Life and environment: An evaluation of the Gaia Hypothesis

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July 4, 2013 @ 10:30 pm – July 5, 2013 @ 12:30 am
National Oceanography Centre
European Way
Southampton SO14
Free admission – these talks are open to the public.

Life and environment: An evaluation of the Gaia Hypothesis

by Professor Toby Tyrrell

Toby will be signing copies of his book at 6:30pm.

Categories: Lectures & Discussions, Book Signing
Co-sponsor: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Date: Thursday, July 4th, 2013
Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm. Toby will be signing copies of his book at 6:30pm. The Marine Life Talks are held at 7:30pm. Please arrive no later than 7:15pm.
Venue: The National Oceanography Centre
Address: National Oceanography Centre
University of Southampton Waterfront Campus
European Way
Southampton SO14 3ZH
United Kingdom
Location: Reached via Dock Gate 4 (between Southampton’s Town Quay and Ocean Village).
Cost: Free admission – these talks are open to the public

View this event on the National Oceanography Center website:

In 1972 James Lovelock made an interesting proposal. Life is not solely a pas­senger on a fortuitously habitable Earth, he suggested. Instead, life has been at the controls of the planetary environment, helping to ensure continued habitability over ~3 bil­lion years. In the thirty years or so since he first proposed it, the Gaia hypothesis has intrigued a whole generation of those interested in natural history and planet Earth. Today it is widely but by no means universally credited by scientists. It remains controversial.

Gaia is a fascinating idea, but is it correct? In this talk Toby Tyrrell will attempt to an answer this overall large question by first exploring some smaller questions that relate to the larger one. First Toby will look at cooperative regulation of a shared living space: under what circumstances is this observed to occur in nature? Second he will consider whether the biota has altered the environment on a global scale. Finally Toby will discuss whether the changes to environmental conditions following evolutionary innovations have or have not been broadly favorable for life. He will combine the answers to each of these questions into a wider evaluation of whether the Gaia hypothesis is plausible and consistent with modern evidence and will conclude that it is not. Instead a competing hypothesis, co-evolution of life and environment, will be suggested to be compatible with our modern understanding in a way that Gaia is not.

Toby Tyrrell has long been interested in the dynamics and interactions of life and environment on Earth. Encompassed within that rather large topic, his narrower research interests have included enthusiasms on coccolithophores, the ocean carbon and nutrient cycles and ocean acidification. After an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Southampton he gained an MSc in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh and then a PhD from the same institution. He spent two years working on ecological modelling at Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Since then he has been a researcher then lecturer and now professor of Earth system science in the University of Southampton, NOCS.

This talk is linked with publication of a book on the same topic:

Recordings of previous Marine Life Talks can be found on:

The Marine Life Talks are held on the first Thursday of the month at 7.30pm. Please arrive no later than 7:15pm.

Arrangements for wheelchairs must be made in advance. Unless it is possible to descend via the stairs in an emergency, access to upper floors cannot be permitted as lifts are automatically immobilized when the fire alarm is activated.

The National Oceanography Centre is reached via Dock Gate 4 (between Southampton’s Town Quay and Ocean Village).

About Toby Tyrell:

Toby Tyrrell, author of On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and EarthResearch Interests

Specialism: Ocean acidification

How organisms interact with their environments. Ecology of phytoplankton, coccolithophores in particular. Ocean acidification. Ocean biogeochemistry, including during extreme events in Earth’s ancient past such as the E/O and K/T boundaries. Ocean carbon cycle and its effect on future atmospheric CO2 levels. Marine cycles of N, P, C, Si. The control of biogenic element concentrations in the sea as a function of ecological competition between different functional groups of phytoplankton.

PhD Supervision

Zongpei Jiang, Dave Mackay, Claudia Fry, Tingting Shi, Christopher Daniels, Matthew Humphreys.

Primary research group: Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems

Affiliate research group: Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate

Research projects

  • Leader of NOCS Beacon Theme on Ocean Acidification
  • Coordinator of the sea-surface consortium, a major component (>£3m, 10 partner institutions) of the United Kingdom Ocean Acidification Research Programme.


Source Credit For About Toby Tyrrell: University of Southampton

On Gaia:
A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth
Toby Tyrrell

On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth by Toby Tyrrell“A handful of scientists have become crusaders for the Gaia hypothesis, while the rest have dismissed it without a second thought. Toby Tyrrell, on the other hand, is one of the very few scientists to have considered the evidence at length and in detail. In summarizing nearly forty years of arguments for and against the Gaia hypothesis, he has done a great service for anyone who is curious about Gaia, or about this fascinating planet that we all call home.”–James Kirchner, University of California, Berkeley

“Toby Tyrrell unravels the various formulations of Gaia and explains how recent scientific developments bring the hypothesis into question. His criticisms are insightful, profound, and convincing, but fair. On Gaia is wonderfully informative and a pleasure to read.”–Francisco J. Ayala, author of Am I a Monkey?: Six Big Questions about Evolution

“At last, a beautifully written and clear-eyed analysis of the interplay of life and the Earth system. On Gaia provides the understanding for moving forward in the quest for sustainability, and is essential reading if our planet is to remain habitable for humanity.”–Thomas E. Lovejoy, George Mason University

On Gaia makes a wonderful addition to the literature. It is scholarly, well-written, and well-reasoned.”–Simon A. Levin, Princeton University

Other Books Written Or Co-written By Toby Tyrell:
Tyrrell, T. and Young, J.R. (2009) Coccolithophores. In, Steele, John H., Turekian, Karl K. and Thorpe, Steve A. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences, 2nd ed. San Diego, US, Academic Press, 3568-3576.

Tyrrell, T. and Merico, A. (2004) Emiliania huxleyi: bloom observations and the conditions that induce them. In, Thierstein, H.R. and Young, J.R. (eds.) Coccolithophores: from molecular processes to global impact. Berlin, Germany, Springer, 75-97.

Tyrrell, T. (2004) Biotic plunder: control of the environment by biological exhaustion of resources. In, Schneider, S.H., Miller, J.R., Crist, E. and Boston, P.J. (eds.) Scientists debate Gaia: the next Century. Cambridge MA, USA, MIT Press, 137-147.

Tyrrell, T. (2001) Redfield ratio. In, Steele, John H., Thorpe, Steve A. and Turekian, Karl K. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences. San Diego, USA, Academic Press, 2377-2387.

Source Credit For Other Books Written Or Co-written By Toby Tyrell: University of Southampton

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