University Of Wyoming Team Receives Grant To Study Earth's 'Skin'

Sep 9, 2020

The grant will be used to study the Earth's upper layer, the critical zone.
Credit NASA

A University of Wyoming team has received a $5 million grant to research the Earth's critical zone.

Geology and Geophysics professor Cliff Riebe said the critical zone is the upper layer of the Earth.

"It specifically refers to the layer of the earth that extends from the top of trees down to fresh bedrock," he said. "It's kind of like earth's skin. It includes all of these ecological and geological processes and how they interact."

Riebe said his team will explore the interactions between life on the surface and the geology underneath using a combination of drilling for samples and imaging tools.

"It's analogous to when you go to get an MRI," he said. "We take these tools out into the field and instead of imaging human bodies we're imaging the subsurface, the deep layers. We're talking tens of meters beneath the surface."

Riebe said one of the goals is to see how the Earth's upper layer changes with climate, so they will study multiple areas across the country. The grant from the National Science Foundation will run for five years.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu