Earth & Environment

The "third rock from the Sun"—Earth. With an orbit neither too close nor too far from the Sun, it occupies a unique position in the Solar System. It's the only planet known to man with the right conditions for the origin and evolution of life. During Earth's 4.5 billion-year history, a combination of processes has transformed it into a watery blue, living planet. The Earth's ecosystems involve complex interactions between the biological (living) and physical (non-living) worlds. Scientific research helps us comprehend our effects on the environment and how the environment in turn responds to impacts of our activities.

A human climate

This video looks at the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP), a project aiming to provide a detailed, continuous and high resolution environmental context for human evolution in the areas where our early ancestors are known to have lived.

Fire and flood prediction

After working for more than a decade to tackle the challenges, NCAR and its research partners have developed the capability to build two new prediction systems--one for wildfires and one for floods.

A new frontier: Mars

After spending years searching for ancient, buried ice elsewhere on planet earth, geologists turn their eyes to Mars, applying their Antarctic field techniques to search for ice buried beneath the Martian surface.

Back at the lab

After a successful field season in Antarctica, the real work begins back at the lab, where geologists pore over reams of data, trying to piece together the history of the ancient buried glaciers of the Transantarctic Mountains. The ice cores they bring back might hold clues to the Earth's past climate, and help scientists predict the future of the polar ice caps and sea-level rise.

Rescuing the gentle giants

Giant clams are ecologically important because they clean seawater, and their huge shells are home to other marine creatures.

Getting to work

A team of geologists is searching for ancient, buried ice deep in the heart of Antarctica. They must hike for several miles a day in sub-zero temperatures to find the perfect spot to drill for ice cores.

Earthquake modeling

Learn how future earthquakes may occur around the San Andreas Fault through special clay modeling techniques used at the University of Massachusetts Amherst by geosciences professor Michele Cooke Andresen.

Discovery made below Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys

Using a novel, helicopter-borne sensor to penetrate the surface of large swathes of terrain, a team of researchers supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has gathered compelling evidence that beneath Antarctica's ice-free McMurdo Dry Valleys lies a salty aquifer that may support previously unknown microbial ecosystems and retain evidence of ancient climate change.

Life in the dry valleys

Boston University geologist David Marchant has led his team to the McMurdo Dry Valleys, part of only 2 percent of Antarctica that is not covered in ice. Without snow or ice, the landscape here resembles Death Valley or the Grand Canyon, and probably has not changed in the past 14 million years.

What dead birds tell us about ecosystems

Ever wondered why you should spend a glorious day in the summer or a cold, windy day in the winter collecting beach-cast seabird carcasses for a citizen science group? Julia K. Parrish, the executive director of COASST, a citizen science group that organizes volunteers to monitor beach-cast seabird carcasses, explains why it would all be worthwhile.

The expedition begins

Boston University geologist David Marchant leads the Antarctica Research Group on the long journey to the Transantarctic Mountains, a three week trek that involves military aircraft, polar survival gear and helicopters.