Once and Future Planet

How did life begin and evolve on 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. You will begin to frame and explore how humans might affect the future of our home planet. In this community you will engage in field work and laboratory analyses to learn about the natural world and scientific method.

You can expect to:

  • Explore the natural world through field excursions on-campus and to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.
  • Conduct a community research project to experience the scientific method.
  • Learn how the environment and life have evolved together over time.
  • Work in teams to research and present aspects of Martian exploration.

Community Course

GEOL124: 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 ‚Äčexplore how life and environment evolved through Earth’s history, and what that means for future interactions. (3 credit course, fulfills General Education requirements of I-Series and Natural Sciences).
View the Fall 2018 draft syllabus for GEOL124


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 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.