Geobiology recognises that life is inseparable from geological systems.
Organisms both alter and evolve in response to the environment over hundreds of millions of years such that organic processes can control geologic processes that influence resource distribution and environmental stability.
Geobiology can address critical planning and management questions of sustainable energy and resources, changing climate, resource scarcity, environmental dispersion of toxins and species diversity.
At the core of this work is understanding why the Earth is distinctive from Mars and Venus. Our planet is habitable not just because we are an optimal distance from the sun but from the complex interplay between biology and geology that balance global cycles and maintain a habitable biosphere.
Geochemical reactions, facilitated and regulated by biology, control the temperature of the Earth through subtle variations of trace gasses in the atmosphere (e.g. CO2 and methane). They also control the concentration of free oxygen that is critical for life on Earth.
At the most fundamental level, geology and biology acting together control how the Earth works, and have grown and changed together through the 4.5 billion years of Earth history. The interactions between biology and geology have caused profound variability in the Earth's biosphere through time. They have impacted life through a series of mass extinctions and environmental triggers of evolutionary change.
It is this geobiological record that provides us with direct evidence of how life responds to and triggers changes in the environment. It is also this record that provides us with the only direct insight into human induced climate changes.
These records can help to alerts us to triggers and thresholds, as well as rates of change and magnitude of effects. It is the geological record that can help answer questions such as "how fast does sea level rise?", "how will marine life change in the coming greenhouse ocean?" or "how will biota change with predicted patterns of continental drying?".
Critically, these archives provide the only records of tipping points in climate systems. That is what occurs with a sudden shift in climate.
The Environment Institute's Sprigg Geobiology Centre specialises in these areas: