Earth Surface, Environment and Energy

Earth System Science at Rice involves geochemical, biogeochemical and physical interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, biosphere, Earth’s surface and its deep interior. Our research focuses on mass exchanges between these different reservoirs over time scales, ranging from seasonal to millennial to billion year timescales. We use a variety of tools, including sedimentology, geochemistry, and biogeochemistry, to better understand the role of these interactions on climate change, biological evolution, environmental change and the compositional evolution of the atmosphere, oceans and crust. Our research in Earth Systems Science is also being applied in our department to better understanding the origin, economics and health of various natural resources, such as groundwater, hydrocarbons, and mineral resources.

Earth and Planetary Interiors

A major research theme at Rice focuses on understanding the composition, structure, dynamics and evolution of Earth’s interior from the core to the crust using a diversity of tools including seismology, petrology, geochemistry, fluid dynamics, and structural geology. Key areas of research include earthquake physics, mantle convection, lithosphere formation and evolution, geochemical differentiation of the mantle and crust, volcanism, plate kinematics, mountain building, basin formation, continent formation/evolution, deep volatile cycling, and mineral resources.  We also apply these tools to the study of the compositional and dynamic evolution of planetary bodies, from the moon to Mars to exo-planets.  Our department also excels in connecting deep Earth processes with the ocean and atmosphere, with implications for the long term evolution of climate and life.