effects of the origin and evolution of life on Earth

“Earthrise” photo from Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon. photo: NASA

Updated 06/01/2017

Environmental Evolution (EnvEvo) presents news on the rethinking of evolution and biology in the framework of Gaia Theory and is a portal to a version of the Environmental Evolution course taught by Lynn Margulis and Bruce Scofield from 2000 to 2011, now updated and reimagined by Bruce Scofield as an online course.


Environmental Evolution takes a “systems-thinking” approach to the deep time history of life on Earth as posited in the Gaia Theory formulated by James E. Lovelock with collaboration from Lynn Margulis (see the Gaia Theory tab for more information). As noted during the 50th Anniversary of NASA’s Exobiology Program, “Seeking Signs of Life” symposium in 2010, “Drs. Lovelock and Margulis were among the Exobiology Program’s earliest Principal Investigators. NASA supported Margulis’s work on symbiogenesis and Lovelock and Margulis’s work on the Gaia hypothesis. Their early research contributed to current understanding of how life evolved on Earth and how life and environment co-evolve.”


Lynn Margulis is now recognized as “the master architect for rethinking biology in terms of interacting consortia” (Gilbert, Sapp, Tauber, 2012).  As noted by Margaret McFall-Ngai et  al (2013),Lynn Margulis (1938–2011), a controversial visionary in biology, predicted that we would come to recognize the impact of the microbial world on the form and function of the entire biosphere, from its molecular structure to its ecosystems. The weight of evidence supporting this view has finally reached a tipping point. The examples come from animal–bacterial interactions, as described here, and also from relationships between and among viruses, Archaea, protists, plants, and fungi. These new data are demanding a reexamination of the very concepts of what constitutes a genome, a population, an environment, and an organism. Similarly, features once considered exceptional, such as symbiosis, are now recognized as likely the rule, and novel models for research are emerging across biology.”


Environmental Evolution,  the first “deep time” Earth history and Earth Systems Science course was developed by Lynn Margulis with the help of many collaborators. It was presented first at Boston University and later at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Earth has been a bacterial world for at least 3800 million years and Environmental Evolution recognizes the biospheric importance of the microcosmos. Life, as a process, occurs in communities holarchically arranged with smaller communities nested inside and composing larger communities that scale up from the microcosmos to the biosphere.


Watch the preview

Hummingbird Films Symbiotic Earth: How Lynn Margulis rocked the boat and started a scientific revolution


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