TABLE 3.1 NSF Budget Request by Priority Area



Biocomplexity in the Environment


Human and Social Dynamics

$ 23

Mathematical Sciences

$ 90

Nanoscale Science and Engineering


Workforce for the 21st Century

$ 20



provide an entrée to the field for geoengineering researchers. The second part is intended to spark the imagination about the possible application of these technologies.


3.1.1 Background

The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed the transformation of biology from a descriptive science to a science that is fully able to describe the structure, mechanisms, and chemistry that control the behavior of living things. This transformation has led to an explosion of new applications in fields as disparate as medicine, agriculture, computing, and Earth processes. Applications to Earth processes in particular may provide exciting new avenues for geoengineering.

Initially, abiotic physical and chemical processes dominated the shaping of Earth. These same processes also led to the establishment of self-replicating molecules that started to exploit the residual stored energy in inorganic constituents using existing energy gradients and flux driven by the geoheat gradient and sunlight. From this aseptic beginning, life began to build more complex systems and initiate a radical reshaping of the geochemical and geological environment of Earth. The biologically induced changes are dramatic. For example, life has changed Earth’s

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