Grant to Study Earth Systems

The National Science Foundation awarded a team of researchers, including David Bercovici, Beinecke Professor and Chair of Geology and Geophysics, a five-year $4.97 million grant to fund a research project called “Open Earth Systems.”

The project seeks to determine how Earth’s development has been shaped by interactions between the major components of Earth’s geological system. By taking advantage of the newest models in tectonic evolution, surface topography, climate, and magma systems among other systems, the team will analyze major events in Earth’s history by studying the mass and energy exchange between different interfaces of the mantle, crust, core, ocean and atmosphere.

Overview of the dynamics in Earth’s interior, including mantle dynamics, volcanism and convection in the liquid part of the core.

The researchers, for example, propose to reconstruct mantle convection history and examine how such convection has played a role in the cycling of oxygen, carbon, iron, and other elements, cycles that have influenced patterns in long-term climate change. The team also plans to investigate other natural events, such as the acquisition of surface water, the oxygenation of the atmosphere, continental formation and mass extinctions.

As part of the project, there will also be a high school internship program called Geoscience Ingenuity. Students, through this program, will be able to work with the research team and have mentoring and technical training opportunities.

There will also be resources for graduate students and high school teachers, including a summer program for analyzing the relationship between extreme natural events and the Earth’s geological system, increasing our understanding of geology’s far-reaching implications for society, human history, and world affairs.