Deep Life

Dedicated to assessing the nature and extent of the deep microbial and viral biosphere.

      Decadal Goals

  • Determine the processes that define the diversity and distribution of deep life as it relates to the carbon cycle.
  • Determine the environmental limits of deep life.
  • Determine the interactions between deep life and carbon cycling on Earth.
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Guiding Questions

What mechanisms govern microbial evolution and dispersal in the deep biosphere?

What ecological rules explain deep microbial community structure?

How does deep life respond to physical and chemical extremes?

What can genomes tell us about the limits and possible origins of life?

How does life shape carbon transformations in the subsurface and what governs the rates of these reactions?

How does life influence transitions between abiotic and biotic realms?

How does deep life and its influence on the carbon cycle interact with the surface world?

Initiatives
CoDL (Census of Deep Life)

Image credits. Census of Deep Life: A transmission electron microscopy image of T. ammonificans by Costantino Vetriani; Deep Biosphere: Drill cores from the Louisville Seamounts, Southwest Pacific Ocean by Jason Sylvan; Astrobiology: An illustration of the hydrothermal vents inferred to occur on Enceladus, NASA/JPL-Caltech/Southwest Research Institute

Scientific Steering Committee

  • Dr. Doug Bartlett
    Doug Bartlett University of California, San Diego, USA
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    Dr. Doug Bartlett
    Doug Bartlett
    University of California, San Diego, USA

    Dr. Doug Bartlett is a professor of marine microbial genetics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He has extensive experience in analyses of extremophilic microbial life in the inner space of our oceans. His research group has pioneered studies of the adaptations that enable deep-sea microbes to live at great pressures, up to and beyond 15,000 pounds per square inch. Much of this work utilizes the tools of genetics, genomics, and functional genomics to work through the gene parts lists and wiring diagrams associated with particular aspects of microbial adaptation. Bartlett is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

  • Dr. Rick Colwell
    Rick Colwell Oregon State University, USA
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    Dr. Rick Colwell
    Rick Colwell
    Oregon State University, USA

    Dr. Rick Colwell is a professor in ocean ecology and biogeochemistry at Oregon State University, and an adjunct and affiliate faculty member at Idaho State University. Colwell is an expert in microbial ecology, investigating subsurface microbiology, geomicrobiology, and coupling of microbial rates and processes to physical and chemical parameters in the environment. Colwell has served as president of the International Society for Subsurface Microbiology since 2008. He is a reviewer for Applied and Environmental Microbiologyand a member of the editorial board of Biodegradation. Colwell is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Geophysical Union, International Society for Subsurface Microbiology, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

  • Dr. Steven D'Hondt
    Steven D'Hondt University of Rhode Island, USA
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    Dr. Steven D'Hondt
    Steven D'Hondt
    University of Rhode Island, USA

    Dr. Steven D’Hondt is a professor of oceanography at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. He studies life in marine sediment, deep beneath the seafloor, which is one of the very few ecosystems not yet pervasively altered by humans. He investigates the diversity, activities, and evolution of life in this remote microbial ecosystem, and explores the fundamental limits to life on Earth. As part of the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) and DCO, D’Hondt collaborates with scientists from around the world to advance understanding of subsurface life.

  • Dr. Kai-Uwe Hinrichs
    Kai-Uwe Hinrichs University of Bremen, Germany
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    Dr. Kai-Uwe Hinrichs
    Kai-Uwe Hinrichs
    University of Bremen, Germany

    Dr. Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, co-Chair of the Deep Life Community, is a biogeochemist and organic geochemist best known for his research of microbial life below the ocean bed - the deep biosphere, methane biogeochemistry, and microbial lipid biomarkers. Hinrichs is a professor at the University of Bremen, and heads the Organic Chemistry Group at the MARUM Center for Marine Environmental Sciences and is co-leader of MARUM's Research Unit, Geosphere-Biosphere Interactions. He was co-chief scientist of Expedition 337 of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program onboard the drilling vessel Chikyū, which set the current world record for the deepest microbial life ever detected, at nearly 2.5 km below the seafloor. Hinrichs is a recipient of two Advanced Grants from the European Research Council and has been a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science since 2011.

  • Dr. Fumio Inagaki
    Fumio Inagaki Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Japan
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    Dr. Fumio Inagaki
    Fumio Inagaki
    Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Japan

    Dr. Fumio Inagaki is a geomicrobiologist, who has sailed in scientific ocean drilling expeditions many times as a shipboard scientist (ODP Leg 201, IODP Expeditions 301 and 316) and as co-chief scientist (Expeditions 329, 337, and 370). He was awarded the first Taira Prize by the American Geophysical Union in recognition of his significant contributions to the deep-biosphere frontier research. Among his contributions were the discovery of the occurrence of deep subseafloor microbial communities, in coal-bearing sediments down to ~2.5 km below the ocean floor, which have played important ecological roles in biogeochemical carbon cycling over geologic time. Inagaki is deputy director of JAMSTEC’s R&D Center for Ocean Drilling Science and the Kochi Institute for Core Sample Research, and also heads the Geomicrobiology Group and Geobiotechnology Group, JAMSTEC.  

  • Dr. Thomas Kieft
    Thomas Kieft New Mexico Institution of Mining and Technology, USA
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    Dr. Thomas Kieft
    Thomas Kieft
    New Mexico Institution of Mining and Technology, USA

    Dr. Thomas Kieft is a professor of biology at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Kieft’s research interests span microbiology of subsurface terrestrial environments, soil and groundwater, and extreme environments microbiology, and the physiology and ecology of water-stressed microbes. His current research projects focus on biomarkers in extreme environments, South African ultra-deep mines, and animal-microbe interactions.  

  • Dr. Mark Lever
    Mark Lever ETH Zurich, Switzerland
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    Dr. Mark Lever
    Mark Lever
    ETH Zurich, Switzerland

    Dr. Mark Lever is a professor of environmental microbiology in the Department of Environmental Systems Science in the Institute of Biogeochemical and Pollutant Dynamics at ETH Zurich. His research interests include geomicrobiology, microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, and ecosystem ecology of aquatic sediments and Earth's crust with a focus on the carbon cycle. In addition to teaching and research, Lever serves as an associate editor for Frontiers in Extreme Microbiology, and as a review editor. He is a member of the Deep Life Community and serves on Synthesis Group 2019. 

  • Dr. Beth Orcutt
    Beth Orcutt Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, USA
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    Dr. Beth Orcutt
    Beth Orcutt
    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, USA

    Dr. Beth Orcutt is a senior research scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. She is a marine microbial biogeochemist who explores life below the seafloor in sediments and the oceanic crust. Orcutt's research focuses on understanding how microbes thrive in these deep-sea environments, and how their life impacts the cycling of elements on Earth. She is interested in which microbes can live on basalts and sulfides at the seafloor, and which geochemical processes occur on the rock surfaces. She is a member of the Deep Life Community and Task Force 2020.

  • Dr. Matt Schrenk
    Matt Schrenk Michigan State University, USA
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    Dr. Matt Schrenk
    Matt Schrenk
    Michigan State University, USA

    Dr. Matt Schrenk is an assistant professor in geomicrobiology at Michigan State University. He investigates the diversity, distribution, and activities of microorganisms in the deep subsurface biosphere using molecular biological approaches coupled with geochemical analyses. His focus is on high pH microbial ecosystems created by the serpentinization of ultramafic rocks from the deep Earth. Schrenk also studies high temperature microbial ecosystems associated with volcanically driven hydrothermal venting in the oceans.

  • Dr. Mitchell Sogin
    Mitchell Sogin Marine Biological Laboratory, USA
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    Dr. Mitchell Sogin
    Mitchell Sogin
    Marine Biological Laboratory, USA

    Dr. Mitchell Sogin is the distinguished senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory and co-Chair of the Deep Life Community. Sogin investigates the diversity and evolution of single-cell organisms. His molecular phylogeny produced the reference framework for understanding the evolution of microbial eukaryotes. He documented early diverging eukaryotic lineages, provided the first evidence of a specific link between animals and fungi to the exclusion of all other eukaryotes, demonstrated that the AIDS pathogen Pneumocystis shares a recent common evolutionary history with fungi instead of with parasitic protozoa that cause malaria, and he discovered the “rare biosphere” which accounts for most of the microbial diversity on Earth. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • Dr. Fengping Wang
    Fengping Wang Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China
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    Dr. Fengping Wang
    Fengping Wang
    Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

    Dr. Fengping Wang is a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Wang’s work focuses on the subsurface biosphere, specifically microbial diversity and geochemical processes, environmental adaptation mechanisms of extremophiles, and metabolic processes and pathways of extremophiles. She was awarded the Outstanding Young Scientist grant from the Natural Science Foundation of China for Deep Biosphere research. She also serves as a scientific committee member of IODP-China since 2014.

  • Dr. Roland Winter
    Roland Winter TU Dortmund University, Germany
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    Dr. Roland Winter
    Roland Winter
    TU Dortmund University, Germany

    Dr. Roland Winter has been a professor at TU Dortmund University since 1997, and currently serves as dean of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Winter’s research interests include the structure, dynamics, energetics, phase behavior, and function of biomolecular systems. He also studies astrobiophysical chemistry and the structural and dynamic properties of complex liquids. Winter is an executive board member and head of the Research Area "Connecting Solvation Dynamics with Biomolecular Function" of the German Center of Excellence RESOLV ("Ruhr Explores Solvation"), and a recipient of the Dozenten-Price of the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie.  He serves on a number of editorial boards including Biophysical Chemistry, J. Non-Equilib. Thermodyn, Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie - International Journal of Research in Physical Chemistry - and Chemie in unserer Zeit.

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