DCO Project Summary

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Project Title
Disko Island as a Test-bed for Carbon Pathways
Start DateEnd Date
2013-08-05 2013-08-13
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A team of four scientists—P.I. Dr. Claire Cousins, Dr. Sami Mikhail, and PhD students Casey Bryce and Mark Fox-Powell—spent two weeks in August of 2013 sampling basalts and thermal spring materials on Disko Island, Greenland. The primary goal of this work was to collect a robust sample set to support ongoing research of interest to the DCO community.

Disko presents an ideal field site due to its unusual basalts, whose compositions are rare for surface samples, containing FeNi alloys and Fe-carbides. Study of these basalts may lead to increased understanding of their formation. Additionally, Disko is home to many understudied deep thermal springs, including mud volcanoes, salt springs, and cold to warm springs. The investigation of the microbes within these thermal springs may provide insights into subsurface microbiological communities’ carbon pathways and life cycles.

Due in part to its remote location, Disko Island is relatively under-examined. Many of the logistical issues addressed by this team will be invaluable to researchers coming to the island for future study.

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Reporting Year 2012 Click to expand

  • RY2012-1 - submitted on Aug 31, 2012

    Update Details:


    The Disko Island field campaign has been completed. The team met with some significant hurdles, including a nearly two-week delay in the arrival of their sample box, and bad weather that hit the island shortly after the box finally arrived. But despite these hardships, a tremendous amount of fieldwork was completed and samples collected for further study.

    P.I. Claire Cousins maintained a blog during the fieldwork, containing a wealth of technical and anecdotal information, photographs, and video footage. The blog may be found here:



    In the P.I.’s words, “Our objective was to investigate the value of this island in identifying carbon cycles and pathways relevant to understanding the Earth’s mantle and the subsurface biosphere. The samples we have acquired will be valuable to both these fundamental areas, and through our experiences here we have learnt a lot in how best to utilise Disko Island for further work in the future.”

Reporting Year 2015 Click to expand

  • Update 2015: Disko Island as a Test-bed for Carbon Pathways - submitted on Oct 05, 2015

    Update Details:

    Submitted by Claire Cousins, October 2015

    Ongoing outputs from DCO include two things. The first is some multidisciplinary microcosm-based research undertaken by Tim Bush at the University of Edinburgh as part of his PhD research. For this he used subsurface sediment collected from the Lyngsmark glacier to investigate microbial biogeochemical cycling of iron in response to the availability of organic carbon. This work is now in his thesis:

    Bush, T. (2015) Response to Environmental Perturbations in Microbial Nutrient-Cycling Ecosystems. PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh (defended June 18th 2015).

    Sami Mikhail is supervising an undergraduate student who will be conducting a research project entitled "The role of armacolite in iron-carbide formation following basalt interaction with coal seams" here at St. Andrews, which will use the basalt samples we collected during the Disko fieldwork.
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