We’re Curious.

At MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), we are driven to answer profound questions about the natural world—and our place in it.

Our faculty and students conduct discovery-driven research, with broad-reaching implications. Whether studying the climate system or environmental disruptions, natural resources or natural hazards, the origins of the solar system or the tantalizing prospect of finding life beyond Earth, our interdisciplinary approach forms the core of our work, providing vital data and context for innovators and decision makers taking on humanity’s biggest challenges.


How do planets form and evolve? Why did Mars lose its dynamo? What role do atmospheres play in planetary evolution, and how might this inform us about Earth’s present environmental changes? What can exoplanets tell us about our own solar system? Do other Earthlike planets exist? Could they be harboring life?



What caused Earth’s past climate shifts, and what is our climate’s natural variability? How do climates evolve on other planets? Does airborne particulate matter affect cloud formation? What role do the oceans play in regulating Earth’s temperature? What about the oceans’ role in the carbon cycle? Can microbes influence the atmosphere? Does rapid climate change contribute to mass extinctions?


Health of the Planet

What are the links between human activities, air and ocean pollution, and climate change? How does ocean acidification affect the biosphere? What are the lasting impacts of heavy metals in the environment? Can we trace atmospheric pollutants to their sources? Can we quantify the impacts on human health? Are we able to measure the environment’s response to policy changes?


Natural Hazards

Can we predict earthquakes? Or landslides? What is the relationship between climate and extreme weather events? Are tropical cyclones becoming more frequent? Are wildfires becoming more intense? How much do retreating glaciers contribute to sea level rise? How do we quantify natural hazard and risk? Can we help engineers and communities mitigate and adapt?


Life + Environments

When did photosynthesis begin? How did life evolve and how does it continue to adapt to changes in the environment? What caused mass extinctions of the past? Could we be approaching another? Can we find biosignatures in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets? Or in the rocks of Mars? Ultimately, is life unique to Earth?


Landscapes + Planetary Interiors

How did Earth come to be? What forces shaped it over time? What can 4.3 billion year old rocks tell us about our past and future climate? As mountains build and erode, are there impacts on the carbon cycle? As rivers meander, do they influence the biosphere? Can the dry deltas of Mars or the icy surface of Pluto tell us about past processes on Earth?


Natural Resources

How can we meet humanity’s need for energy and natural resources while maintaining Earth’s habitability? Can we harness the heat of the Earth in the form of geothermal energy? Is it possible to capture and store carbon emissions safely underground? How can we help communities find and protect water resources?