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PALEOBIOLOGY

The Department of Geosciences offers a diverse program in paleobiology.

Faculty and students address a wide range of questions that center on the evolution and extinction of life on Earth and the interactions of organisms with their environments over geologic time.

Faculty expertise includes invertebrate paleontology (Patzkowsky), marine micropaleontology (Bralower), palynology (Ivory), and paleobotany (Wilf).

Areas of particular strength include biotic response to extinction and climate change, stratigraphic paleobiology, evolutionary paleoecology, Quaternary paleoecology, quantitative paleobiology, macroevolution, biogeography, biological indicators of paleoclimates, and systematics. We use state-of-the-art equipment in the Department as well as in the Materials Characterization Laboratory at Penn State.

Faculty and students conduct field programs worldwide, especially in the USA, South America, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. They also participate in Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and International Continental Scientific Drilling Program expeditions. Faculty and students collaborate with colleagues in diverse fields, both inside and outside the department. Major disciplinary strengths within the department that support paleobiology research include astrobiology, biogeochemistry, sedimentary systems, and paleoclimate.


MICROBIAL GEOBIOLOGY AND BIOGEOCHEMISTRY

The Department of Geosciences has excellence in isotopic biogochemistry, organic geochemistry, and geomicrobiology. Current biogeochemsitry research (Freeman) includes isotopic signatures of photosynthesis, past climate, and microbial processes. Our geomicrobiology laboratories (House and Macalady) have on-going research that includes marine microbiology, microbial life in subsurface environments, and microbial life in extreme environments.

The Penn State Astrobiology Research Center was created in 1998 as part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). Those involved with the center work on understanding the connections between life and the evolution of our planet and the factors which influence the habitability of a planet over time, as well as biosignatures at all scales, from individual cells to the composition of planetary atmospheres.