Deep Life and Extreme Physics and Chemistry Proposals Funded

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded two years of funding for Extreme Physics and Chemistry (EPC) and Deep Life (DL) community activity as part of its ten-year commitment to the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO). As the end of the decade approaches, both communities will focus on addressing DCO’s guiding questions, synthesizing community data, and sharing what they have learned about deep carbon.

Over the past eight years, highly leveraged work by DCO scientists has produced major discoveries advancing the study of deep carbon science. The EPC Community—currently led by Chair Craig Manning (University of California Los Angeles, USA) and co-Chair Wendy Mao (Stanford University, USA)—began the decade focusing on steady state conditions of carbon at high temperatures and pressures, then expanded its research to include the kinetics and thermodynamics of materials in planetary interiors. EPC research has elucidated the behavior of carbon at extreme conditions; for example, we have learned that diamonds can form from organic molecules in subduction zones, that water is an important mediator of carbon transport in Earth’s mantle, and that the diversity of high-pressure carbonates rivals the diversity of silicate minerals.

“It’s important to recognize that these scientific advances, collaborations, and really the deep carbon science community are made possible by funding from the Sloan Foundation,“ said Craig Manning, who also chairs DCO’s Executive Committee. “We are grateful for Sloan’s continued support and look forward to having lots more to report in 2019.”

The DL Community—led by co-Chairs Mitch Sogin (Marine Biological Laboratory, USA) and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs (University of Bremen, Germany)—has advanced our knowledge of the habitable areas of planets and helped us understand how microbial communities survive in extreme environments. The capabilities of international scientific drilling programs provided DCO researchers opportunities to study deeply buried microbial ecosystems in both subseafloor and subterranean environments. Using these capabilities, DL scientists have demonstrated that microbes and fungi exist 2.5km beneath the seafloor, the deepest ecosystem known on Earth. Over eight years, the DL Community has contributed to a more detailed picture of the extent of Earth’s deep biosphere and a better appreciation of the unexpected diversity of microbial species living in Earth’s deepest, darkest habitats.

The newly funded proposals outline ambitious efforts for both DCO science communities, including an important synergy between the two: the Extreme Biophysics initiative. Led by Cathy Royer (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA) and Roland Winter (TU Dortmund, Germany), this initiative focuses on the behavior of biomolecules at high temperatures and pressures, and how microorganisms have adapted to life under these conditions.  

Both science communities will continue their commitment to early career researchers, offering a suite of fellowships and workshops. These training opportunities range from cultivating deep microbes in the laboratory to fostering the use of new deep Earth modeling tools. Both science communities will maintain and strengthen ongoing collaborations with international groups such as the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), the International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP) the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI), the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), and Carbonates at High Pressures and Temperatures (CarboPaT). These kinds of collaborations will be central to the successful continuation of deep carbon science into the next decade and beyond. 

Further Reading

DCO Highlights The Road to 2019: Sharing Deep Carbon Science after a Decade of Research and Discovery

In a suite of successful proposals to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, DCO’s Engagement Team,…

DCO Highlights Linking DCO’s Communities with Integrated Modeling: New Proposal Funded

In Earth’s deep interior, carbon is stored in a dynamic system of silicate rocks and aqueous fluids…

DCO Highlights DCO Engagement and Synthesis: New Proposals Funded

In March 2016, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation approved continued funding for the DCO Engagement…

DCO Highlights New Modeling and Visualization Initiatives Commissioned

The initiatives incorporate carbon into modeling efforts and engage new talent in DCO’s future…

Back to top