Ten instructors guided the Summer School activities, which included classroom lectures, field trips, and hands-on data collection and analysis. The Summer School program examined Yellowstone’s complex volcanic and hydrothermal systems through the lenses of biology, geology, and chemistry—demonstrating to participants the value of DCO’s multidisciplinary approach to studying carbon in Earth.
Summer School classroom sessions introduced a broad range of topics within deep carbon science. Lecture subjects included microbiology of the deep subsurface and extreme environments, the nature of Earth’s deep carbon cycle, carbon dioxide degassing from tectonic and volcanic sources, and the origins of life itself.
Fieldwork was a key aspect of the Summer School, building on successful programs from both the first DCO Summer School and two previous DCO Early Career Scientist Workshops. USGS emeritus scientists and Yellowstone experts Lisa Morgan and Pat Shanks reprised their role from the first Summer School as instructors and field trip guides, leading the group through an incredible two-day tour of the park. They took participants into the massive Yellowstone caldera, along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, and to the alien landscapes of Norris Geyser basin. One highlight of the field trips was an early-morning visit to Grand Prismatic Spring, where the enthusiasm of the microbiologists at the brightly colored microbial mats spread rapidly among the geochemists and geologists in the group.
Instructor Lisa Morgan and participant Sabin Zahirovic on the shore of Yellowstone Lake.
The field activities culminated in an intensive sampling effort at Bear Creek, a small, scenic hydrothermal area adjacent to the Yellowstone River just north of the park. Armed with a variety of sampling tools and instruments, small multi-disciplinary groups of early career scientists teamed up with instructors to measure carbon fluxes, assess the local geology, and study the hydrothermal springs’ microbial ecosystems.
“The day sampling at Bear Creek really put the whole school into perspective for me,” said Summer School organizing committee chair Rick Colwell. “I was at the end of the group hiking down the canyon, and I suddenly had a wonderful view of a line of scientists from around the world stretching down the trail, carrying gear and expectations for another day in the field - this time a concerted effort to examine the area’s springs up close.”
Summer School participants and instructors begin the hike down to Bear Creek.
That evening back at Chico Hot Springs Resort, participants learned how to analyze their gas samples on a ThermoFisher Delta Ray Isotope Ratio Infrared Spectrometer, and spent the evening compiling and interpreting the data they collected. They wowed the instructors the following morning with a group presentation that synthesized the data into a detailed portrait of Bear Creek’s hot springs.
“Seeing the students present their data was inspirational,” noted Colwell. “The instructors were all spellbound by what these incredible young scientists accomplished in 20 hours, and the active discussion that followed.”
This is not the last we will hear from these passionate early career scientists. Presentations on the final morning launched a spirited discussion about the future of open access publication and science communication. The conversation explored new approaches for communicating research findings with scientists and non-scientists alike and ways to sustain future versions of the summer school’s collaborative format. Projecting these new, multidisciplinary efforts amongst early careers scientists is consistent with one of the original goals of the summer school, namely to launch DCO objectives and collaborations beyond the current lifetime of the program.
Everyone signed a DCO hat to leave behind at Chico Hot Springs Resort.
After the official program ended, an impromptu game of soccer underscored the relationships built during the week, before participants bid each other fond farewells and began the journey home.
“It was an absolutely thrilling experience,” commented DCO Executive Director and Summer School instructor Robert Hazen. “I was awed by the natural setting and inspired by the engagement and enthusiasm of the diverse international early-career participants. This truly was a memorable week.”
Steam rises from Grand Prismatic Spring in the cool early morning. All photos by Katie Pratt.
Organizing Committee / Instructors:
Summer School sponsors: