Meeting Report: DCO Executive Committee Events at UCLA, JPL, and Caltech

The DCO Executive Committee meeting at the University of California Los Angeles in October 2014 featured DCO's innovative instrumentation portfolio, field studies, and legacy planning.

The Deep Carbon Observatory’s innovative instrumentation portfolio, field studies, and legacy planning were featured at the DCO Executive Committee meeting at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), USA, 1-2 October 2014.

Prior to the meeting, Executive Committee members and other DCO leaders toured facilities of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and discussed potential collaborations to build upon an existing Memorandum of Understanding between DCO and JPL. Max Coleman (JPL) organized presentations about NASAs Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE), the potential for NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) satellite to measure volcanic gas emissions from space, and new opportunities for integrating satellite measurements with DCO’s ground-based measurements.

Next, a visit to John Eiler’s laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) afforded DCO leaders the opportunity to hear firsthand from Eiler how his new mass spectrometers will inform our understanding of methane formation at depth. Later in the meeting, the Executive Committee visited Edward Young’s newly renovated laboratory at UCLA where he will soon install a new mass spectrometer, called Panorama, which is the largest gas-source mass spectrometer in the world and has the greatest resolving power of any such multiple-collector instrument. While touring UCLA and Caltech laboratories the group enjoyed meeting graduate students and postdocs, seeing inventive instruments, and hearing about each team’s cutting-edge research.

During the Executive Committee meeting, both Eiler and Young gave presentations about their innovative mass spectrometers and discussed extraordinary research opportunities enabled by measuring “clumped” isotopes in methane and other molecules. DCO Director Craig Schiffries of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW), USA, reviewed DCO’s portfolio of instruments and discussed how these instruments are designed to help DCO meet its decadal goals.

By live videoconference from Paris, France, Tobias Fisher (University of New Mexico, USA) and Patrick Allard (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, France), leaders of DCO’s DEep CArbon DEgassing (DECADE) program, provided an update on this volcano monitoring program, which currently includes 80 members from 12 countries. Fisher and Allard explained the program’s operating structure, its mini grants program, and its growing volcanic gas and rock databases.

DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen (CIW) welcomed new CIW President Matthew Scott for a discussion of strategic relationships between DCO and CIW (left). The conversation with Scott led to discussion of DCO’s legacy beyond 2019. Jesse Ausubel (Rockefeller University, USA), the Sloan Foundation’s program officer for DCO, described a key Sloan goal: for DCO to serve as a model for contemporary conduct of international, collaborative scientific research. Ausubel and Hazen further addressed DCO’s legacy projects and products, including the DECADE project, a Deep Time Data Infrastructure, and the collection of diamonds for research orchestrated by DCO’s Diamonds and Mantle Geochemistry of Carbon (DMGC) group. The committee discussed the possibility of transitioning to a DCO “federation” of entities after DCO concludes its original ten-year program in 2019.  

Russell Hemley (CIW), DCO’s Co-Executive Director, presented a draft of DCO’s mid-term report. The report, planned for release during the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December 2014, will provide a brief, high-level summary of DCO’s achievements to date, including infrastructure, research, and community building, as well as plans for DCO’s second phase.

After a discussion of potential gaps in the DCO research portfolio, the committee turned to planning needs for DCO’s synthesis year and its legacy beyond 2019. This agenda item featured short presentations from Ausubel, Hazen, Executive Committee members Claude Jaupart (IPGP, France), Terry Plank (Columbia University, USA), and Sara Hickox (University of Rhode Island, USA), and, via teleconference, Reservoirs and Fluxes Engagement Liaison Liz Cottrell (Smithsonian Institution, USA). The group identified a wide range of possible products and initiatives, including films and videos, scientific volumes and popular books, maps, models and visualization platforms, and artistic endeavors. As a way to foster a lively deep carbon science community beyond 2019, the Executive Committee recognized the value of actively involving mid- and early career researchers as integral members of a synthesis group. This group will identify and prioritize the substance of a synthesis; scoping out the time, resources, and partnerships required, and tapping individuals to take responsibility for specific products and initiatives.

As an additional science highlight, Executive Committee member Eiji Ohtani (Tohoku University, Japan) offered an overview of the Russian Mega-Grant research for developing cutting-edge technology and computational capabilities to enhance the field of high-pressure thermodynamics.

Erik Hauri (CIW), Reservoirs and Fluxes Chair, led a discussion of DCO’s globe-circling field studies. Peter Kelemen (Columbia University, USA), live via teleconference, provided an update on the status of the Oman drilling project and an overview of activities planned for the next DCO Executive Committee also taking place in Oman in early 2015. Engagement Team Co-Leaders Sara Hickox and Sunshine Menezes (University of Rhode Island) then showcased the wide range of components associated with a recently released DCO Field Studies Media Advisory including an Interactive Field Studies map (right), a new graphic depicting DCO environments, techniques, and sample types, and a new field studies overview video produced in collaboration with Smithsonian Media.

The Executive Committee is looking forward to many interactions between DCO scientists and partners in the coming year, including the 2nd DCO International Science Meeting, 26 to 28 March 2015 in Munich, Germany, a modeling and visualization workshop, and a joint meeting of the Reservoirs and Fluxes and Extreme Physics and Chemistry Communities.

Featured Image: From left to right: DCO Executive Committee meeting host and Extreme Physics and DCO Chemistry Community Chair, Craig Manning (UCLA, USA) tours the Jet Propulsion Laboratory with other Executive Committee members Jesse Ausubel (Rockefeller University, USA), Eiji Ohtani (Tohoku University, Japan), and Nikolay Sobolev (Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia).

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