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.

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.

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

Adventure, Discovery, and Scientific Endeavor: DCO’s Field Studies As of early 2016, DCO scientists have explored over 80 sites in more than 30 countries.
Chief Scientist Peter Kelemen
Oman Phase Two Drilling Complete: Next Core Logging on D/V Chikyu On Wednesday, 28 February 2018, members of the Oman Drilling Project field team completed Phase Two drilling. This marked the end of the drilling campaign for the project, while launching an exciting new phase of analysis and discovery. The cores collected during this second drilling phase are headed to the Japanese scientific drilling vessel D/V Chikyu.
VIDEO: A Search for Magmatic Carbon Dioxide Degassing in the Afar Rift From 1-12 November 2017, an international group of scientists headed to Afar, Ethiopia to measure carbon dioxide degassing in this rifting area, where three tectonic plates are spreading out.
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.
Methanogens Can’t Make It On Their Own in the Lost City DCO members Susan Lang (University of South Carolina, USA) Gretchen Früh-Green, Stefano Bernasconi, (both at ETH-Zurich, Switzerland), William Brazelt
VIDEO: Biology Meets Subduction Members of the four DCO Science Communities conducted a scientific investigation at Costa Rican volcanic sites through the lenses of biology, chemistry, physics, and geology.
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.
Back to top