Paleontology is the scientific study of life of the geologic past that involves the analysis of plant and animal fossils, including those of microscopic size, preserved in rocks. It is concerned with all aspects of the biology of ancient life forms: their shape and structure, evolutionary patterns, taxonomic relationships with each other and with modern living species, geographic distribution, and interrelationships with the environment.

Faculty: Leslie Francis Noè.

Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry


Geochemistry is the science that uses the tools and principles of chemistry to explain the mechanisms behind major geological systems such as the Earth's crust, its atmosphere and its oceans. Biogeochemistry is the scientific discipline that involves the study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment (including the biosphere, the cryosphere, the hydrosphere, the pedosphere, the atmosphere, and the lithosphere). In particular, biogeochemistry is the study of the cycles of chemical elements, such as carbon and nitrogen, and their interactions with and incorporation into living things transported through earth scale biological systems in space through time. The field focuses on chemical cycles which are either driven by or have an impact on biological activity.

Faculty: Carme Huguet .



Geodesy is the study of the Earth's shape, orientation and gravity field, as well as changes in these properties with time.  With modern space-based geodetic techniques it is possible to measure positions and deformation of the Earth's surface with millimetre precision, and to define a precise global reference framework in which to make those measurements. Methods include space- and ground-based gravity surveying, GPS and Interfereometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).  These techniques allow us to better understand the Earth's internal properties and dynamic processes including active tectonics, Earth tides, glacial isostatic adjustment, the earthquake cycle and volcanism.

Faculty: Jillian Pearse

Structural geology


Structural geology is the scientific discipline that is concerned with crustal deformation on both a large and a small scale. Its scope of study is vast, ranging from submicroscopic lattice defects in crystals to fault structures and fold systems of the Earth’s crust. The primary goal of structural geology is to measure the deformation of the crust to uncover information about the history of deformation (strain) in the rocks, and how, when and why this strain accumulated.




Geodynamics is a subfield of geophysics dealing with dynamics of the Earth. It applies physics, chemistry and mathematics to the understanding of how mantle convection leads to plate tectonics and geologic phenomena such as seafloor spreading, mountain building, volcanoes, earthquakes, faulting and so on. It also attempts to probe the internal activity by measuring magnetic fields, gravity, and seismic waves, as well as the mineralogy of rocks and their isotopic composition. Methods of geodynamics are also applied to exploration of other planets.

Faculty: Jill Pearse.