We maintain a variety of outreach and service activities in the local area.
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We have numerous efforts to promote diversity in the department.
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Roger Bryant is a Postdoctoral Scholar who studies sedimentary geochemistry.Learn More Spotlight Archive
Rachel Laker studies marine vertebrate taphonomy in siliciclastic settings.Learn More Spotlight Archive
Sunny Park stands in front of a pyramid of Teotihuacan, which has survived many earthquakes over the past two thousand years.Learn more about Sunyoung (Sunny) See all People
March 27, 2023
While sweltering temperatures and acidic clouds form an environment too hostile for life on modern-day Venus, the question of whether the planet was habitable in its early history remained. Results from a new study by graduate student Sasha Warren and Prof. Edwin Kite suggest that Venus was unlikely to have ever been a habitable planet.
To read more about their research study, click here.
February 24, 2023
The finding was made by measuring the lingering movement registered by GPS sensors on islands in the wake of a deep earthquake in the Pacific Ocean near Fiji. Published Feb. 22 in Nature, the study demonstrates a new method to measure the fluidity of the Earth’s mantle.
“Even though the mantle makes up the largest part of Earth, there’s still a lot we don’t know about it,” said Sunyoung Park, a geophysicist with the University of Chicago and the lead author on the study. “We think there’s a lot more we can learn by using these deep earthquakes as a way to probe these questions.”
By examining how the Earth deformed over time, they found evidence of a layer about 50-miles thick that is less viscous (that is, “runnier”) than the rest of the mantle, sitting at the bottom of the upper mantle layer. They think this layer may extend around the entire globe.
Here is the article posted in Nature.
February 23, 2023
The rare meteorite is about the size of a cantaloupe but weighs a hefty 17 pounds. The specimen is one of only about 100 that size or larger discovered in Antarctica, a prime meteorite-hunting location where more than 45,000 space rocks have been tracked down.
Now, the exceptional find is heading to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, where it will be studied. And Maria Valdes, a research scientist at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago who was part of the expedition team, has kept some of the material for her own analysis.
Valdes’ area of focus is cosmochemistry. That “broadly means that we use meteorites to study the origin and evolution of the solar system through chemical methods,” she told CNN. She’ll take her samples and use strong acids to dissolve them before using a process called calibrated chemistry to isolate various elements that make up the rock.
“Then I can start to think about the origin of this rock, how it evolved over time, what kind of parent body it came from, and where in the solar system that parent body formed,” Valdes said. “Those are kind of the big questions that we try to address.”
AND listen to this brief fascinating NPR interview about finding the meteorite
February 17, 2023
There are lots of ways to make a living as a clam, but probably one of the strangest is to be a “living drill bit.” Some species of clams are able to bore into solid rock or concrete—creating a burrow in a substance that is harder than their own shells.
For years, Jablonski’s lab has studied bivalves – the category that includes all clams, such as scallops, mussels, and cockles -- as a way to understand the evolution of species over time, uncovering clues about the forces that shape bodies and lifestyles over time.
The scientists also noticed something odd about the patterns of evolution. The borer lifestyle occurs throughout nearly the entire span of bivalve history—the first borers appeared nearly 450 million years ago—but no species has ever taken off afterward.
“Instead, they tend to originate and then peter out, or at least never do anything special in terms of diversity, each time,” said Jablonski.
Normally, explained Jablonski, when an organism evolves some new advantage, the number of species tends to rise dramatically, sometimes explosively. “Birds evolve flight, and they take off, so to speak,” he said. “We think this process results in much of the evolutionary diversity we see around us.”