Great Acceleration Observatory

Human impacts on the Earth system have been ever-expanding and strengthening since the beginning of cultural evolution. The resulting ‘Great Acceleration’ has become the signature trajectory of the Anthropocene. Which data can we bring together in a concerted effort of the international community to identify the causal mechanisms responsible for what is, effectively, a long acceleration process? What do specific spatial and temporal patterns tell us about responsibilities and inequalities?

Scroll down for a collection of related research projects.

Projects Related to the Great Acceleration Observatory

Petrochemical Technosphere

Chemical industries play a major, yet in technology studies still underestimated role in the establishment of the technosphere and for the course of history in the Anthropocene. Artificial  fertilizers, ammunition, plastics, fuels, pharmaceuticals are drivers for paradigmatic Anthropocene dynamics in all spheres of the Earth- and socio-technical systems. (Great Acceleration Observatory). Via their industrial technicality, a large set of molecules need to be addresses as part of the technosphere. It is the ongoing „transformation of chemistry“ towards sustainable process structures, that calls for an understanding of the full scope of industrial chemicals for the actual historical condition.  more

Teleconnections: A Spatiotemporal Atlas of the Technosphere

How did a state shift in planetary conditions occur in the wake of local transformations and how does that state shift feed back to such localities, further spurring their transformations? Can we map, and thereby discern, the systemic drivers and their mutual interdependencies that mesh the global fabric of the Anthropocene? In the collaborative project Teleconnections we seek to develop a new visual grammar representing social, technological, and ecological transformations across space and time, helping to get an evolving technosphere into view. more

History of Geoanthropology

By analyzing existing publications from the last three decades with methods from the framework of socio-epistemic networks, the project aims at uncovering the historical roots of the emergent science of Geoanthropology. more

Hiding in Plains Sight: Tracing the Emergence of the Technosphere between Kansas’ Dust Bowls

The dissertation project explores the socio-ecological dynamics that contributed to the emergence of the technosphere, using the example of Western Kansas’ groundwater irrigation crisis. The project analyzes the physical, technological, and societal rebirth of Western Kansas at the inflection point of the Great Acceleration, following the extreme events of the 1930s and 1950s Dust Bowls. It examines the emergence and transformation of the cultural, economic, legal, and technological drivers that enabled this socio-ecological transformation. In this way, the geoanthropological study raises the question of whether the same drivers that enabled this transformation are now trapping Kansas in its technospheric present. more

AI Assistant for Geoanthropology

The project aims to create an AI assistant to support research in the emerging, highly interdisciplinary field of geoanthropology. The new generation of generative AI is starting to transform scientific practice across all disciplines. In particular, large language models (LLMs) are rapidly becoming better at understanding text and quickly generating accurate responses, making this technology broadly applicable across many domains, including science. more

Dynamics of the Technosphere

The "Dynamics of the Technosphere" project is dedicated to understanding the complex and interconnected systems that constitute the technosphere and their interaction dynamics. By identifying distinct subsystems and measurable proxies for key system parameters and variables, our research aims to elucidate the fundamental relationships that govern the behavior of these systems. Through a combination of empirical data collection, computational modeling, and theoretical analysis, we seek to uncover the core principles driving energy and material fluxes, structural organization, and entropy within the technosphere. Our work will explore the specific mechanisms that couple different subsystems, aiming to provide a comprehensive framework for analyzing the dynamics of this intricate network of subsystems. more

Decision Theater

Any response to societal challenges involves policy and behavior changes. To be effective, these need to be data driven and evidence based. Furthermore, all these challenges represent complex or wicked problems that do not have simple, optimization-based solutions. For such cases the Decision Theater provides a platform for the creation and implementation of model-based scenarios, models, and visualization that allow the exploration and analysis of the consequences of individual and collective decisions. more

The project emphasises global environmental justice and examines how resource extraction has unevenly affected regions worldwide, influencing economic, societal, and ecological dynamics. The project aims to understand historical decisions guiding energy extraction and transitions, fostering dialogue among scholars and stakeholders on climate justice and policy strategies. Through these discussions, the project aims to develop insights into the impacts of the historical oil industry and contribute to informing sustainable development policies in resource extraction. It also includes a sub-project comparing historical oil exploration in New Zealand and Galicia, exploring regulatory frameworks, technological advancements, and socioeconomic outcomes to understand regional disparities in oil industry trajectories better. more

Pan-African Evolution

The Pan-African Evolution project is focused on understanding the early periods of human prehistory, and how early human shaping of the earth had cascading effects down to the present day. more


The ERC funded IslandLab project will document long-term legacies and feedbacks between ecological changes, societal responses and ecosystem resilience on the island of Malta. more

Uniting Tropical Heritage and Future Policy

Archaeology and palaeoecology have major roles to play in addressing contemporary threats (e.g. Morrison, 2021). These disciplines have, however, often been ignored by policy makers beyond anecdotal comparisons. In this project area, the ISOTROPIC group has identified three main avenues through which the datasets it produces can be used to provide practical, quantitative assessments of important use for contemporary challenges. more

Past Human Impacts on the Tropics and Connected Earth Systems

The last 5 years of research in the tropics have not only started to demonstrate the long record of human presence emphasized above, but also the fact that human societies have left legacies of varying nature and intensity on different aspects of tropical ecosystems and their associated earth systems. This project applies varied methods to build detailed records of human interactions with different aspects of these environments across space and time including: more

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