Dr. Crowe was originally a chemist and his research now takes place at the interface between chemistry, geology, and biology. His primary interests relate to interactions between life and Earth surface chemistry.
Over its approximately four billion year history, life coevolved with the Earth’s surface—this rich and complex dialogue was punctuated by a few major biological events that dramatically and forever altered the chemistry of the oceans, continents, and atmosphere. These biological revolutions fundamentally reorganized the nature and activity of almost all life on Earth. A clear example was the invention of oxygenic photosynthesis by cyanobacteria in the Archean Eon. Oxygenic photosynthesis enhanced global biological production by up to a thousand fold, but it also likely caused the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history through the production of reactive oxygen species lethally toxic to most of the microbial life that made up the Archean biosphere. Fast-forward a few billion years to the Anthropocene, and we find the earth in the midst of another biological revolution, this one catalyzed by human invention. The human revolution is imparting global-scale changes to Earth surface chemistry in patterns reminiscent of past revolutions, yet the outcome, and thus our path to the future, remains highly uncertain at this time.
Dr. Crowe’s research uses geochemical and biological studies to fill gaps in our knowledge of the Earth system allowing more robust reconstructions of the history of the Earth and life as well as better predictions of future scenarios and the response of the Earth system to human activity.