Tom Oliver Lecture Series

About the Series

The Tom Oliver Lecture Series is a public lecture series hosted by the Department of Geoscience in the Faculty of Science. Taking place annually, the series seeks to bring in internationally renowned researchers to present stimulating lectures on topics of fundamental interest to the Department of Geoscience and the broader UCalgary community. 

About Dr. Tom Oliver

Dr. Tom Oliver founded UCalgary’s Department of Geology in 1959 and was a former head of the department (1963-65) and dean of the Faculty of Science (1978-84). Dr. Oliver provided outstanding leadership as a researcher, instructor and administrator, and as the dean, assisted with the development of the geophysics program and the dramatic growth of the department in the late 1970s. He is remembered as an inspirational teacher, leader, respected petroleum geologist, humanist and humorist.


The Early Earth (Image Credit: Don Dixon)

The Early Earth (Image Credit: Don Dixon)

Dr. David Catling, University of Washington, Seattle.

Dr. David Catling

Environments for the Origin of Life on Early Earth and Elsewhere


How life originated is the problem of how geochemistry became biochemistry. Consequently, the environmental context for the origin of life is crucial, but it remains obscure. Here, Dr. Catling will discuss how the expected chemical make-up of the early atmosphere, surface waters, and the natural concentration of key reactants in expected geological environments likely enabled prebiotic synthesis of key biomolecules.

Date:  Friday, December 3, 2021
Time:  3:00-4:15 p.m. Mountain Standard Time
Location:  Online (Zoom webinar)
Presenter: Dr. David C. Catling, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington

Bio:  Dr. David Catling is a professor in the Department of Earth & Space Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle. His research deals with how the environment and life on Earth co-evolved over billions of years and the habitability of planets in general. He has also been involved in NASA’s Mars and astrobiology programs. For example, he is currently on the Science Team of NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover mission. As background, after finishing a doctorate in atmospheric, oceanic and planetary physics at the University of Oxford in 1994, he worked at NASA Ames Research Center for 6 years. Then, in 2001, he became faculty at the University of Washington, and a full professor in 2012. In addition to scholarly papers, he’s also written two books in the past decade, including Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction for the layperson (2013, Oxford University Press) and Atmospheric Evolution on Inhabited and Lifeless Worlds for researchers (2017, Cambridge University Press).

This year's lecture was not recorded. 


Past lecture (2020)

In his work on CO2 capture and storage via carbon mineralization, Dr. Peter Kelemen has increasingly concentrated on developing low cost methods for CO2 removal from air (CDR). He’s come to a realization that various processes, sometimes termed “enhanced weathering” as well as carbon mineralization, might offer comparatively low cost routes to CDR at the scale of gigatons per year. In this talk, Dr. Kelemen will elaborate on two such methods, one involving MgO- or CaO-looping, and another using highly engineered Direct Air Capture machines to enrich air to a few weight percent CO2, and then using that to enhance CO2 concentration in water circulating through reactive rocks in the subsurface.  

Date:  Friday, December 4, 2020
Presenter:  Dr. Peter Kelemen, Arthur D. Storke Professor in Columbia University’s Dept. of Earth & Environmental Sciences, based at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.

Related research papers:

  • Engineered carbon mineralization in ultramafic rocks for CO2 removal from air: Review and new insights (view PDF)
  • Ambient weathering of magnesium oxide for CO2 removal from air (view PDF)