Research

Understanding the evolution of the Earth and how it works as a system

The Department’s mission is to advance our understanding and prediction capability of processes that govern the evolution of System Earth: Earth’s structure, and the internal workings and surface processes, that determine its evolution and current dynamic state. Our scientists study the Earth (and other planets) on scales from the molecular to the planetary scale and from the microsecond to the geological time scale, from its birth about 4500 million years ago to the present-day, including the origin and evolution of life. As a part of this, we train the next generation, i.e. educate undergraduate and graduate students and guide early career scientists, not only in performing and advancing sciences, but also in disseminating and utilising Earth Sciences to address societal challenges. We strive to understand the processes that give rise to its immense riches of life and natural resources.

Earth’s challenges

As a part of this, we train the next generation, i.e. educate undergraduate and graduate students and guide early career scientists, not only in performing and advancing sciences, but also in disseminating and utilising Earth Sciences to address societal challenges. System Earth is, as a result of human and natural influences, under increasing pressure, making it ever more difficult to achieve a sustainable society and to maintain it for future generations. Climate change and geo-hazards, scarcity of raw materials and natural resources, the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, sustainable soil and water management, and sustainable food production are challenges that can only be engaged with contributions from Earth Sciences. Advancing the knowledge of our planet will help us to find hidden geo-resources and enable us to improve predictions of future change. This is required to manage (future) global environmental changes, to use our planet’s resources sustainably, and to mitigate risks posed by natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanism.

Four major aspects

Our research is rooted in the core Earth Sciences disciplines of geochemistry, geology, geophysics, (marine) biogeosciences and hydrogeology. Crossing these boundaries, our main focus is on four major aspects of the natural Earth: