Message from the Director: December 2011


The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) convened a highly successful Town Hall Meeting at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco on 5 December 2011.  The DCO Town Hall Meeting provided an opportunity to inform the scientific community about DCO developments and opportunities, to obtain input from the scientific community, and to develop new partnerships.  It featured presentations from co-chairs of DCO’s four science directorates:  Erik Hauri, Reservoirs and Fluxes; Craig Manning, Physics and Chemistry of Carbon; David Cole, Deep Energy; and Mitch Sogin, Deep Life.  

A plethora of papers by scientists who have been contributing to the efforts of the Deep Carbon Observatory were presented at the AGU Meeting.  For example, Marc Hirschmann, a member of DCO’s Reservoirs and Fluxes Science Steering Committee, addressed the deep carbon cycle in his N.L. Bowen Award Lecture, “By Permission of the Mantle: Modern and Ancient Deep Earth Volatile Cycles.”  DCO colleagues Marc Hirschmann, Craig Manning, and Takehiko Yagi were inducted as AGU Fellows at an awards ceremony on 7 December. 

An important milestone for the Deep Carbon Observatory was achieved on 12 December 2011 when the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation approved a $1.5 million Deep Life Directorate proposal, “Deep Life I: Microbial Carbon Transformations in Rock-Hosted Deep Subsurface Habitats.”  The proposal's overarching goal is to constrain the pathways and controlling factors for microbially-mediated carbon cycling in subsurface ecosystems fueled by water-rock reactions that generate H2 and hydrocarbons.  Matt Schrenk (East Carolina University, USA) and Isabelle Daniel (Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France) are the co-principal investigators for the proposal.  Approval of this grant marks the first time that all four science directorates have direct support from the Sloan Foundation. 

The Deep Carbon Observatory is organizing a robust series of workshops and meetings in 2012, including four events in the first three months of the year:
  1)  Deep Life Science Steering Committee Meeting: 23-24 January 2012, Lyon, France
  2)  DCO Executive Committee Meeting: 7 and 10 February 2012, Washington, DC
  3)  DCO Scientific Advisory Committee Meeting: 8-9 February 2012, Washington, DC
  4)  Physics and Chemistry of Carbon Workshop: 29-31 March 2012, Davis, California

A Carbon Geodynamics scoping study has been approved by the U.K.’s National Environmental Research Council (NERC).  The scoping study is predicated on the thesis that the mantle and core have, through a dynamic deep carbon cycle, exerted a major control on the form and budget of carbon at the surface through deep geological time.  The study is supported by a proposal entitled, “The controlling influence of the core and mantle on a habitable planet.”

Craig M. Schiffries

Tel: (202) 478-8819

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