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Microbial Evolution and the Rise of Oxygen: The Roles of Contingency and Context in Shaping the Biosphere through Time

Citation

Ward, Lewis Michael (2017) Microbial Evolution and the Rise of Oxygen: The Roles of Contingency and Context in Shaping the Biosphere through Time. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9BZ642S. http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechTHESIS:06012017-152345273

Abstract

We are shaped by our environment, but we then shape it in turn. This interplay between life and the Earth, and how these interactions have shaped both parties through time, is the heart of the discipline of geobiology. My research is fundamentally motivated by a desire to understand how life and the Earth have changed together through time to reach the state that they’re at today, and to understand from this history how the coevolution of planet and life may be different on other worlds. The focus of my work has been on how the structure and productivity of the biosphere across time and space has been shaped by the metabolic opportunities provided by the environment—as a result of both biotic and abiotic factors—and the metabolic pathways that are available to life, as a result of evolutionary contingency in the evolution of pathways and their inheritance and horizontal transfer.

The biosphere on Earth today is incredibly productive due to the coupled dominant metabolisms of oxygenic photosynthesis and aerobic respiration, yet these can’t always be assumed to have been present—considering life more broadly, for instance in the context of the early Earth and other planets, we have to grapple with how evolutionary contingency and planetary environments interact to constrain the metabolic opportunities and rates of productivity available to the biosphere. In this dissertation, I broadly consider how the size and structure of Earth’s biosphere has changed through time as surface environments evolve and metabolic innovations accumulate. These investigations make use of information gleaned from the rock record of the early Earth, as well as the biological record of the history of life as preserved in the genomes, biochemistry, and ecology of extant organisms. These coupled records provide opportunities for constraining estimates of the opportunities for life throughout Earth history and elsewhere in the universe.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:geobiology, evolutionary biology, geochemistry, microbiology, astrobiology
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geobiology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Fischer, Woodward W.
Thesis Committee:
  • Kirschvink, Joseph L. (chair)
  • Orphan, Victoria J.
  • Leadbetter, Jared R.
  • McGlynn, Shawn E.
  • Fischer, Woodward W.
Defense Date:10 May 2017
Non-Caltech Author Email:lmward2011 (AT) gmail.com
Funders:
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASANNX16AP39H
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
NSFOISE 1639454
NSFDGE 1144469
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06012017-152345273
Persistent URL:http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechTHESIS:06012017-152345273
DOI:10.7907/Z9BZ642S
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11084-015-9460-3DOIArticle adapted for Chapter 2.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.01356-15DOIArticle adapted for Appendix 4.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.01352-15DOIArticle adapted for Appendix 4.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.01357-15DOIArticle adapted for Appendix 4.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.01354-15DOIArticle adapted for Appendix 4.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.01353-15DOIArticle adapted for Appendix 4.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.01347-15DOIArticle adapted for Appendix 4.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gbi.12200DOIArticle adapted for Appendix 5.
ORCID:
AuthorORCID
Ward, Lewis Michael0000-0002-9290-2567
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10246
Collection:CaltechTHESIS
Deposited By: Lewis Ward
Deposited On:02 Jun 2017 22:03
Last Modified:09 Jun 2017 21:30

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