Professor, Earth & Space Sciences

Origin & Evolution of Life on Earth




JHN 335


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Roger Buick

I am interested in the origin and earliest evolution of life on Earth and how that can be used as an analogue for life elsewhere in the Universe. My research techniques lie at the intersection of geology, biology and chemistry, examining the oldest and best-preserved rocks available. This involves fieldwork in the Australian outback, on the Greenland ice-cap, the South African veld and in the Canadian woods, amongst other places.

Examples of current projects include:

Early evolution of bacterial metabolism — palaeontology and stable isotope geochemistry of Archaean sedimentary rocks, with the aim of determining when the main forms of microbial metabolism first arose and whether this caused environmental change in the atmosphere and oceans.

Early atmospheric composition and pressure — studying detrital heavy minerals in Archaean fluvial sandstones, raindrop imprints in ancient terrestrial sediments, and vesicle size in ancient basalt flows emplaced at sea-level, with the aim of determining whether the atmospheric greenhouse effect was modulated by carbon dioxide or some other gas in order to counteract the weaker solar luminosity during Earth’s early history.

Secular trends in marine nutrient fluxes and their ecological impact — phosphorus and nitrogen geochemistry in sedimentary rocks through time, with the aim of better quantifying oceanic fluxes and budgets for these elements, identifying temporal trends in their sources and sinks, and determining whether these reflect or influenced ecosystem evolution.

Early evolution of continental crust — trace-element and radiogenic-isotope geochemistry of basalts ~3.5 billion years old across an ancient unconformity in the Pilbara Craton, Australia, with the aim of contraining the primordial growth rate of continental crust, the tectonic environments of the early Earth and the biological impacts of crustal differentiation.

Molecular fossils from early Precambrian rocks — organic geochemistry of well-preserved Archaean and Palaeoproterozoic hydrocarbons and kerogen, with the aim of discovering organic geochemical biomarkers that constrain the phylogenetic history of microbial ecosystems.

Current Students:

Past Students:

Selected Publications

Koehler, M. C., Buick, R., Kipp, M. A., Stüeken, E. E., & Zaloumis, J. (2018). Transient surface ocean oxygenation recorded in the ∼2.66-Ga Jeerinah Formation, Australia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 7711–7716.

Kipp, M. A., Stüeken, E. E., Yun, M., Bekker, A., & Buick, R. (2018). Pervasive aerobic nitrogen cycling in the surface ocean across the Paleoproterozoic Era. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 117–126.

Kipp, M. A., Stüeken, E. E., Bekker, A., & Buick, R. (2017). Selenium isotopes record extensive marine suboxia during the Great Oxidation Event. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 875–880.

Stüeken, E. E., Kipp, M. A., Koehler, M. C., Schwieterman, E. W., Johnson, B., & Buick, R. (2016). Modeling pN2 through Geological Time: Implications for Planetary Climates and Atmospheric Biosignatures. Astrobiology, 949–963.

Som, S. M., Buick, R., Hagadorn, J. W., Blake, T. S., Perreault, J. M., Harnmeijer, J. P., & Catling, D. C. (2016). Earth’s air pressure 2.7 billion years ago constrained to less than half of modern levels. Nature Geoscience, 448–451.

Zahnle, K., & Buick, R. (2016). Ancient air caught by shooting stars. Nature, 184–186.

Stüeken, E. E., Buick, R., Guy, B. M., & Koehler, M. C. (2015). Isotopic evidence for biological nitrogen fixation by molybdenum-nitrogenase from 3.2 Gyr. Nature, 666–669.

Bradley, K., Weiss, B. P., & Buick, R. (2015). Records of geomagnetism, climate, and tectonics across a Paleoarchean erosion surface. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 1–13.

Krissansen-Totton, J., Buick, R., & Catling, D. C. (2015). A statistical analysis of the carbon isotope record from the Archean to Phanerozoic and implications for the rise of oxygen. American Journal of Science, 275–316.

Stüeken, E. E., Buick, R., & Anbar, A. D. (2015). Selenium isotopes support free O2 in the latest Archean. Geology, 259–262.

Stüeken, E. E., Buick, R., Bekker, A., Catling, D., Foriel, J., Guy, B. M., … Poulton, S. W. (2015). The evolution of the global selenium cycle: Secular trends in Se isotopes and abundances. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 109–125.

Stüeken, E. E., Buick, R., & Schauer, A. J. (2015). Nitrogen isotope evidence for alkaline lakes on late Archean continents. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 1–10.

French, K. L., Hallmann, C., Hope, J. M., Schoon, P. L., Zumberge, J. A., Hoshino, Y., … Summons, R. E. (2015). Reappraisal of hydrocarbon biomarkers in Archean rocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 5915–5920.

Claire, M. W., Kasting, J. F., Domagal-Goldman, S. D., Stüeken, E. E., Buick, R., & Meadows, V. S. (2014). Modeling the signature of sulfur mass-independent fractionation produced in the Archean atmosphere. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 365–380.

Som, S. M., Catling, D. C., Harnmeijer, J. P., Polivka, P. M., & Buick, R. (2012). Air density 2.7 billion years ago limited to less than twice modern levels by fossil raindrop imprints. Nature, 359–362.

Stüeken, E. E., Catling, D. C., & Buick, R. (2012). Contributions to late Archaean sulphur cycling by life on land. Nature Geoscience, 722–725.

Summons, R. E., Amend, J. P., Bish, D., Buick, R., Cody, G. D., Des Marais, D. J., … Sumner, D. Y. (2011). Preservation of Martian Organic and Environmental Records: Final Report of the Mars Biosignature Working Group. Astrobiology, 157–181.

Garvin, J., Buick, R., Anbar, A. D., Arnold, G. L., & Kaufman, A. J. (2009). Isotopic Evidence for an Aerobic Nitrogen Cycle in the Latest Archean. Science, 1045–1048.

Anbar, A. D., Duan, Y., Lyons, T. W., Arnold, G. L., Kendall, B., Creaser, R. A., … Buick, R. (2007). A Whiff of Oxygen Before the Great Oxidation Event? Science, 1903–1906.

Kaufman, A. J., Johnston, D. T., Farquhar, J., Masterson, A. L., Lyons, T. W., Bates, S., … Buick, R. (2007). Late Archean Biospheric Oxygenation and Atmospheric Evolution. Science, 1900–1903.

Shen, Y., Buick, R., & Canfield, D. E. (2001). Isotopic evidence for microbial sulphate reduction in the early Archaean era. Nature, 77–81.

Brocks, J. J. (1999). Archean Molecular Fossils and the Early Rise of Eukaryotes. Science, 1033–1036.

Dutkiewicz, A., Rasmussen, B., & Buick, R. (1998). Oil preserved in fluid inclusions in Archaean sandstones. Nature, 885–888.

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