EAS 1601 : How to Build a Habitable Planet
We live in an exciting time, when the search for life beyond Earth is advancing at incredible speed. With better and better spacecraft we are searching our own solar system, and with better and better telescopes we are searching our galactic neighborhood. So what are we looking for, and how will we know when we find it? This course will explore the history of the solar system and the Earth as the one currently known example of a habitable planet — one that can support living organisms. We will consider how stars, elements, and planets form, the important planetary processes that brought about the Earth as it was when life arose, the factors that shape the planet we live on today, and what lies in store for Earth's future.
EAS 6216 : Isotope Geochemistry
The ability to accurately and precisely quantify the isotopic composition of natural materials has given rise to an incredible array of techniques with applications to geology, microbiology, environmental science, paleoclimate, and chemical oceanography. This course is designed to provide an introduction to the basic principles of isotope geochemistry and the applications that isotope distributions bring to bear for biogeochemistry, geomicrobiology, and paleoceanography. We explore a range of isotope systems along a continuum of spatial and temporal scales, with the goal of better understanding the insights that stable and radiogenic isotopes can provide into microbial metabolism, environmental change, and the large-scale workings of the Earth system.
EAS 8803/4803 : Earth System Evolution
The modern Earth system comprises a series of interactions between physical boundary conditions and the metabolic scope of a complex and dynamic biosphere. However, this coupling between life and its planetary environment has been unfolding continuously on Earth for nearly 4 billion years, and many of the characteristics of the modern Earth that we take for granted (ocean-atmosphere chemistry, mode of heat flow and tectonic recycling, climate stability) have varied dramatically through time. This course is designed as a graduate seminar with the aim of introducing students to the exploration of how the Earth system has evolved over a wide range of timescales. The focus is largely biogeochemical, but the timescales involved in our analysis require that we view the Earth as an integrated system — with an eye towards the forcings and interactions that structure relationships between the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
EAS 8803/4803 : Basics of Geoengineering
Human fossil fuel use, agriculture, and land use change are significantly increasing the abundances of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, most notably carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Rapid and steep cuts to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions must represent the core of climate mitigation. However, to meet key warming targets we will also need to either remove massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or decouple Earth’s radiation budget from atmospheric carbon dioxide abundance. As a result, significant interest and debate now surround possible approaches toward geoengineering – directed intervention by the human species in Earth’s climate system in order to reduce increases in global temperature. Such techniques include directly manipulating atmospheric radiative transfer (solar radiation management, SRM) and scaling up practices that lead to net removal of carbon dioxide (or other greenhouse gases) from Earth’s atmosphere (negative emissions technologies, NETs). In addition to the technical challenges – estimating overall radiative impact, barriers to deployment at scale, life cycle emissions – human intervention into the Earth system presents a range of challenges for regional and global governance, environmental ethics, and social justice. The goal of this course is to equip students with a basic working knowledge of prominent geoengineering strategies, and to give them the opportunity to examine the costs, benefits, and social ramifications of geoengineering within an Earth system science framework.