Dates: 18-23 January 2011
Location: Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Workshop Organizers: Tullis Onstott (Princeton University), Esta van Heerden (University of the Free State), Barbara Sherwood Lollar (University of Toronto), and Tom Kieft (New Mexico Tech)
Purpose: Over the past decade great progress has been made in characterizing the abundance and diversity of the deep subsurface biosphere, but many mysteries remain to be answered when it comes to the in situ processes of growth, biogeochemical cycling, evolution and death of subsurface microorganisms. During the week of Jan. 17th, 2011, a workshop titled “New Horizons for International Investigations into Carbon Cycling in the Deep Crustal Biosphere” was held at the University of Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. This workshop was sponsored by the Deep Carbon Observatory (http://deepcarbon.net/) and brought together scientists from Canada, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, China, the United States and South Africa to explore new approaches for retrieving geochemical, isotopic, metagenomic, transcriptomic, metabolomic and proteomic information from the deep subsurface biosphere where cell concentrations are low and metabolic rates are very slow. The setting was appropriate given the discovery of abiogenic hydrocarbons and radiolytic H2 in the deep fractures of the Witwatersrand Basin, the recent publication of the first subsurface metagenome from 2.8 km depth at Mponeng Au mine, the recent discovery of nematodes inhabiting 1.5 km deep fractures and the recent establishment of an underground laboratory at 3.8 km depth in Tau Tona Au mine for microbial studies.