Rocks, fossils, and other natural relics hold clues to ancient environments in the form of different ratios of isotopes—atomic variants of elements with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Seawater, rain water, oxygen, and ozone, for instance, all have different ratios, or fingerprints, of the oxygen isotopes 16O, 17O, and 18O. Weathering, ground water, and direct deposition of atmospheric aerosols change the ratios of the isotopes in a rock revealing a lot about the past climate.

Douglas Rumble’s research is centered on these three stable isotopes of oxygen and the four stable isotopes of sulfur 32S , 33S , 34S, and 36S. In addition to revealing what happened in Earth’s past, he uses oxygen isotopes to distinguish processes that occurred in the solar nebula from those taking place in planetary bodies after their condensation from the nebula.

The four stable sulfur   isotopes also provide insights into the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere in the form of anomalous separations recorded in sulfur-bearing minerals from rocks as old as 3.8 billion years.

To understand Earth's earliest history--its formation from Solar System material into the present-day layering of metal core and mantle, and crust—Rumble and team look to meteorites. Recently they looked at a particularly old type of meteorite called diogenites and examined then using an array of techniques, including precise analysis of certain elements for important clues to some of the Solar System's earliest chemical processing.

Diogenites represent some of the Solar System's oldest existing examples of heat-related chemical processing. The Rumble team examined nine diogenites and confirmed that these samples came from no fewer than two parent bodies and that the crystallization of their minerals occurred about 4.6 billion years ago, only 2 million years after condensation of the oldest solids in the Solar System giving researchers us a better picture of the earliest days of our Solar System.

Rumble received his B.A in geology from Columbia University and his Ph. D. from Harvard University.  He was then a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie and went on to become an assistant professor at UCLA before joining the scientific staff at Carnegie in 1973. For more see  https://www.gl.ciw.edu/bios/drumble

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The planet Earth on April 17, 2019, courtesy NOAA/NASA EPIC Team.
June 3, 2019

Washington, DC—The first minerals to form in the universe were nanocrystalline diamonds, which condensed from gases ejected when the first generation of stars exploded. Diamonds that crystallize under the extreme pressure and temperature conditions deep inside of Earth are more typically encountered by humanity. What opportunities for knowledge are lost when mineralogists categorize both the cosmic travelers and the denizens of deep Earth as being simply “diamond”?

Could a new classification system that accounts for minerals’ distinct journeys help us better understand mineralogy as a process of universal and planetary evolution?

The current system

May 16, 2019

The Office of the President has selected two new Carnegie Venture Grants. Peter Driscoll of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and Sally June Tracy of the Geophysical Laboratory were awarded a venture grant for their proposal Carbon-rich Super-Earths: Constraining Internal Structure from Dynamic Compression Experiments. Plant Biology’s Sue Rhee and Global Ecology’s Joe Berry and Jen Johnson were awarded a Venture Grant for their project Thermo-adaptation of Photosynthesis in Extremophilic Desert Plants.

Carnegie Science Venture Grants ignore conventional boundaries and bring together cross-disciplinary researchers with fresh eyes to explore different questions.

Artist’s impression of the surface of the planet Proxima b courtesy of ESO/M. Kornmesser.
May 1, 2019

Washington, DC—Which of Earth’s features were essential for the origin and sustenance of life? And how do scientists identify those features on other worlds?

A team of Carnegie investigators with array of expertise ranging from geochemistry to planetary science to astronomy published this week in Science an essay urging the research community to recognize the vital importance of a planet’s interior dynamics in creating an environment that’s hospitable for life.

With our existing capabilities, observing an exoplanet’s atmospheric composition will be the first way to search for signatures of life elsewhere. However, Carnegie’s

Images of diamonds from Sierra Leone with sulfur-containing mineral inclusions courtesy of the Gemological Institute of America
April 25, 2019

Washington, DC— The longevity of Earth’s continents in the face of destructive tectonic activity is an essential geologic backdrop for the emergence of life on our planet. This stability depends on the underlying mantle attached to the landmasses. New research by a group of geoscientists from Carnegie, the Gemological Institute of America, and the University of Alberta demonstrates that diamonds can be used to reveal how a buoyant section of mantle beneath some of the continents became thick enough to provide long-term stability.

“We’ve found a way to use traces of sulfur from ancient volcanoes that made its way into the mantle and eventually into diamonds

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Established in June of 2016 with a generous gift of $50,000 from Marilyn Fogel and Christopher Swarth, the Marilyn Fogel Endowed Fund for Internships will provide support for “very young budding scientists” who wish to “spend a summer getting their feet wet in research for the very first time.”  The income from this endowed fund will enable high school students and undergraduates to conduct mentored internships at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory and Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, DC starting in the summer of 2017.

Marilyn Fogel’s thirty-three year career at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory (1977-2013), followed

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Following Andrew Carnegie’s founding encouragement of liberal discovery-driven research, the Carnegie Institution for Science offers its scientists a new resource for pursuing bold ideas.

Carnegie Science Venture grants are internal awards of up to $100,000 that are intended to foster entirely new directions of research by teams of scientists that ignore departmental boundaries. Up to six adventurous investigations may be funded each year. The period of the award is two

Andrew Steele joins the Rosetta team as a co-investigator working on the COSAC instrument aboard the Philae lander (Fred Goesmann Max Planck Institute - PI). On 12 November 2014 the Philae system will be deployed to land on the comet and begin operations. Before this, several analyses of the comet environment are scheduled from an approximate orbit of 10 km from the comet. The COSAC instrument is a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer that will measure the abundance of volatile gases and organic carbon compounds in the coma and solid samples of the comet.

Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to understand Earth’s variable and uncertain climate. Yet in spite of carbon’s importance, scientists remain largely ignorant of the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of many of Earth’s carbon-bearing systems. The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) is a global research program to transform our understanding of carbon in Earth. At its heart, DCO is a community of scientists, from biologists to physicists, geoscientists to chemists, and many others whose work crosses these

Evolutionary geneticist Moises Exposito-Alonso joins the Department of Plant Biology as a staff associate in the summer of 2019. He investigates whether and how plants will evolve to keep pace with climate change by conducting large-scale ecological and genome sequencing experiments. He also develops computational methods to derive fundamental principles of evolution, such as how fast natural populations acquire new mutations and how past climates shaped continental-scale biodiversity patterns. His goal is to use these first principles and computational approaches to forecast evolutionary outcomes of populations under climate change to anticipate potential future

Staff Associate Kamena Kostova joined the Department of Embryology in November 2018. She studies ribosomes, the factory-like structures inside cells that produce proteins. Scientists have known about ribosome structure, function, and biogenesis for some time. But, a major unanswered question is how cells monitor the integrity of the ribosome itself. Problems with ribosomes have been associated with diseases including neurodegeneration and cancer. The Kostova lab investigates the fundamental question of how cells respond when their ribosomes break down using mass spectrometry, functional genomics methods, and CRISPR genome editing.

Kostova received a B.S. in Biology from the

Sally June Tracy applies cutting-edge experimental and analytical techniques to understand the fundamental physical behavior of materials at extreme conditions. She uses dynamic compression techniques with high-flux X-ray sources to probe the structural changes and phase transitions in materials at conditions that mimic impacts and the interiors of terrestrial and exoplanets. She is also an expert in nuclear resonant scattering and synchrotron X-ray diffraction. She uses these techniques to understand novel behavior at the electronic level.  Tracy received her Ph.D. from the California Institute of

The Ludington lab investigates complex ecological dynamics from microbial community interactions using the fruit fly  Drosophila melanogaster. The fruit fly gut carries numerous microbial species, which can be cultured in the lab. The goal is to understand the gut ecology and how it relates to host health, among other questions, by taking advantage of the fast time-scale and ease of studying the fruit fly in controlled experiments.