Growing appreciation of and concern for the effects of human activities on Earth has increased the relevance of study of the past and the present of Earth’s critical zone. The critical zone is the portion of Earth that hosts life and is an inclusive term that groups together the porous outer layers of the earth as well as the hydrosphere and the atmosphere. Traditional disciplines these studies would fall within are (bio) geochemistry, oceanography, paleontology, sedimentology, and stratigraphy.
Recent and ongoing projects include: the rates of carbon cycling in microbial communities living in aqueous ecosystems; the nature and dynamics of past climates; the fossil records of biotic interactions and their relationships with global change and macroevolution; conservation paleobiology; the ecological revolution during the Ediacaran–Cambrian transition; the geochemistry of fossil preservation; and various other paleobiological and geobiological research themes.
See the Mizzou Paleobiology webpage for additional information on the more traditionally paleontological studies. Research tools used in pursuit of these projects include field work and collections, laboratory description and measurement of specimens, measurement of elemental and isotopic abundances, and advanced electron and x-ray microbeam imaging techniques.