The Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at Yale University pioneered Earth system science and continues exploring the complex interplay between the biosphere, hydrosphere, land surface, atmosphere, and climate. Interests in the department are broad and far-reaching, encompassing a wide range of temporal and spatial scales from the Precambrian to the Present, surface to subsurface, astrobiology to microbiology.
Our interdisciplinary approach applies a range of paleontological, chemical, biological, and numerical techniques. Stable isotope compositions of specific organic molecules (biomarkers), biodiversity of microfossils, and isotope and elemental chemistries of biogenic and abiotic phases are used to study the physical and chemical character of ancient and modern oceans, atmospheres, and terrestrial environments. Oxygen isotope proxies from environmental and biogenic phosphates are being developed to study paleotempertures, microbial phosphorous metabolism, and phosphorous cycling in modern marine and terrestrial systems, as well as in the Precambrian oceans. We develop and apply the use of clumped isotopes in biogenic and abiotic carbonate minerals as a new paleotemperature proxy, and in CO2 as a new atmospheric tracer in the modern carbon cycle. Radiogenic isotopes and metal stable isotopes are used to help resolve elemental mass balances and provide histories of continental weathering and the evolution of orogens. These data and numerical Earth system models are used to determine the composition of ancient atmospheres, ocean chemistry and temperatures, with a focus on the global carbon cycle,the history of atmospheric oxygen, and paleoclimates. As part of the continued expansion of the areas encompassed by geology, the integration of the data and techniques from biomineralization and medical geology offer direct applications to today’s important environmental questions.
We have several laboratories, including the lab for Sedimentary Geochemistry and Geomicrobiology, the Earth System Center for Stable Isotope Studies, the Yale Metal Geochemistry Center and ICP-MS facility.