Precambrian Research: Early Earth geochemistry

Early Earth environments provide key insights into Earth’s biological evolution. Ascertaining Earth’s past geochemical conditions help understand their potential impact on origins and evolution of life on Earth. A variety of early Earth environments are known to host and sustain life. Understanding both abiotic and biotic components of such environments and their interdependence is critical.

The sedimentary rock record provides a fantastic avenue to probe a variety of early Earth environments. Furthermore, a range of cutting-edge analytical techniques allow us to undertake geochemical analyses that can be used to infer past trends in redox conditions, nutrient availability and changes in depositional environment. So did life start out as a relatively simple set of autocatalytic reactions?

The transition of a simple cell into a complex one, billions of years ago, is the reason we share the planet with millions of species today. Dr Indrani Mukherjee is a lecturer at UNSW at the School of BEES, and her research focuses on “what drove that biological transition?” The approach involves a nuanced understanding of ancient marine environments, via novel and cutting-edge geochemical techniques. Her research questions key concepts, and explores links between early Earth evolution, the origin of complex life and formation of precious mineral deposits.

Early Earth, Artwork Photograph by Richard Bizley

Are you ready to contribute to world-class research?

Projects run through UNSW include interdisciplinary, local and international collaborations. Below is a summary of projects focused on the relationship of biology to geochemistry headed by Dr Indrani Mukherjee.

Current Projects

Project title

Contact to email

Developing biogenicity criteria using geochemistry

Interested in astrobiology but don’t know where to start? Get involved!

There are many pathways towards a career in astrobiology at UNSW. Find a course that is right for you here.

Here are some units relevant to early Earth geochemistry:

GEOS1111 – Investigating Earth and Its Evolution: Here you will learn the fundamentals of geology.

Get involved at UNSW!

Join in on the ACA action and come to the ACA Student Seminars Series, which happen regularly on Wednesdays – and enjoy the free pizza! Missed a seminar? You can watch a selection on the ACA YouTube channel.

Are you generally interested in chemistry? Also consider joining Students of Chemistry Society (SOCS)!

Also consider watching NASA Astrobiology’s Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments (PCE3) seminars on YouTube.

Curious to learn more now?

Here are some relevant publications:

I. Mukherjee, R. Corkrey, R. Large, L. Danyushevsky. (2023). Abiotic and Biotic Constraints on Earth’s Ancient Colonisers in the Proterozoic. Precambrian Res 393(1): 107089.

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