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Climate & environment

The story of Earth


How have the planet’s minerals evolved?

If we want to understand the origins of life on earth, and how early life developed, we need to understand the earth itself and what it was made of. When US mineralogist Robert Hazen was asked if he knew what minerals existed on early Earth, he started a research journey that led to a new idea – mineral evolution – a theory that proposes that the mineralogy of terrestrial planets and moons evolves because of the varied physical, chemical, and biological processes that lead to the formation of new minerals. 

Join Robert Hazen in discussion with UNSW Sydney geologist and astrobiologist Martin Van Kranendonk as they discuss the story of Earth, mineral evolution, where carbon fits into all of this, and the rich challenges of doing science and being able to study nature.


Robert Hazen is Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Sciences at George Mason University. From 2008 to 2019 he was Executive Director of the Deep Carbon Observatory, a project set up understand the chemical and biological roles of carbon in Earth. His popular books include Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origin and The Story of Earth. Hazen’s recent research focuses on possible roles of minerals in the origin of life, and the coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

Martin Van Kranendonk is the Director of Centre for Astrobiology at UNSW Sydney. He is geologist and astrobiologist who’s passion lies in understanding the early Earth and how and where life got started on our planet. He’s spent a good part of his life mapping the ancient rocks of Australia, South Africa, and Greenland in this quest, and has shared this knowledge with geoscientists from around the world on his famous ‘Grand Tour’ fieldtrip across Western Australia, where he first met Robert Hazen. 

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