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, and from its birth about 4500 million years ago to the present-day, including the origin and evolution of life. We strive to understand the processes that give rise to its immense riches of life and natural resources.

Earth’s 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 geohazards, 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 georesources 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.

Research areas

Our research is based on the core Earth Sciences disciplines of geochemistry, geology, geophysics, (marine) biogeosciences and hydrogeology. These disciplines collaborate in our four main research areas: