Opportunities for field study and research in the earth sciences in Southern California and other localities around the world are abundant. Our focus is on a field and laboratory-based approach to understanding tectonic, petrologic, climatic, and surface processes. Problems in the evolution of the earth take us across the globe to the key locations where rich records are preserved. Field and laboratory work is an important part of both the educational and research programs. (View geology program website.
Geobiologists study the impact of life on the chemical and physical evolution of this planet, and the imprint of global changes in the surface environment of the earth on the planet’s genetic and molecular systems. Tools include the molecular microbial ecology of organisms involved in elemental cycles, isotopic and molecular methods that relate microorganisms to biogeochemical processes and reactions of organic materials in both modern and ancient environments. (View geobiology program website.
- Molecular microbial ecology
- Isotope biogeochemistry
- Lipid biomarkers
A wide variety of studies focus on the distribution of chemical elements in the earth and the solar system in order to develop methods to date earth and solar system processes, to discover and observe the chemical composition of terrestrial and extraterrestrial materials, and to study chemical reactions in the interior of the earth as well as its surface and in the solar system outside of the earth. (View geochemistry program website.
- Atmospheric chemistry
- Chemical petrology
- Environmental geochemistry
- Stable isotope geochemistry
Large-scale computational facilities and easily accessible digital data are allowing traditional geophysical disciplines to be integrated to produce new insights into the dynamic processes of the Earth. Seismic activity in Southern California and the recent great earthquakes are stimulating studies into the physics of the earthquake process and their role in tectonics.
Breadth in our understanding of the earth and its place in the cosmos is being gained by the comparative study of the other planets—their atmospheres, surfaces, and internal structures. The earliest solar and presolar history is being studied by seeking the connection between residual planetary materials and the physical processes within the solar nebula and the precursor interstellar medium. (View planetary science program website.
- Planetary surfaces
- Planetary astronomy
- Planetary atmospheres
- Mars sedimentology
Environmental Science and Engineering
Research addresses air and water quality, past and potential future climate changes, and the dynamics of biogeochemical cycles and ecosystems. The methods employed in research projects include laboratory studies of fundamental chemical and biological processes; field studies of soil microbiology and of atmospheric chemistry; and computational modeling of chemical and physical processes on molecular to global scales. (View environmental science and engineering program website.