Searching across deep time to understand “ecogenesis”

In Greg Fournier’s line of work — studying living systems that developed billions of years ago — outstanding questions far outnumber established answers.

“Often, we have very little information to go on. We can suggest how each piece of evidence we have may be more consistent with different scenarios,” says Fournier, an associate professor of geobiology in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “However, we must also be aware that our record of the past will always be incomplete, and many things are inherently unknowable. I find this level of mystery to be exciting rather than discouraging — as long as we can continue to explore new areas of knowledge.”

In a way, Fournier’s background offers the blueprint for who he is as a researcher. Growing up exploring the woods, ponds, and farmlands of his native home in rural Connecticut, he says he felt an “intimate…
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