December 2014: DCO at the AGU Fall Meeting

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Deep Carbon Observatory researchers presented close to 100 scientific papers at the 2014 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco from 15 to 19 December. DCO also convened a workshop, town hall meeting, reception, and other events at the AGU Meeting, which attracted record attendance of more than 25,000 scientists.

Deep Time Data Workshop

DCO activities in San Francisco began with the Deep-Time Data Workshop, a daylong event on Sunday, 14 December, led by DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA). More than forty geoscientists and data scientists discussed advances and opportunities in data management and infrastructure as related to studies using geological time as a critical dimension. The workshop brought together a diverse group of early-career and established scientists from as far away as Australia.

Following a keynote address by the University of Wisconsin’s Shanan Peters, 25 attendees gave seven-minute presentations, each followed by inspired and lively discussions. The workshop included four areas of discussion: “Deep-Time Science Opportunities,” “Deep-Time Data Resources,” “Building a Deep-Time Data Infrastructure,” and an open-ended “What’s Next?” discourse.

The workshop achieved its goals of better coordinating disparate activities and finding ways to leverage joint interests. Many connections were made throughout the day that may lead to future dynamic collaborative efforts. Plans are in place to continue workshop dialog among the participant group as well as to engage the minds and ideas of others who had been unable to attend.

Reception and Release of DCO’s Mid-term Scientific Report

2014 marked the mid-point of DCO’s decade of research and discovery. To celebrate this milestone, Co-Executive Director Russell Hemley (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA) summarized five years of scientific accomplishment in “Carbon in Earth: Quantities, Movements, Forms, and Origins.” This 32-page illustrated document was unveiled at the 2014 Fall Meeting at a DCO-sponsored reception on Tuesday, 16 December.

“Understanding carbon at a fundamental level is critical to the health and wellbeing of society, and deep carbon is an important part of that story that we just don’t know very much about,” said DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen, in a new video produced by Smithsonian Media to complement the midterm scientific report.

Added Hemley, “the midterm scientific report shares DCO’s priorities for the next five years, too. We will enhance an already far-reaching community through field studies, instrument development, lab work, and collaborative endeavors in modeling and visualization and data science. With a strong global commitment to early career researchers and diversity, the future of deep carbon is bright. We are the 90%.”

The reception, at Restaurant LuLu in San Francisco, was attended by close to 200 members of the DCO Science Network, deep carbon scientists, and members of the news media. The hosts (the DCO Engagement Team, Secretariat, and Early Career Scientists) were delighted to see vibrant, multi-disciplinary conversations continuing long after the reception was scheduled to end.

DCO Science Highlights at AGU 2014

Deep carbon science sessions dominated the early part of the week. Monday’s suite of DCO Early Career Scientist-organized sessions kicked off the meeting with “Carbon: Storage, Migration, and Outgassing within Earth and Other Planetary Bodies.” This exciting session included a talk from DCO’s Larry Taylor (University of Tennessee Knoxville, USA), whose work in collaboration with scientists at the Russian Academy of Science on a single rock sample containing 30,000 tiny diamonds captured the attention of the international press. In addition, DCO’s Dimitri Sverjensky (Johns Hopkins University, USA) presented data from his recent paper in Nature Geoscience pointing to the presence of organic ions in the mantle, and, thus, previously un-anticipated mechanisms of diamond formation.

Later in the day, volcanic degassing was the major topic, with talks from Brian House (Scripps Institute of Oceanography, USA), Tobias Fischer (University of New Mexico, USA), and David Hilton (University of California San Diego, USA). Philippe Robidoux (INGV/University of Palermo, Italy) wrapped up a series of talks on degassing from the Central America Volcanic Arc. Thanks to the work of DCO’s DECADE initiative, this arc’s degassing is now well constrained. The morning talks and afternoon poster session were all extremely well attended, a testament to the exciting program put together by conveners Vincenzo Stagno (Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan), Sami Mikhail (University of Bristol, UK), Anja Rosenthal (Universitaet Bayreuth, Germany), and Taryn Lopez (University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA).

DCO Early Career Scientists convened two additional poster sessions on Monday afternoon. Aude Picard (Harvard University) and Mark Lever (ETH Zürich, Switzerland) co-convened “(Bio)geochemical Cycles in Extreme Environments.” The session included posters from DCO’s Alysia Cox (Arizona State University, USA), Kirsten Fristad (NASA Ames Research Center, USA), and Riikka Kietäväinen (Geological Survey of Finland). Dan Hummer (University of California Los Angeles, USA) and Marius Millot (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA) co-convened “Carbon Chemistry in the Deep Earth.”

The AGU sessions convened by DCO Early Career Scientists occurred as an outcome of the DCO Early Career Workshop held February 2014 in Costa Rica. To recognize their tremendous work reuniting the DCO early career community at AGU, each co-convener was awarded a Travel Award from the DCO Secretariat to help support their own attendance.

Tuesday’s deep life sessions included a number of presentations of DCO interest. Jen Biddle (University of Delaware, USA) and Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science, USA) chaired the engaging sessions “Wanted Dead or Alive: Microbes in the Subsurface”. DCO’s Steve D’Hondt (University of Rhode Island, USA) presented data from IODP Expedition 329 and addressed various questions pertaining to limits of deep life. Ben Tully (University of Southern California, USA) talked about his work as a Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) postdoctoral fellow on life in the Louisville Seamounts. And Census of Deep Life collaborator Brandon Briggs (Miami University, USA) presented pyrosequencing data aimed at understanding specific genetic adaptations to life in the deep biosphere.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar (University of Toronto, Canada) presented twice on Tuesday afternoon, talking about her investigations into the deep biosphere in continental cratons. The next day her DCO collaboration with Chris Ballentine (University of Oxford, UK) and T.C. Onstott (Princeton University, USA) was released in Nature, and the ensuing press coverage saw DCO once again in the media spotlight. Discoveries of ancient H2-rich fluids isolated in Precambrian shield rock capable of supporting life are changing our understanding of how life might have originated on Earth, and open up the possibility that similar life could survive deep in the crust of Mars.

Members of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI, USA) DCO Data Science team had several posters and presentations regarding many aspects of data science as they relate to Earth sciences. The poster most directly applicable to DCO was “DCO-VIVO: A Collaborative Data Platform for the Deep Carbon Science Communities” by Han Wang, Yu Chen, Patrick West, John S. Erickson, Xiaogang Ma, and Peter Fox, all of RPI.  The poster described the DCO knowledge infrastructure, the semantic representation of information and data in the VIVO knowledge store, and how the VIVO knowledge store can be used to search, browse, visualize, and report on information in DCO. VIVO is an open-source Semantic Web platform that is being used as the central point of information storage and retrieval for information such as DCO-related journal articles and their authors, grant, project, and field studies information. The DCO Data Science Team is working to expand the capabilities of VIVO to suit the requirements of DCO.

On Thursday, DECADE held a DCO-sponsored Town Hall Meeting to discuss ongoing efforts to monitor global volcanic emissions and create accessible and comprehensive databases of these measurements. Tobias Fischer (University of New Mexico, USA) began the event by summarizing DECADE’s progress at Póas (Costa Rica) and Merapi (Java) volcanoes. Simon Carn (Michigan Tech, USA) showed slides from his expedition to the Vannatu archipelago in the South Pacific, where in situ measurements at Ambrym and Yasur allowed for comparisons between MultiGas and FTIR techniques for assessing CO2 and SO2 degassing. Mike Burton (INGV, Italy) and Cindy Werner (Alaska Volcano Observatory, USA) also took the podium to talk about work at Etna (Italy) and Kilauea (Hawaii), respectively. DECADE scientists are also interested in using satellite data from GOSAT and OCO-2, and Florian Schwandner (NASA/JPL) presented a poster just before the Town Hall with promising data from OCO-2 suggesting it is possible to analyze CO2 degassing in discrete volcanic plumes using this satellite.

Looking ahead to AGU 15

The DCO Science Network is fast becoming a nexus of international, trans-disciplinary science, a fact demonstrated at the 2014 Fall Meeting by the quality and diversity of DCO-hosted sessions, events, and presentations. A full record of talks, posters, and town halls from this year’s meeting can be found here.

If you attended the meeting but missed out on a session or two, visit the archive of recorded talks on the AGU website: virtual options.

Images and video courtesy of Josh Wood, Yael Fitzpatrick, and Katie Pratt.