“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.” Carl Sagan
Research goal: How do habitable (Earth-like) worlds form and evolve?
My work is principally concerned with the conditions of formation and evolutionary path that have made Earth habitable, and leverages the broad field of igneous petrology as applied to planetary materials.
The approach I take informs and draws on the insights gained from the chemistries, mineralogy / petrology, physical properties, and geologic histories of asteroids (chiefly protoplanets), planets (including Earth) and moons. To address long-standing challenges findings from dynamical models of the physics of Solar System evolution and impact processes, as well as quests concerning exoplanets and exomoons, inform my work. As such my fundamental research is interdisciplinary and findings are of broad interest, as are the related thematic volumes and books that I contribute as an Editor and Author.
Some of my book projects involve scholars from multiple sectors in the co-production of knowledge across interests as diverse as planetary protection policies, astrophysics, observational astronomy, geological and environmental sciences, and while centred about planetary histories and the mastery / regulation of space exploration. Core research is complemented by a range of aligned and energising activities that help to build kind and cooperative scientific communities.
Main research themes:
The first theme, studying meteorites to understand planetary growth (including accretion, impacts, and volcano-magmatic processes), has become my foremost area of passionate dedication – with a current emphasis on achondrite types. The latter two themes address magmatic processes and the deep interior properties of Earth because this information is important for comparison with data from meteorites and lunar materials, as well as for critical evaluation of the processes of melt generation on Mars. Further, the chemical signatures that I utilise are useful to understand alongside other diagnostic tracers due to their roles in the astrophysical modelling of Solar System history.
- What does the chemical memory of meteorites and their constituent minerals, tell us about the building blocks for habitable Earth? How do these materials help us to understand crust and mantle compositions as well as to model melting and decode volcanic edifices among protoplanets. Collectively, what evidence do these meteorites preserve of the history of our Solar System?
- Earth is a planet of our Solar System too, but is it and are its interior, atmospheric, and surface conditions responsible for the array of life that it supports unique in the universe? Are there other worlds teaming with even more life than our own?
- What are the characteristics and causes of certain aspects of Large Igneous Province volcanomagmatism over habitable Earth’s history; how do selected magma types compare to some forms of planetary melts?