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coral reef

Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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Lava lake

Hunting down clues to Earth's early molten days

Scientists are still trying to piece together how Earth transformed from a molten planet to one with living creatures walking around on its silicate mantle and crust. Hints lie in the strange ways materials behave under extreme temperatures and pressures.

Mussels

High schoolers co-author paleobiology study with Stanford researchers

A cohort of the Stanford Earth Young Investigators program helped advance our understanding of the relationship between the body size and circulatory systems of marine animals over a vast time frame.

Green plant

New ancient plant captures snapshot of evolution

Researchers have discovered an ancient plant species whose reproductive biology captures the evolution from one to two spore sizes – an essential transition to the success of the seed and flowering plants we depend on.

Illustration of rover on Mars

Promising signs for Perseverance rover in its quest for past Martian life

New research indicates river delta deposits within Mars’ Jezero crater – the destination of NASA’s Perseverance rover on the Red Planet – formed over time scales that promoted habitability and enhanced preservation of evidence.

'A bad time to be alive': Study links ocean deoxygenation to ancient die-off

Researchers present new evidence that the deoxygenation of the ocean wiped out biodiversity during one of the “Big Five” mass extinctions in Earth’s history – relevant information as climate change contributes to decreasing oxygen in the oceans today.

Squid

How social squid communicate in the dark

Researchers begin to reveal how social squid communicate in the near-blackness of the deep sea.

Hot Jupiter

What other planets can teach us about Earth

Scientists exploring space are bringing back insights about Earth’s deep past, its complicated relationship with life and our planet’s future.

Coral reef

How did marine animals become so diverse?

Upending an evolutionary theory proposed in the 1950s, scientists have found that the groups most resistant to extinction also contain the greatest ecological diversity – their members perform a larger number of different functions in ecosystems.

DNA strand

Scientists find clues to how tiny fish ‘pauses’ its life

Stanford scientists have identified molecular drivers that put the “pause” in “diapause,” a life stage of the African killifish that suspends its development as an embryo.

Giant clam

Smaller animals faced surprisingly long odds in ancient oceans, Stanford study finds

New fossil research shows extinction for smaller marine animals across most of the past 485 million years was more common than once believed. Why?

Pine branches

Fungal diversity and the future of forests

Stanford researchers predict that climate change will reduce the diversity of symbiotic fungi that help trees grow.

Night vision

Tracking animals with DNA

Genetic material left behind by animals can provide critical clues to aid conservation and research. New research shows studying DNA in soil samples can be more effective, efficient and affordable than traditional tracking methods, such as camera traps, for assessing biodiversity.

Stars

Fact or fiction? The science of Star Wars

How did those planets form? Could they exist in our universe? Could Star Wars really happen? Stanford Earth experts on planetary formation, processes and habitability discuss the science behind the fictional saga.

Illustration of an exoplanet

Why some planets eat their own skies

A new study suggests a reason why exoplanets rarely grow larger than Neptune: the planet’s magma oceans begin to eat the sky.

Submarine canyon

Global analysis of submarine canyons may shed light on Martian landscapes

On a map, submarine canyons seem identical to land canyons – so much so that researchers surmised they are shaped by the same physical laws. New research reveals distinct differences for the first time.

Pacific Ocean

Archaea hold clues to ancient ocean temperatures

Scientists at Stanford have identified molecules that tough microbes use to survive in warming waters, opening a window more broadly into studying conditions in ancient seas.

Eagle

Stanford researchers discuss changes to Endangered Species Act

America’s signature legislation for saving species faces a major overhaul. Conservation and legal experts examine likely impacts of the new rules and legal options for challenging them.

River between mountains

Why are mountains so high?

Researchers have analyzed mountain ranges worldwide to show that a theory relating erosion and mountain height doesn’t always add up.

Geological formation

Ancient die-off greater than the dinosaur extinction

When significant oxygen entered the atmosphere, ancient life multiplied. But after a few hundred million years, Earth’s oxygen plummeted, resulting in a die-off likely greater than the extinction of the dinosaurs.

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