Geobiology includes the search for the basic principles of how life has evolved on Earth, and how the Earth itself has evolved in response to life. The expression “co-evolution” is more than appropriate here: the Earth is like it is because of life, and vice versa! To be sure, life has left its "signatures" on the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the lithosphere, and these "spheres" have undoubtedly, left their own "signatures" on life as it has evolved. Perhaps such signatures are detectable today in the DNA sequences stored in every living creature…
However, unraveling the complex interactions that have lead to present-day Earth is a daunting pursuit: one that requires not only the interaction of geologists and biologists, but of chemists, geochemists, physicists, molecular geneticists, and paleontologists, to name a few.
As with many interdisciplinary fields, geobiology builds on a broad range of existing interdisciplinary and disciplinary research. Much of this research is microbial, exploring all of the ways that microorganisms influence the geology of the earth and how the earth influences the behavior of microbes. In the modern genomics era, this kind of research has expanded as the relative ease of genetic sequencing has opened up new possibilities for understanding relatedness, physiology and the interactions among organisms.
Some of the diverse topics that Geobiology addresses include:
- the early evolution of life on earth
- the role of organisms in controlling corrosion
- the biofouling of surfaces
- the bioremediation of pollutants
- the biology and geochemistry of the ocean
- the cycling of elements in current and past biospheres
- the proliferation of harmful algal blooms and coastal pathogens
- and even the search for life on other planets!