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Posts Tagged ‘CO2’

 On Thursday I attended the plenary talk that was given by Prof. Susan Stipp: ‘Cleaner water, more oil and taking out the garbage‘. I loved it. She started from a planetary point of view, showing how we have contaminated our home, the Earth, since the beginning of time. The rest of the talk was focused in the science that her group is carrying out to be able to solve different environmental problems and other society’s challenges. The examples she gave (ensuring cleaner water, storing waste safely, discovering the mysteries of biomineralization, getting more oil from reservoirs and immobilizing CO2) were based on the research work she is carrying out in the the Nano Science Center. They know how to deal with a scientific problem; they use really useful techniques and are an interdisciplinary group from many countries and different scientific backgrounds. That is the best approach -in my opinion- to succeed.
 
 At this point I would like to say that I have met some of the people from her group and also had the opportunity to work some time with one of her PhD students. I have also visited her group in Copenhagen and I found a really good and constructive working atmosphere; I was really feeling like ‘at home’ after half an hour in there. By the way, Susan is offering several positions in this website.

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Today’s lecture on the Ocean Anoxic Events (OAE’s) and the geochemistry of extinction begged the question: who controls the Earth?  Are the combined anoxic events and associated C13 events imply that geology – for example, magmatism – is a driver of primary production, or are the events evidence of the evolution of key characteristics in phytoplankton and other organisms?

This is an important question for my work on the Proterozoic, especially the Neoproterozoic.  During the Paleoproterozoic and Neoproterozoic, large d13C isotope excursions are seen in both the organic carbon and carbonate records.  But do these reflect novel characteristics of organisms – for example, increased sinking of organic matter in the form of feces, or the rise of oxygenic phototrophs – or are the organisms being driven by forces outside their control?

Generally, I support the idea that the biology of Earth is at the mercy of Earth’s geology – that major events in the evolution of life and the chemistry of the oceans was driven not by new characteristics in the constituent organims, but by things such as magmatism and climate.  However, this is obviously a heuristic argument – climate, for example, is driven not only by the release of CO2 and methane from hydrothermal vents, but also by the amount of CO2 sequestered by organisms dying, sinking and being buried in the ocean.

So I’m leaving this question open to others: who is the real strongman of Earth?  Biology or geology?

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