Evolution of Life and Environment


Evolutionof life and environment

In the longgeological history,evolution of life and environmental changes are two major factorsthat regulate the biosphere, each with its own internal rules,constantly interacting and influencing each other, forming a complete"deep-time history of life". To decipher the history oflife, it is necessary to use multi-disciplinary methods, includingbiology, geology (paleontology and stratigraphy), geochemistry,computer science, and statistics. This involves establishing ahigh-resolution geological time scale, identifying the patterns andkey periods of biological evolution, tracing significantenvironmental events, and simulating the interactions betweenorganisms and the environment to uncover the co-evolutionarymechanisms between them. Evolution of life and the environment are"paleontology and stratigraphy" of the new era,representing the direction of interdisciplinary expansion andcross-fertilization between life sciences, earth sciences, computerscience, and other disciplines.

 TheEvolution of life and Environment faculty at Nanjing University isstrong, currently consisting of 8 full-time professors (including 1academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2 recipients of theNational Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, and 1recipient of the Science Fund for Outstanding Young Scholars), 3associate professors (including 1 recipient of the Science Fund forOversea Outstanding Young Scholars), 1 senior engineer, and 8part-time research professors. The main research areas include: 1)classical paleontology and stratigraphy investigation; 2)macroevolutionary patterns and key events; 3) taphonomy, includingLagerstätte and fossil biomacromolecules investigations; 4) trackingand reconstruction of paleoenvironments and paleoclimates; 5)high-precision quantitative research on big data of fossils andbiological evolution events; 6) comprehensive computer simulation ofthe co-evolution of life and environment; and 7) temporal and spatialconstraints and reconstruction of fossil energy and sedimentaryminerals.

Thefollowing research areas are the focus of our work:

1)Conducting systematic paleontologystudies on various fossils during earthhistory. Conductingpaleobiologicalresearch, usingclassical and emerging high-tech observation and analysis methods ondifferent groups offossils toclarify and restore their morphological characteristics,phylogeneticalrelationships, chemical composition of skeletons.

2)Restoring and establishing a high-precision geological timeframe.Based on the evolutionarysequenceof fossils, we integrate various analyticalmethods ofsedimentarygeochemistry,geochronology,and astronomical cyclesto conduct research onGlobal Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP)and high-precisionintercontinental stratigraphicalcorrelations.

Revealingthe macroevolution patterns of organisms during geological history,focusing on the major turning points in life evolution, exploring theprocesses and reasons for the origin, radiation, extinction, andrecovery of life through comprehensive and interdisciplinaryresearch, and reconstructing the formation and transformationprocesses of marine and terrestrial ecosystems during the majorturning points in geological history.

Toconduct taphonomyresearch on the Lagerstatte fossils.Identify the overlap information and bias caused by burial processes,and search for true biological information in fossils, such asorganic macromolecules like nucleic acids, proteins, andpolysaccharides. Weintegrate morphology,developmental biology, molecular biology, and paleontology data toprovide accurate evidence for interpreting ancient life and itsevolutionary history.

Toconduct quantitative research onpaleoenvironment and paleoclimate changes. The changes in the marineand terrestrial environment and climate during geological historyhave profound effects on the origin, radiation, and extinction oflife. To establishand develop Isotope systems for tracing continental weathering (Li,Ca, Sr), marineproductivity (Zn, Ni, Ba), and marine redox changes (Fe, Mo, U, Re,Tl). To investigatethe alteration process of stable metal isotopes in carbonate rocksand black shales during formation and diagenesis. Touse traditionalstable isotopes and emerging stable metal isotopes to quantitativelytrace fluctuations in atmospheric CO2concentration, continental weathering rate, and paleooceanicenvironment during major biotic events. Toaccurately reconstruct thetiming, scope, and magnitude of changes in different climate andenvironmental factors, and elucidate their roles in major bioticevents.

Reconstructionsof the evolution of life andenvironment changes based on big data in Earth sciences. Onthe basis of massive global datacollection inbiology, physics, chemistry, etc.during the geological history,and cross-referencing with Earth science, data science, and computerscience, utilizing techniques such as big data, parallel computing,artificial intelligence, etc., weaim to recover the evolutionpatterns of biodiversity in land and sea, toreconstruct the changes inregional and global environment, climate, and geographical patternsin land and sea, and toprovide a basis for judging thecurrent state of the Earth's biosphere and predicting trends forfuture development.

Touse cutting-edge biogeochemicalmodels, earth system models, and climate models to quantitativelyexplore the relationship between internal factors of life evolutionand external factors of environmental changes, revealing themechanisms of land-sea interactions, and analyzing the feedback andregulation mechanisms between volcanic activity, land vegetationcoverage, atmospheric CO2fluctuations, continentalweathering, ocean productivity, ocean acidification, ocean anoxia,and the evolution of marine ecosystems. This provides ideas for ourunderstanding and responsing to modern climate and environmentalchanges.

Investigationson the spatial and temporal distribution of fossil resources andsedimentary minerals. Construct detailed stratigraphic sequences ofimportant fossil energy regions, restore their sedimentary basinevolution and paleogeographical changes, provide systematic solutionsbased on stratigraphy and paleogeography for the fossil energy andsedimentary mineral-related industries, and serve the nationaleconomy.

Tracingthe rules of co-evolution between life and environment, serving thecountry and society, seeking for fresh blood, and waiting for newstudents.