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

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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Smithsonian Institution, Colin Jackson
January 24, 2018

Washington, DC— Plumes of hot rock surging upward from the Earth’s mantle at volcanic hotspots contain evidence that the Earth’s formative years may have been even more chaotic than previously thought, according to new work from a team of Carnegie and Smithsonian scientists published in Nature.

It is well understood that Earth formed from the accretion of matter surrounding the young Sun. Eventually the planet grew to such a size that denser iron metal sank inward, to form the beginnings of the Earth’s core, leaving the silicate-rich mantle floating above.

But new work from a team led by Carnegie’s Yingwei Fei and Carnegie and the Smithsonian’s Colin Jackson argues that

December 14, 2017

Many people have heard of Pangaea, the supercontinent that included all continents on Earth and began to break up about 175 million years ago. But before Pangaea, Earth’s landmasses ripped apart and smashed back together to form supercontinents repeatedly. This cycle has been going on for at least the last 3.0 billion years of Earth’s history, regulating our planet’s geography, climate, and carbon cycles.

Each supercontinent has its quirks, but one, called Rodinia, assembled from 1.3 to 0.9 billion years ago and broken up about 0.75 billion years ago, is particularly odd. A study led by Carnegie's Chao Liu and Robert Hazen (also the Deep Carbon Observatory's executive director),

November 30, 2017

Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM), Miki Nakajima, has been awarded the eighth Postdoctoral Innovation and Excellence Award (PIE). These prizes are made through nominations from the departments and are chosen by the Office of the President. The recipients are awarded a cash prize for their exceptionally creative approaches to science, strong mentoring, and contributing to the sense of campus community.

Miki is a planetary geophysicist who joined Carnegie in 2015 from the California Institute of Technology, where she received her Ph.D. She uses computational methods to study the formation of planets and their satellites to predict the dynamics

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, NASA/JPL-Caltech
September 5, 2017

Washington, DC— New work from a team of Carnegie scientists (and one Carnegie alumnus) asked whether any gas giant planets could potentially orbit TRAPPIST-1 at distances greater than that of the star’s seven known planets. If gas giant planets are found in this system’s outer edges, it could help scientists understand how our own Solar System’s gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn formed.

Earlier this year, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope thrilled the world as it revealed that TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool dwarf star in the Aquarius constellation, was the first-known system of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a single star. Three of these planets are in the so-called habitable zone—

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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 by four years at the University of California,


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 years,

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 disciplinary lines,

Guoyin Shen's research interests lie in the quest to establish and to examine models for explaining and controlling the behavior of materials under extreme conditions. His research activities include investigation of phase transformations and melting lines in molecular solids, oxides and metals; polyamorphism in liquids and amorphous materials; new states of matter and their emergent properties under extreme conditions; and the development of enabling high-pressure synchrotron techniques for advancing compression science. 

He obtained a Ph.D. in mineral physics from Uppsala University, Sweden in 1994 and a B.S. in geochemistry from Zhejiang University, China in 1982. For more

Leopoldo Infante became the director of the Las Campanas Observatory on July 31, 2017.

Since 2009, Infante has been the founder and director of the Centre for Astro-Engineering at the Chilean university. He joined PUC as an assistant professor in 1990 and has been a full professor since 2006. He was one of the creators of PUC’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and served as its director from 2000 to 2006. He also established the Chilean Astronomical Society (SOCHIAS) and served as its president from 2009 to 2010.

Infante received his B.Sc. in physics at PUC. He then acquired a MSc. and Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Victoria in Canada.

Guillermo Blanc wants to understand the processes by which galaxies form and evolve over the course of the history of the universe. He studies local galaxies in the “present day” universe as well as very distant and therefore older galaxies to observe the early epochs of galaxy evolution. Blanc conducts a series of research projects on the properties of young and distant galaxies, the large-scale structure of the universe, the nature of Dark Energy—the mysterious repulsive force, the process of star formation at galactic scales, and the measurement of chemical abundances in galaxies.

To conduct this work, he takes a multi-wavelength approach including observations in the UV,

Peter van Keken studies the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth. In particularly he looks at the causes and consequences of plate tectonics; element modeling of mantle convection,  and the dynamics of subduction zones--locations where one tectonic plate slides under another. He also studies mantle plumes; the integration of geodynamics with seismology; geochemistry and mineral physics. He uses parallel computing and scientific visualization in this work.

He received his BS and Ph D from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. Prior to joining Carnegie he was on the faculty of the University of Michigan.