The Earth System History group at the University of Georgia is broadly linked by studies with a strong historical component of changing conditions at Earth's surface, including geological aspects of archaeology, changes in Earth's biota and biotic systems, and changes in sedimentary systems. Active research programs include geoarchaeology, paleobiology, and sedimentary geology. Faculty and student research in this area has been funded from a variety of federal and private sources including NSF, NOAA, the Petroleum Research Fund, Geological Society of America, Society for Sedimentary Geology, Paleontological Society, and American Association for Petroleum Geology. Student research is also funded by the Department of Geology through the Miriam Watts-Wheeler and the Levy funds. Students from the earth system history group have gone on into careers in academia, the petroleum industry, government laboratories, and educational outreach.
Research in Geoarchaeology at the University of Georgia involves many specialty areas of Earth Science – from sedimentology to shallow geophysics. Erv Garrison’s research includes the study of coastal and marine prehistoric archaeological sites and the reconstruction of Pleistocene landscapes and sea level, using techniques ranging from geoprospection to paleobiology. Sam Swanson uses his petrology background to study “stony’ archaeological materials. The Geoarchaeology Program at UGA is interdisciplinary and involves faculty from Geology, Geography, Anthropology, and Classic Studies.
Research in paleobiology at the University of Georgia specializes in paleoecology and taphonomy, particularly for protists and marine invertebrates, in settings ranging in age from the lower Paleozoic to the Holocene. Susan Goldstein’s research focuses on the biology and paleoecology of benthic Foraminifera, including reproductive patterns, dispersal, fine structure, taphonomy, and distributional patterns in modern and fossil salt marshes. Steven Holland’s paleobiological research focuses on the influence of sequence stratigraphic architecture on the fossil record and the dynamics of regional perturbations to ecosystems. Sally Walker’s research focuses on the taphonomy of modern and fossil mollusks in relation to evolutionary and conservational paleoecology. Faculty and student paleobiological research sites have recently included the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, the Gulf of Mexico, the Georgia coast and other sites on the eastern seaboard, the Appalachians, the mid-continent, and the western Cordillera.
Research in sedimentary geology at the University of Georgia emphasizes the sedimentology, diagenesis, and stratigraphy of modern and ancient carbonate systems. Bruce Railsback’s research seeks to recover records of paleoenvironmental change from carbonate materials ranging from Paleozoic limestones in the mid-continent U.S. to Holocene stalagmites from the U.S., Belize, Botswana, and China. Steven Holland’s research in sedimentary geology centers on the sequence architecture of shallow marine deposits, primarily carbonate strata of the lower Paleozoic. Recent field areas of faculty and students have included the southern Appalachians, the mid-continent, and the Cordillera.