From: Rob Enslin
Published February 8, 2017 03:37 PM

Geochemist Breathes New Life into “Great Oxidation Event”

A researcher in the College of Arts and Sciences is providing fresh insights into the “Great Oxidation Event” (GOE), in which oxygen first appeared in the Earth’s atmosphere more than 2.3 billion years ago.

Christopher Junium, assistant professor of Earth Sciences, is part of a team of researchers led by Aubrey Zerkle, a biogeochemist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, which has uncovered evidence of an interaction between nitrogen and oxygen in ancient rocks from South Africa. The discovery not only illuminates how life evolved alongside changes in the chemistry of the Earth’s surface, but also fills in a 400-million-year gap in geochemical records. Their findings are the subject of a major article in Nature (Macmillan Publishers, 2017).

“We’ve captured, for the first time, the response of the nitrogen cycle through this major transition in the Earth’s surface environment,” says Junium, pointing out that global oxygenation was not an instantaneous event, as the name implies, but protracted over hundreds of millions of years. “There are particular aspects of the nitrogen cycle, making it very sensitive to the presence of oxygen.”

Read more at Syracuse University

Image Credits: Syracuse University 

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