The Once and Future Planet Carillon Community

How did life start on the early Earth?

Students researching in the fieldExplore ways in which the early Earth changed over time by examining the interplay between the solid planet, surface environments, and the emergence and diversification of life. In learning from the past, you will begin to frame and explore how humans might affect the future of our home planet, and thus prepare to contribute to tomorrow’s decisions about changes in our local and global environment.

You can expect to:

  • Work in teams to interpret and present aspects of Mars exploration.
  • Complete a community research project to experience the scientific method.
  • Explore the natural world through on-campus field excursions and an off-campus field trip.
  • Learn about how the environment and life have evolved together over time.
  • Investigate how we as human beings act to impact planet Earth today.

Community Course

The three-credit fall course that anchors the community is GEOL 124: Evolution of Life and Environment on Planet Earth. Topics covered in this course range from the Big Bang to the search for life on other planets. You will explore how life and environment evolved through Earth’s history, and what that means for future interactions.
Sample syllabus (Fulfills General Education I-Series requirement)


Professor Kaufman in the fieldProfessor Alan Jay Kaufman
Department of Geology and a University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, leads the Once and Future Planet community.

Professor Kaufman, a University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, has been at the University since 1997 and has taught a wide variety of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He was awarded the 2000 Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching for the College of Computer, Math and Physical Sciences and was a Mercator Professor while in Muenster, Germany on sabbatical in 2007-2008. Professor Kaufman is an Affiliate Faculty in the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center.

His field-based studies of the evolution of life, environment, and climate focus on events in deep time, which require travel to the far corners of the Earth. Professor Kaufman's current studies are centered in arctic and southern Siberia, Namibia and South Africa, Western Australia, and Brazil.

His research focuses on the determination of changes in the isotopic composition of the oceans through time. Through his work Professor Kaufman aims to document the co-evolution of life and the surface environment across critical transitions, including Earth's earliest ice ages and mass extinctions.