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Geosciences Colloquium: Dustin Trail, “Zircons and the Origin of Life”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - 4:00pm
022 Deike

On Tuesday, February 12th, Geosciences Colloquium Speaker Dustin Trail, Assistant Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Rochester, presents “Zircons and the Origin of Life” at 4 PM in 022 Deike. A Speaker’s Coffee & Cookies Reception will immediately precede the talk in the EMS Museum on the ground floor of Deike. All are welcome.


More About Dustin Trail

Assistant Professor

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

University of Rochester



Ph.D., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Research Interests and Activities

Trail’s research is mainly laboratory-based and is focused on the evolution of planetary magmas through time; the conditions of early Earth and implications for the inception of the biosphere; secular changes in the oxidation state of magmas and fluids; the connection between the chemical state of the crust and mantle; and non-traditional mechanisms of isotope fractionation. In the laboratory setting, he designs and executes high pressure/temperature geochemistry-based experiments in which he synthesizes rocks and minerals under conditions appropriate to our planet, the Moon and other “rocky” planets in our solar system. Much of this work involves the investigation of accessory minerals in the crust such as zircon. Accessory minerals are important because in certain cases they represent the only available source of information. Zircon crystals are almost indestructible with ages that approach 4.4 billion years. Like tiny time capsules, they retain the chemical fingerprints of extremely early times and represent the only material available to investigate the Hadean Earth. There is strong evidence that some of the pre-4.0 Ga zircons formed in igneous magmas captured and archived a small fraction of the Earth's surface chemistry through re-melting of sedimentary rocks. Dustin and his lab group seek to "translate" this remnant chemical information from the formative stages of Earth into physical, chemical, and potentially planetary-wide constraints. “This is basically our only window into the formative stages of our planet,” states Trail.


Trail was selected as the recipient of the 2017 Mineralogical Society of America Award, in recognition of his contributions to studies of early-Earth environments, the conditions suitable for the origins of life, and the evolution of magmas and fluids in the earth’s crust.


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