Symposium "Changes on Earth" Honors Yale Geologist Robert Berner

Robert A. Berner, the Alan M. Bateman Professor of Geology and Geophysics, a pioneer in the study of the geologic history of atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide, is being honored with a two-day symposium December 8 and 9 on the occasion of his retirement.

The symposium “Changes on Earth: Processes and Records” will be held in 123 Kline Geology Laboratories at 210 Whitney Ave. with talks from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days. It is free and open to the public. The speakers will include many notables of geochemistry, global climate analysis and paleobiology. Among them will be past students and collaborators of Berner.  A schedule of all talks is online. For further information contact Ernestine Jones at 203-432-3161.

Sections of the symposium on Friday titled “Geochemistry Beneath the Waves” and “Stuck in the Mud,” will cover work focusing on the geochemistry of the ocean,  ocean floor and geomicrobiology.  On Saturday the sessions will be “Playing in the Dirt” and “Evolving Ocean and Air” and focus on the alterations at Earth’s surface and the impact of atmospheric carbon dioxide on climate and oxygen on the evolution of life.

Widely known for his modeling of the carbon and sulfur cycles, he has calculated the evolution of atmospheric CO2 and O2 over the past 500 million years, or the Phanerozoic era, the time of abundant paleontologic record in rocks on Earth. These studies have encompassed the effect of CO2 on climate and the atmospheric greenhouse effect, and the effect of changing O2 on animal evolution.

Among the topics of his current research, Berner studies the effects of weathering, the role that plants play in the breakdown of rock, and the resulting effect on the geochemical carbon cycle. His recent work has also interfaced with paleobiologists, studying the emergence of vertebrates as land animals. Field studies over the course of his career have taken him to as disparate locations as Hawaii, Bermuda, Iceland, Hubbard Brook, New Hampshire and the Pacific Cascades.

Internationally honored, Berner is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.) and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He is the recipient of the Doctor Honoris Causa from the Université Aix-Marseille (France).  He has also been awarded the Huntsman Medal in Oceanography (Canada), the Goldschmidt Medal of the Geochemical Society, the Arthur L. Day Medal of the Geological Society of America (GSA), and the Murchinson Medal from the Geological Society of London.  Recently the Geochemical Society dedicated an issue of its journal, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta to Berner’s long career in geochemistry.

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Media Contact

Janet Rettig Emanuel:, 203-432-2157