Message from the Director - January 2012

The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) is featured in two publications this month. A cover article in Eos (10 January 2012), Carbon in Earth's Interior: Storage, Cycling, and Life, demonstrates that research on carbon throughout Earth’s interior is an exciting frontier for planetary science.  Knowledge of the deep interior, which may contain more than 90% of Earth's carbon, is limited.  As a result, little is known about how deep carbon reservoirs form, evolve, and reach the surface.  Further, scientists know little of the nature and extent of deep microbial ecosystems, which by some estimates rival the total surface biomass. The article makes a compelling case for the Deep Carbon Observatory. 

The current issue of Earth magazine (January 2012) features an intriguing article, Source Code: The Methane Race, about two teams building new mass spectrometers to measure isotopologues of methane and other gases.  One goal of these instruments is to distinguish biogenic methane from abiogenic methane.  "Geologist Doug Rumble from the Carnegie Institution of Washington and geochemist Ed Young from UCLA have commissioned a brand-new $2 million machine as part of the Deep Carbon Observatory project — a mission, funded by the Sloan Foundation, to work out how much carbon is underground, how it got there, and where it’s going," says Earth magazine.  According to Rumble, the isotopologue technique has been a revolution and it has opened the door to new ways of fingerprinting the origins of organic gases. “This is the first conceptual breakthrough in how to go about doing it,” says Barbara Sherwood Lollar, who serves on the DCO Executive Committee. 

A successful meeting of DCO’s Deep Life Scientific Steering Committee was held in Lyon, France on 23-24 January 2012.  This is the first in a series of DCO meetings in 2012, including:

  • DCO Executive Committee: 7 and 10 February 2012, Washington, DC, USA
  • DCO Science Advisory Committee: 8-9 February 2012, Washington, DC, USA
  • Physics and Chemistry of Carbon Scientific Steering Committee Workshop: 29-31 March 2012, Davis, California, USA
  • Deep Energy Workshop: 3-4 May 2012, Paris, France
  • Serpentine Workshop: 2-6 September 2012, Porquerolles Island, France
  • DCO Executive Committee Meeting: 20-21 September 2012, Berlin, Germany

A session on Earth’s Deep Carbon Cycle will be held at the 2012 Goldschmidt Symposium in Montreal, Canada on 24-29 January.  The abstract submission deadline is 1 February.  We welcome the opportunity to work with the members of the DCO community to organize deep carbon sessions at other scientific conferences.   

Craig M. Schiffries

Tel: (202) 478-8819   


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