The ERC-funded TERRAFORM project will study how plants made our planet habitable over millions of years. Specifically, it will explore plant life and the evolution of plant characteristics or ‘traits’ over the past 300 million years and how these influenced extensive scale processes, such as the hydrological cycle and weathering.

The TERRAFORM project combines concepts and data sources from modern-day ecology, paleo-Earth weathering and decomposition experiments, climate modelling and high-resolution analyses of fossil plants to quantify land plants’ impact on the carbon, nutrient and hydrological cycles in deep time. TERRAFORM also aims to increase literacy in Earth System Science among a non-traditional audience via an embedded artist-in-residence programme.

Fossil plants from a Greenland field expedition, wrapped and ready for transport.

The project will study fossil plants collected from Greenland, North America, Denmark, the UK and many other countries. Exciting new experiments will be conducted in a newly established Variable Atmosphere and Light laboratory at Trinity East. The new Science Foundation Ireland and Trinity co-funded lab will simulate a previous Earth’s climate and atmospheric and light environments, allowing the research team to travel back in time to undertake their experiments.

Team members:

Dr Kamila Kwasniewska
Dr William Matthaeus
Dr Christos Chondrogiannis
Ms Katie O'Dea
Ms Antonietta Knetge
Ms Catarina Barbosa
Ms Siobhan McDonald