Evolution of the early Earth
My research for the past 30 years is primarily directed at early Earth evolution, including magmatic, surficial, and biological systems. This work, mostly in South Africa, has been supported much of the time by grants from NSF and NASA. NSF currently supports my work in the Archean of South Africa. Some of the most important aspects of this work include: 1) recognition of a much more complex, stratigraphically thick, and prolonged development of crust in the 3.6-3.2 billion-year-old Barberton greenstone belt; 2) discovery of extreme high-pressure fractionation in mantle-derived magmas; 3) discovery of stromatolites, early signs of life's emergence on Earth, in volcanic interbeds; 4) recognition of unusual surficial environments and conditions of alteration of exposed lavas; and, 5) discovery of four major meteorite impact beds (each comparable in size to the K-T boundary impact!). Analytical studies of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks from the early Earth include electron microprobe mineral chemistry, ICP and ICP-MS rock chemistry, and SHRIMP geochronology.
Future research is likely to be strongly influenced by collaborations with individuals at Stanford, University of Berlin, UCLA, and the University of Maryland. This research group regularly spends about one month each year doing field studies in South Africa. I am a Fellow of AAAS, the Geological Society of America, and the Geological Society of South Africa.
Stiegler-Thompson, M.E., Lowe, D.R., and Byerly, G.R., 2010, The petrogenesis of volcaniclastic komatiites in the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa: A textural and geochemical study, Journal of Petrology 51:947-972.
Connolly, B.D., Puchtel, I.S., Walker, R.J., Arevalo, R., Piccoli, P.M., Byerly, G.R., Robin-Popieul, C., and Arndt, N., 2011, Highly siderophile element systematics of the 3.3 Ga Weltevreden komatiites, South Africa: Implications for the early Earth history, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 311:253-263.
Krull-Davatzes, A.E., Lowe, D.R., and Byerly, G.R., 2012, Mineralogy and diagenesis of 3.24 Ga meteorite impact spherules, Precambrian Research 196:128-148.
Robin Popieul, C.C.M., Arndt, N.T., Chauvel, C, Byerly, G.R., Sobolev, A.V., and Wilson, A., 2012, A New Model for Barberton Komatiites: Deep Critical Melting with High Melt Retention, Journal Petrology, 53, 2191-2229.
Lowe, D.R., Byerly, G.R., and Heubeck, C., 2012, Geologic Map of the West-Central Barberton Greenstone Belt, Geological Society of America, Maps and Charts Series, MCH103, 55”x77” color plate.
Puchtel, I.S., Blichert-Toft, J., Touboul, M., Walker, R.J., Byerly, G.R., Nisbet, E.G., Anhaeusser, C.R., 2013, Insights into early Earth from Barberton komatiites: Evidence from lithophile isotope and trace element systematics, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 108: 63-90.
Heubeck, C., Engelhardt, J., Byerly, G.R., Zeh, A., Sell, B., Luber, T., and Lowe, D.R., 2013, Timing of deposition and deformation of the Moodies Group (Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa): Very-high-resolution of Archaean surface processes, Precambrian Research 231: 236-262.
Puchtel, I.S., Walker, R.J., Touboul, M., Nisbet, E.G., Byerly, G.R., 2013, Insights into Early Earth from the Pt-Re-Os isotope and Highly Siderophile Element abundance systematics of Barberton komatiites, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2013.10.013.