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. The approach I take informs and draws on the insights gained from the chemistries, mineralogy / petrology, physical properties, and geologic histories of asteroids, 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 these 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.
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. Such information provides insight into the origins and behaviours of refractory and volatile element inventories during giant impacts such as that which formed the Moon. These studies also reveal the chemical fingerprint of core formation and late-accretion to the Earth-Moon system; chemical signatures that are useful to understand alongside other diagnostic tracers due to their roles in the astrophysical modelling of Solar System history. More broadly, the type of work I conduct and collaborate on is useful to those with interests in future space mining economies and sustainable off-Earth habitation, as well as tracing the mechanisms and timing of crustal formation, the rise of plate tectonic processes, and the regulation of (bio)geochemical cycles over Earth history. The roles of the latter are of interest in determining the reasons for habitability and the rise of intelligent life on rocky worlds like our own.
- 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 of melting among protoplanets, and what evidence do they 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 causes and consequences of Large Igneous Province volcanomagmatism over habitable Earth’s history?
“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.” Carl Sagan