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The Deep History of a Living Planet

We will be screening the Howard Hughes Medical Institutes 2012 Holiday Lecture on the "Deep History of a Living Planet" by Dr. Andrew Knoll.

Has Earth changed over deep time? How did Earth shape life and life shape Earth? What does Earth's climate in the distant past tell us about the future?

Modern humans have lived on Earth for only the past 200,000 years—not even a blink of an eye in the history of a planet that is about 4.6 billion years old. Scientists have discovered a rich fossil record of animal evolution going back more than 600 million years and a much richer one of microbial life starting almost 4 billion years ago. Throughout this time, the geologic record reveals that dramatic changes have occurred to Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, climate, and land forms, which match major biological transitions. In concert, studies in biology and earth science are providing incredible insights into the forces that have shaped, and will continue to shape, life on our ever-changing planet.

Andrew H. Knoll of Harvard University, Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego, and Daniel P. Schrag of Harvard University will guide us on an exciting exploration of the history of life on Earth and discuss present-day concerns about climate change.


Andrew H. Knoll

Fisher Professor of Natural History and
Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Curator of the Paleobotanical Collections in the Harvard University Herbaria

E-mail: [masked]
Office: 50 Botanical Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Members of the Knoll lab are broadly interested in the evolution of life, the evolution of Earth surface environments, and the relationships between the two. We are particularly interested in Archean and Proterozoic paleontology and biogeochemistry; however, both past and current projects include investigations of selected problems in Phanerozoic Earth history. Motivating evolutionary issues include the diversification of prokaryotic metabolisms on the Precambrian Earth, the initial radiation of eukaryotic life, and the rise of large complex algae and animals near the end of the Proterozoic Eon. Current projects include coupled paleontological/biogeochemical work on late Archean basins from southern Africa and Australia, mid-Proterozoic basins in Australia, and Neoproterozoic-Cambrian successions in northern Russia, China, and Australia. In a genuine extension of this research, we are also involved actively in Mars exploration, both as part of the 2004 MER missions and in planning for future landings. Our lab is also engaged in studies in efforts to apply physiological insights to problems of Paleozoic biological and environmental evolution, including early seed plant evolution and Permo-Triassic extinction and subsequent ecosystem recovery.


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  • Arnon W.

    Would recommend allocating discussion time - ie, keep the usual format. I can watch videos at home.

    March 25, 2013

    • Kevin S.

      I agree, Arnon. Unfortunately we had a guest speaker cancel on us and couldn't arrange for a replacement in time.

      April 3, 2013

  • Lynda


    1 · March 27, 2013

  • Brigitte

    Thank you for organising. The video lecture was very interesting.

    March 25, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry some last minute work came up for me.

    March 24, 2013

  • David S.

    Is there a fee for this?

    March 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    something has come up, sorry, I will be unable to attend.

    March 24, 2013

  • (Margarita) Bronwyn M.

    sounds interesting--might bring a guest

    March 18, 2013

18 went

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