Field Studies

In their 10-year quest to clarify the role of deep carbon in Earth’s past, present, and future, Deep Carbon Observatory scientists journey to some of the most remote yet scientifically valuable places on the planet.

From establishing global volcano monitoring systems to collecting sediment, rocks, and gases from Earth’s vast seafloor, DCO scientists exploit innovative techniques and technologies to find surface clues about carbon lying deep inside Earth.

The map below provides a visual way to explore the suite of field studies undertaken by the DCO Communities. The red dots on the map represent field study sites, which are plotted using data drawn from the DCO Data Portal. Click on a dot for detailed information about a field study.

Journalists interested in accompanying DCO scientists into the field should contact Katie Pratt for more information.

Featured Projects

Biology Meets Subduction Biology Meets Subduction

Biology Meets Subduction was a field-sampling program to investigate connections between microbiology, volcanic systems, and the cycling of living and dead carbon as Earth’s plates move and subduct past each other.

Oman Drilling Project Oman Drilling Project

The Oman desert is the setting for a multi-national collaboration exploring ancient seafloors, now above ground. Scientists are conducting a two-year drilling project at the Samail ophiolite, the world’s largest and best-exposed sub-aerial block of oceanic crust and upper mantle. This exposed “deep ocean substrate” is affording rare investigations to discern the presence of carbon in subducted sediments and how microbial ecosystems exist in such extreme environments.

Sampling on Ticsani, Peru DECADE

DECADE (Deep Earth Carbon Degassing) is an international effort to outfit some of the world’s most active volcanoes with permanent gas composition monitoring stations as well as launch campaigns to some of Earth’s most remote volcanoes. 

Atlantis Massif Atlantis Massif

Scientists spent 47 days in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean collecting rocks from the shallow mantle of the ocean crust. It was the first time a new drilling technology was used to collect rock samples deep below the seafloor. The rock drills were equipped with new technologies that enabled the scientists to detect signs of life in the rock samples.

T-Limites Expedition T-Limit of the Deep Biosphere

Twenty-five researchers were aboard the drilling vessel Chikyu, the world’s largest scientific research vessel, for a 60-day quest to determine the limits of life below the ocean’s floor. Working with six additional shore-based scientists, the team is attempting to define the temperature limits to deep life in marine sediments and to clarify key factors, including pressure, limiting Earth’s underground habitable zone.

Trail by Fire Trail by Fire

The “Trail by Fire” team spent five months in the South American Andes conducting an exhaustive survey of active volcanoes in the Nazca plate subduction zone from Peru to Southern Chile. They took gas measurements at 15 active volcanoes, whose remote locations, high elevations and lack of established trails made for a challenging expedition, but one that filled a huge gap in the global database of volcanic gas emissions.

Papua New Guinea ABOVE

This project uses innovative Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) technologies (drones with miniaturized gas-sampling equipment) to collect volcanic gas measurements at Manam and Rabaul volcanoes in Papua New Guinea. These volcanoes are actively degassing, but little is known about them because their plumes are difficult to access using ground-based techniques. 

Field Studies Map

Each dot represents a location of a DCO field study. Click the dots for a window with more information about the respective project. Click the links in the windows to visit the DCO Data Portal.

Further Reading

Oman Drilling Project video
Video: Oman Drilling Project The Oman Drilling Project is a collaborative multinational investigation of the Samail Ophiolite, the world’s largest, best-exposed, and most-studied subaerial block of oceanic crust and upper mantle.
Core Logging for Phase 2 of the Oman Drilling Project Starts on D/V Chikyu On 7 July 2018, members of the Oman Drilling Project boarded the drilling vessel Chikyu in Shimizu port, Japan, to begin logging cores collected durin
Biology Meets Subduction, Again: DCO Early Career Scientists Head Back to Central America From 3-20 April 2018, the Biology Meets Subduction team were back in the field to extend the study they began in February 2017. The sampling
Photos and Updates from Phase Two of the Oman Drilling Project Phase two of the Oman Drilling Project began in November 2017, and the team is currently hard at work collecting cores and cuttings.
The Carbon Trap: Carbon Dioxide Injections Stimulate Peculiar Subsurface Microbial Communities Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a strategy that aims to offset carbon dioxide created from burning fossil fuels by injecting this gas directly into the subsurface. In the case of mineral storage, the injections target certain types of volcanic rocks, so that the carbon dioxide will react with underground minerals to form long-lasting carbonate compounds. The efficiency and hence the long-term viability of mineral storage, however, is still in question. 
A Simple, Affordable Way to Measure Diffuse Carbon Release at Volcanoes Keeping tabs on carbon dioxide emitted from volcanoes can be valuable, both for forecasting potential eruptions and for determining how much deep carbon the volcano releases to the atmosphere. Some volcanoes, however, release more carbon dioxide as diffuse degassing along the flanks than through the main plume of the volcano. These volcanoes are difficult to study using a single monitoring station, complicating scientists’ attempts to monitor the “state and evolution” of volcanoes.
Researchers Track Sneaky Carbon Dioxide Flux to Estimate Eastern Rift Emissions Volcanoes release significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but their contribution goes beyond the impressive plumes of gases and ash that occur during eruptions. Even near some seemingly inactive volcanoes, carbon dioxide from melted rock seeps out through cracks in the surrounding crust. These diffuse emissions likely represent an important part of the global carbon budget, but it is challenging to make good estimates of the size of these leaks.
DCO T-Limit Blog: Updates from Scientists Onboard IODP Expedition 370 Blog posts from International Ocean Discovery Program’s (IODP) Expedition 370: T-Limit of the Deep Biosphere off Muroto.
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