Prof. David Catling will take up a Marie Curie Chair in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol in the UK. He is returning from the USA. He is an internationally recognised researcher in planetary sciences and atmospheric evolution. He will conduct research in the following two areas:
(1) Biogeochemical cycles in Earth history and the chemical evolution of the Earth's atmosphere.
(2) Studies of the surface and climate of Mars.
Both research areas are consistent with the joint EC-ESA policy on space, as well as the action objective to promote research in new and emerging interdisciplinary areas. There currently is no theory of Earth's bulk atmospheric composition. Consequently, in area (1), the main objective is to produce a quantitative understanding of how Earth's atmosphere came to be. Because all the gases in air (except argon) are biologically mediated to some degree, this quantitative understanding relies upon models of atmospheric chemistry linked to models of the evolving biosphere in Earth history. Models are validated using isotopic and geologic data.
In area (2), Prof. Catling will use data from spacecraft visiting Mars, including ESA's Mars Express, to understand the history of the surface and climate of Mars. This history is one where liquid water apparently has been available at the surface in the past, although recent times are more characterised by the action of ice ages and wind. One purpose is to establish whether the environment on Mars was ever conducive to life. Prof. Catling will also undertake a vigorous training programme. This includes new course in planetary science, global change, and Earth history at Bristol at the graduate and postgraduate levels. Research seminars, public lectures, proposed conference activity, and activity in networks at the European level will disseminate the results of Prof. Catling's research to a larger audience, including the general public.
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