The Deep Carbon Observatory – 10 years of exploration and discovery at more than 150 field sites worldwide.
From ocean bottom to volcano tops, DCO scientists are exploring Earth’s most remote locales.
In their 10-year quest to clarify the role of deep carbon in Earth’s past, present, and future, Deep Carbon Observatory scientists journey to some of the most remote yet scientifically valuable places on the planet.
From establishing global volcano monitoring systems to collecting sediment, rocks, and gases from Earth’s vast seafloor, DCO scientists exploit innovative techniques and technologies to find surface clues about carbon lying deep inside Earth.
The Deep Carbon Observatory
is a global community of more than 1,000 scientists from scores of institutions uncovering secrets of the quantities, movements, origins, and forms of Earth’s deep carbon.
In the field and in the lab, DCO scientists seek to answer such questions as: How much carbon does Earth store in its core, mantle, and crust? Where and how does the carbon flow from reservoir to reservoir? When, where, and how did the carbon in each reservoir originate? What forms does it take under conditions of extreme temperature and pressure? How does carbon become life and diamonds?
Seeded with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (New York), partnerships fostered under the banner of DCO have earned support from research sponsors in many nations including the UK Natural Environment Research Council, Russian Ministry of Science and Education, US National Science Foundation, and US Department of Energy as well as the International Continental Drilling Program and the International Ocean Discovery Program. Key partners around the world also include national geological surveys and professional societies concerned with geophysics, geochemistry, mineralogy, and microbiology.
FOCUS ON: Global Volcanic Emissions Monitoring
Scientists in the Reservoirs and Fluxes Community identify Earth’s principal deep carbon reservoirs (including diamonds), determine mechanisms and rates by which carbon moves among those reservoirs (through volcanism and other processes), and assess Earth’s total carbon budget.
Volcanologists of the Reservoirs and Fluxes Community have joined forces to improve global monitoring of volcanic gas emissions in the DECADE (DEep CArbon DEgassing) project. Led by Tobias Fischer (University of New Mexico), DECADE is deploying permanent monitoring systems atop and around volcanoes distributed around the world.
“Below Earth’s thin crust is the planet’s largest reservoir of carbon, the mantle, 2,900 kilometers thick.
Degassing from the mantle through volcanic regions is the primary way for carbon from Earth’s interior to reach Earth’s surface,” said Fischer. “To quantify accurately this major carbon path, we need consistent long-term monitoring of carbon emissions from active volcanoes and volcanic regions. DECADE brings together more than 80 scientists from a dozen countries to combine field measurements with new laboratory techniques and satellite monitoring to advance understanding of volcanic activity and Earth’s carbon budget.”
For more information about the DECADE program, contact Tobias Fischer (fluent English and German): email@example.com
• +1 (505) 277 0683
Reservoirs and Fluxes locations with opportunities for journalists: Costa Rica, Tanzania, Italy, Chile, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Western Samoa, Hawaii, Corsica, Madagascar, Azores, and Nicaragua. For more information contact Katie Pratt
, DCO Communications Director.
FOCUS ON: Origins of Organic Compounds in Deep Earth
Deep Energy researchers measure and quantify subsurface and deep Earth processes that contribute to the outgassing and generation of organic compounds on a global scale over geologic time.
Geochemists and geobiologists of the Deep Energy Community explore how methane, carbon dioxide, water, hydrogen and other fluids and gases circulate through the rocks of the upper mantle and crust and interact. Organic compounds produced in deep Earth provide fuel for biological ecosystems, while associated rock alteration liberates essential nutrients for life. Understanding deep carbon processes illuminates not only how deep life survives but perhaps also how the planet’s early life survived or even originated.
Another major question is the variety of origins of deep organic compounds such as methane. How much deep methane is produced biogenically (i.e.,
through action of biological processes) and how much abiogenically (through geological processes alone)? Recent breakthroughs
in lab instruments by DCO scientists allow testing of methane from diverse geological settings to ascertain how the gas was formed.
Magali Ader (Institut de Physique du Globe Paris) and colleagues work to understand this intimate relationship between deep energy and deep life.
“Access to samples from radically different, often remote sites, such as deep mines and places where deep carbon encounters the surface, such as sea floor vents and volcanic craters, enhances our ability to understand how and to what extent life relies on deep energy,” said Ader.
For more information about DCO Deep Energy research, contact Magali Ader (fluent English and French): firstname.lastname@example.org
• +33 (0)1 83 95 75 06
Deep Energy locations with opportunities for journalists: China, Madagascar, Canada, Oman, and USA. For more information, contact Katie Pratt
, DCO Communications Director.
Also, an expedition in the Arctic Ocean through 4 October 2014 on the Swedish Icebreaker ODEN is measuring surprising carbon fluxes from methane seeps in the seabed (SWERUS-C3
). With DCO support, Larry Mayer (University of New Hampshire) and colleagues onboard can be contacted via pre-arranged satellite call. Contact Katie Pratt
, DCO Communications Director to arrange an interview.
FOCUS ON: Extent and Diversity of Deep Life
The Deep Life Community explores the evolutionary and functional diversity of Earth’s deep biosphere and its interactions with the carbon cycle. Research on these extreme ecosystems also illuminates the possibility of life on other planets.
Within the Deep Life Community, molecular biologists of the Census of Deep Life
use fast-developing DNA sequencing techniques to look for life in unlikely places, such as the ancient water of deep mines, sediments far below the seafloor, and icy cages that trap methane in the seafloor. Deep-dwelling microbes adapt to high pressures, absence of sunlight, and in some cases stifling temperatures.
The Census of Deep Life, led by Rick Colwell (Oregon State University), is informing us about microbial communities existing in extreme and inhospitable environments.
“Deep life is composed of the large unseen biomass of microbes that survive in Earth’s remote subsurface,” said Colwell. “These communities may interact with the surface but may also live within the planet’s last pristine habitats unaltered by humans.”
Deep Life locations with opportunities for journalists: Finland, Mariana Trench, USA, China, Madagascar, and Oman. For more information, contact Katie Pratt
, DCO Communications Director.
More Field Sites
With DCO Field Studies ongoing for the remaining five years of the ten-year Deep Carbon Observatory program, DCO scientists will expand their investigations to more sites around the world. The DCO website
features an interactive field site map, currently specifying more than 150 locales, along with descriptive illustrations, photos, and video. DCO invites journalists to join the science teams at some of these field sites. Please direct inquiries to Katie Pratt
, DCO’s Communications Director. Interested members of the media will find more information and an online application here
Coming Soon: DCO Mid-Term Report
In December 2014, DCO will summarize major findings and accomplishments from its first five years of research and discovery in its mid-term report, integrated by DCO Co-Executive Director Russell Hemley (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA). The report will appear online after 15 December 2014 and in print at a DCO reception at the 2014 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco on the evening of 16 December. DCO welcomes journalists to attend the reception.
Members of the DCO network enjoy access to a password protected portion of our website, direct interaction with DCO scientists,
and subscription to our monthly newsletter.
We encourage all journalists interested in deep carbon science to join.
The Deep Carbon Observatory (deepcarbon.net)
A 10-year global quest to discover the quantity, movements, origins, and forms of Earth’s deep carbon; to probe the secrets of volcanoes and diamonds, sources of gas and oil, and life’s deep limits and origins; and to report the known, unknown, and unknowable by 2019.
The Deep Carbon Observatory continues to seek the collaboration and contributions of all scientists interested in the unfolding, and as yet untold, story of carbon in Earth. Conducting expeditions, laboratory experiments, and simulations, we ultimately aim to advance significantly, and perhaps change fundamentally, our understanding of carbon and the role it plays in our lives.
DCO aims to create legacies of instruments measuring at great depths, temperatures, and pressures; networks sensing fluxes of carbon-containing gases and fluids between the depths and the surface; open access databases about deep carbon; deep carbon researchers integrating geology, physics, chemistry, and biology; insights improving energy systems; and a public more engaged with deep carbon science.
Deep Carbon Observatory Secretariat:
Carnegie Institution of Washington
5251 Broad Branch Road, NW, Washington, DC 20015-1305