Science and Engineering

Carnegie Institution of Washington

Robert Hazen
Washington, DC
December 2014

Earth’s living and non-living components have co-evolved for 4 billion years through numerous positive and negative feedbacks.  Earth and life scientists have amassed vast amounts of data in diverse fields related to planetary evolution through deep time-mineralogy and petrology, paleobiology and paleontology, paleotectonics and paleomagnetism, geochemistry and geochronology, genomics and proteomics, and more.  Yet the ability to document, model, and explore these complex, intertwined changes has been hampered by a lack of data integration from these complementary disciplines.  A team based at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington proposes a new program of data-driven discovery in the Earth and life sciences.  They will develop, curate, and integrate diverse data resources to focus on our planet’s changing near-surface oxidation state and the rise of oxygen through deep time – a critical problem that exemplifies this co-evolution and underscores the opportunities and challenges of deciphering transient characteristics of Earth’s history.  Using abductive reasoning applied to their newly developed “Deep-Time Data Infrastructure” to discover patterns in the evolution of our planet’s environment, the team will create and merge the integrated data sets, statistical methods, and visualization tools that inspire and test hypotheses applicable to modeling Earth’s past and today’s changing environment.

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