We assemble diverse, interdisciplinary teams of faculty, external experts and students to collaborate on the world’s greatest environmental and sustainability challenges and turn research into action for the common good. Our research isn’t restricted to the lab: we are transforming Georgetown’s campus into a living laboratory where we develop urgently-needed, scalable solutions to green the campus and broader community—and shape the future of our planet.

The Vision

The Earth Commons will consist of thematic “Commons” with dedicated faculty and staff and convene internal and external researchers, academics, experts, practitioners and students to understand and address each theme. The Commons will include Climate & Energy; Food & Water Security; Environmental Justice; Biodiversity Conservation; Environmental Health; University Sustainability; and the Environmental Innovation Lab, a campus think tank.

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Extreme elevational migration spurred cryptic speciation in giant hummingbirds

Biodiversity varies from place to place because the range of climates suitable for any one species tends to be limited. The giant hummingbird appears to defy this tendency, occurring across the broadest range of environments of any hummingbird. We asked whether its migration, physiology, or genetics explain its climate generalism, potentially illuminating mechanisms of niche breadth evolution. Microtracking devices revealed an epic migration from the Chilean coast to the Peruvian Andes, with an extreme, >4,100-m elevational shift and corresponding performance trade-offs. Genomes revealed that migrant and resident populations diverged in the Pliocene and have since evolved under phenotypic stasis. A migratory shift enabled climatic niche expansion, leading to speciation and niche subdivision, consistent with diversification by niche breadth oscillation.

May 21, 2024

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Outbreak Atlas Now Available

Professor Rebecca Katz recently released a new book entitled, Outbreak Atlas! Co-authored with another GU global health researcher, this book aims to translate the complex field of outbreak response in order to include “citizen scientists.” You can find the book here!

April 29, 2024

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Drivers of geophagy by red brocket deer (Mazama americana) at Amazonian interior forest mineral licks

ECo Faculty Brian Griffiths’ study unveils the critical role of mineral supplementation for the red brocket deer, shedding light on Amazonian wildlife ecology.

April 8, 2024

Research Programs

Below is a list of research programs related to the work of the Earth Commons. Check back on this page for a more comprehensive list of research programs exploring environmental and sustainability issues across Georgetown Schools.

Marra Lab

Director Peter Marra’s research uses birds to help us define and understand broad environmental issues, tackling contemporary conservation challenges by addressing fundamental knowledge gaps at the intersection of ornithology, ecology and conservation biology. The Marra Lab in Georgetown’s Department of Biology investigates migratory connectivity, full annual cycle ecology, urban ecology & applied conservation, Kirtland’s Warbler conservation & management, and identifies the smoking guns in bird declines.

Research Projects

Migratory Connectivity

Advancing the conservation and understanding of animals throughout their full life cycle by promoting the science of migratory connectivity.

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Atlas of Migratory Connectivity

Through the Migratory Connectivity Project, led by Georgetown University and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and together with the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we are working on an important and exciting two volume book entitled “Discovering Unknown Migrations: The Atlas of Migratory Connectivity for the Birds of North America.” 

Learn more