Deep Life (DL) has received another two years of DCO funding beginning December 1st 2013. The award from the Sloan Foundation is intended to promote deep carbon science through seeding scientific networks, improving instrumentation and infrastructure, and engagement of both the scientific community at large and the general public. The proposal, headed up by DL co-Chairs Mitch Sogin (Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA) and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs (University of Bremen, Germany), outlines how the community will continue ongoing work to map the abundance, diversity and function of subsurface marine and continental microorganisms in both space and time, and thus contribute to meeting the decadal goals of the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO).
The community will focus its efforts on improving deep life detection capabilities, as well as investigating the flow of carbon from carbonaceous materials into deep life and the nature of such intricate rock/life interactions. Two initiatives form major focal points for the Deep Life Community. The Census of Deep Life (CoDL) will continue major sampling and metagenomic sequencing efforts with a view to constructing a global 3-D census of microbial diversity in the subsurface biosphere. CoDL researchers will also use these data to explore the mechanisms governing microbial evolution, metabolic activity, its influence on the deep carbon cycle, and other adaptations to life beneath the surface.
The Rock Hosted Communities (RHC) project is primarily concerned with how deep microbial ecosystems interact with their surroundings. Building on previous work, this project will continue to support investigation of the interplay between abiotic, geological, and biological processes taking place in deep Earth. The Deep Life Community will also investigate the significance of serpentinization and radiolysis as it pertains to the tantalizing proposition that life on Earth originated in deep Earth.
While these projects have somewhat separable goals, there will be significant sharing of data across the community as each program progresses. In addition, the DCO’s Deep Energy Community will collaborate with RHC scientists over the coming years. The process of serpentinization is central to research in both the Deep Energy and Deep Life Communities, as are the interactions that occur between microbial ecosystems and their rocky substrates, and fruitful cross-community collaborations continue to emerge.
The Deep Life Community will also be sponsoring several workshops over the next two years, including joint ventures with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI). Additional community building and outreach activities have been proposed.
Photo: Deep Life scientists on board the JOIDES Resolution. Credit: William Crawford of the IODP