A number of MEB faculty investigate questions in the field of geobiology, a term that describes the broad mix of science at the interface between the life and earth sciences.
The USC Geobiology and Astrobiology group is an interdisciplinary association of students, post-docs and faculty interested in various topics related to geobiology and astrobiology. As with many interdisciplinary fields, geobiology builds on a broad range of existing interdisciplinary and disciplinary research and draws heavily from the USC College departments of biological sciences and earth sciences.
As such, it includes elements of the atmosphere, the hydrosphere (marine, freshwater, and hypersaline), the lithosphere and the biosphere. Much of this research is microbial, exploring all of the ways that microorganisms influence the geology of the earth and how the earth influences the behavior of microbes. In the modern genomics era, this kind of research has expanded as the relative ease of genetic sequencing has opened up new possibilities for understanding relatedness, physiology and the interactions among organisms.
Scientists in this group explore the many ways that microorganisms influence the earth and that the physical environment influences the behavior of microbes. It covers topics as diverse as the early evolution of life on earth, the role of organisms in controlling corrosion, dental decay, the biofouling of surfaces, the bioremediation of pollutants, the biology and geochemistry of the ocean, the cycling of elements in current and past biospheres, the proliferation of harmful algal blooms and coastal pathogens, and even the search for life on other planets.
Our association with institutions like NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies provide unique opportunities for education and research.