Research facilities include a sediment dynamics laboratory, high-pressure geophysics laboratory, cosmogenic trace element analysis laboratory and a morphometrics laboratory for paleontology. Additionally, we have laboratories focused on more general purposes, including environmental trace metals and soil properties analysis. Instrumentation in the Department includes an ion-coupled plasma spectrometer, an isotope-ratio mass spectrometer, a graphite furnace high-resolution atomic absorption spectrometer, a gamma spectrometer, a specific surface area analyzer, particle size analyzers, a thermogravimetric analysis system, an ion chromatograph, a gas chromatograph, X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and an X-ray diffractometer. The Department also has morphometric and image-analysis systems and a state-of-the-art computer cluster for large numerical simulations and parallel processing. TEMs and SEMs, including a JEOL high-resolution SEM, a scanning Auger multiprobe, as well as many other instruments are available at collaborating Departments and laboratories: access to virtually any facility or instrument can be arranged within the larger Penn community, or at collaborating institutions.
Dynamics and Structure of Earth Materials
Research in this area is focused on mechanistic and process-level studies designed to provide a fundamental understanding of theoretical and applied problems in the Earth sciences, particularly with respect to crustal and surficial processes. The research may cover Quaternary geology, sediment transport, hydrology, cryosphere studies, earthquake mechanics, use of geochemical proxies, regional tectonics and related fields, generally involving examination of the chemical and physical properties of Earth materials and their interaction with the environment in shaping our planet’s surface.
Ocean, Atmosphere and Climate Sciences
This research program includes studies of atmospheric particulates, their characteristics and their impact on human health; material transport between land and sea; and ocean response to anthropogenic carbon emissions. One focus is on improving our understanding of the ocean’s role in climate by model prediction and analysis of the responses of ocean physics, ecology and biogeochemistry to climate warming, and resulting feedbacks to the atmosphere.
Biogeochemistry and Global Environmental Change
This area of research is at the intersection of several disciplines, and itself relates to much of the other research conducted at Penn. Research foci include soil carbon storage and cycling, an important aspect of the global carbon cycle. General research covers elemental cycling within and between the biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere and how the biosphere shapes soil processes and Earth forms. Other topics relate to anthropogenic impacts on nutrient cycling and environmental health.
This program studies the interactions of the biological and physical worlds. The fossil record provides a deep-time window to the long-term evolutionary and ecological processes, which shaped both modern biodiversity and the Earth itself. Examining and explaining past responses to global change informs predictions for future challenges. These are grounded in universal mechanisms and processes, while taking into account lost biodiversity. The research combines cutting edge quantitative approaches with detailed examination of past and present biodiversity and the interrelationships of all life.