Two researchers pull back moss from a peperite outcrop, Karelia, Russia.

Earth habitability, from the origin of the continents to the oxygenation of the atmosphere


In the Wisconsin ICP-TIMS lab, we study how the Earth became a habitable planet, from the origin and evolution of the earliest continents to the development of an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Our primary tools are radiogenic isotopes in rocks and minerals, which we use as chronometers and tracers in conjunction with stable isotope and geochemical compositions. We are also actively working on geochemical analytical technique development in order to expand the range of questions we can ask. Please refer to our Research page to learn more.

Recent News

March 2023: Congratulations to former MSc student, Khalil Droubi, on the publication of his first paper, “U-Th-Pb and Trace Element Evaluation of Existing Titanite and Apatite LA-ICP-MS Reference Materials and Determination of 208Pb/232Th-206Pb/238U Date Discordance in Archaean Accessory Phases,” in a special volume of Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research.

November 2022: Athena and Annie attended the GOE-DEEP ICDP workshop in Trondheim, Norway.

The international team that is constructing a proposal to the ICDP to drill Paleoproterozoic rocks in Gabon. We are targeting the sedimentary record of the broader Great Oxygenation Event and more specifically the Lomagundi-Jatuli Carbon Isotope Excursion in our work.

21 October 2022: We are mourning the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Frank Dudás. We will miss your corny jokes, unsurpassed expertise in mineral identification, and philosophical musings.

October 2022: The UW Earth Evolution Group is at GSA! The following researchers are presenting:

Athena Eyster (Sunday AM poster, “A synthesis of new structural, stratigraphic, and geochronologica constraints from NE Washington with implications for Neoproterozoic Snowball glaciations.”)

Emily Mixon (Tuesday PM poster, “Early and variable contributions from supracrustal rocks in Archean magmas from the Saglek Block, Labrador, Canada.”)

Khalil Droubi (Wednesday AM talk, “Tectonothermal evolution of the southern Laurentian margin from the Neoarchean to the Paleoproterozoic recorded in the Watersmeet Gneiss Dome, MI, USA.”)

Annie Bauer (1- Sunday PM mentorship presentation in the Women in Geology Reception; 2- Wednesday AM talk: “Establishing a robust temporal framework for the Paleoproterozoic Lomagundi-Jatuli carbon isotope excursion in the Francevillian Basin, Gabon.”)

collaborator Cailey Condit (Tuesday AM poster; “Petronet: A petrology and high-temperature geochemistry community built within an antiracist and inclusive network”)

collaborator Clay Kelly (Sunday AM talk; “Icthyolith Nd isotope compositions suggest southerly incursion of boreal water mass along eastern margin of Western Interior Seaway during Campanian cooldown.”

June 2022: Congrats to Khalil Droubi, who defended his MSc on June 30th, and collaborator Joe Hayes, who also defended his MSc thesis on June 14th. PhD student Emily Mixon passed her preliminary exam and is officially a dissertator, well done!

May 2022: Congrats to Sally Stevens, who defends her MSc on May 20th. An AGU Advances article led by collaborator Prof. Nadja Drabon, “Destabilization of long-lived Hadean protocrust and the onset of pervasive hydrous melting at 3.8 Ga,” is available here. PhD student Esther Stewart is officially a dissertator, well done!

February 2022: Check out this recent article in Eos by colleague Alka Tripathy-Lang quoting a variety of Precambrian geochronologists (including Annie) regarding the difficulties in dating Precambrian rocks, especially sedimentary successions.

January 2022: Welcome to incoming researcher, Athena Eyster! Congrats to PhD student Emily Mixon on her recent 40Ar/39Ar methods paper following on her work in Prof. Brad Singer’s lab.

August 2021: Congrats to PhD student Emily Mixon for her receipt of the 2021 Lawrence A. Taylor Research Fund Award and a 2021 GSA Graduate Student Research Grant. Congrats to MSc students Khalil Droubi and Sally Stevens for their receipt of 2021 GSA Graduate Student Research Grants, as well!

July 2021: Annie is giving a keynote, “Zircon Hf isotopic evidence for the gradual onset of Earth’s mobile-lid tectonic regime,” in Session 3h (Formation and evolution of continental crust in the Precambrian: Linking Earth’s surface and deep interior) at Goldschmidt. Please check it out!

April 2021: Congrats to PhD student Esther Stewart for her receipt of the UW Geoscience Solien Assistantship and the 2021 Twenhofel Award– keep up the good work. Also congrats to visiting student Pan Hu for the acceptance of his recent paper on the Qinling orogen in Lithos and his upcoming PhD defense!

March, 2021: In our group, we are invested in tackling gender and intersectionality bias issues in STEM. From Friday, March 12, through Sunday, March 14, the University of Wisconsin will be hosting the screening of the documentary Picture a Scientist, which highlights the struggles of three famous female scientists in the sciences. The screening will be followed by two panels on Monday, March 15 – one for faculty, staff, and postdocs at noon, and a second panel for all graduate and undergraduate students at 4 pm. If you are a UW employee or student, you can register to watch the film and/or attend a panel at this link.

December, 2020: Our group at AGU 2020: Check out the “Ancient Earth Evolution: From Magma Ocean Solidification Through the Archean” oral D1022 + poster D1020 session, convened by Brad Foley, Natasha Barrett, Jesse Reimink and Annie Bauer. Also check out Annie (PP020-03 – Os and Nd isotope constraints on Paleoproterozoic global events as recorded in sediments from Russian Fennoscandia), Emily (V036-09 – Optimizing 40Ar/39Ar analyses using an Isotopx NGX mass spectrometer), and collaborator Nadja’s (DI022-04 – Destabilization of Long-Lived Hadean Protocrust and Onset of Pervasive Hydrous Melting at 3.8 Ga Recorded in Detrital Zircons of the Green Sandstone Bed, South Africa) talks.

September 1, 2020: Welcome to our incoming students: Khalil Droubi, Sally Stevens, and Emily Mixon. We’re so glad to have you on our team.

May 15, 2020: A huge congrats to our outgoing senior undergraduate thesis researchers, Sheila Abdul Rashid and Liv Parsons!

April 24, 2020: A recent paper from our group is mentioned at the end of this well-written article in National Geographic by Maya Wei-Haas describing the results of a new study that documents a 3.2 Ga continental plate rate consistent with modern plate tectonics. Congrats to our colleagues at Harvard and their coauthors!

April 16, 2020: We have a new paper out, “Hafnium isotopes in zircons document the gradual onset of mobile-lid tectonics” (Bauer and Reimink et al. 2020) in Geochemical Perspective Letters, which is an open-access publication. You can read it here.

March 16, 2020:  The University of Wisconsin-Madison campus has shut down all non-essential research activities in response to the coronavirus epidemic. Our lab facilities are currently closed but we hope that we will be able to reopen soon.

January 23-24, 2020:  Adina Paytan (UCSC) is visiting our department as part of the Voices of Geowomen series, including a women+allies dinner, a Diversi-tea about the imposter syndrome, and a science talk.

January 2020:  Welcome, incoming PhD student Esther Stewart and visiting student Pan Hu!

December 2019:  Annie is presenting at AGU in San Francisco; Poster V31G-0135.

October 2019:  We are looking to recruit new graduate students for the upcoming academic year! Please see Join Our Group for more information.

September 2019:  Our lab is currently under construction to accommodate a new Quadrupole instrument. More details and photos to follow.

View of sunset along a sandy beach, Acasta River, Northwest Territories, Canada