In October 2015, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation strengthened its commitment to deep carbon science by funding four new Deep Carbon Observatory proposals. All four proposals are focused on achieving DCO’s decadal goals over the program’s final four years—as well as planning for the future of deep carbon science in 2020 and beyond.
The Deep Life Community, led by Co-Chairs Mitch Sogin (Marine Biological Laboratory Woods Hole, USA) and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs (University of Bremen, Germany), will continue the support and coordination of several major field expeditions. The Census of Deep Life (CoDL) remains very active, with scientists characterizing the extent and diversity of Earth’s deep biosphere. In Fall 2015, Deep Life will initiate a new program of research in extreme biophysics, linking this Community with Extreme Physics and Chemistry to understand microbial adaptations to life in the subsurface. The Deep Life Community will also begin integrating data into DCO’s overarching model of the deep carbon cycle, and continue hosting workshops and providing fellowships to sustain the Deep Life Community.
The Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community also proposed an exciting suite of activities, led by Chair Craig Manning (University of California Los Angeles, USA) and Co-Chair Wendy Mao (Stanford University, USA). As well as initiating new collaborations with Deep Life scientists, as noted above, Extreme Physics and Chemistry research will focus on the forms, transformations, and movements of deep carbon. The proposed work includes a range of studies on carbon-bearing materials at extreme conditions of planetary interiors, which will capitalize on recent advances in instrumentation and analytic methodology. The Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community is also working on new approaches to data science, planning a single web portal for expanded data archiving, and will continue their program of workshops and tutorials over the next two years.
The Sloan Foundation also approved funding for a DCO Modeling and Visualization Forum, headed by Principal Investigator Louise Kellogg (University of California Davis, USA). Kellogg and colleagues will develop a model of carbon pathways in Earth, a critical activity among DCO’s 2019 synthesis efforts. The open-access forum for modeling and visualizing deep carbon will engage and energize DCO’s broad international community of scientists. As well as establishing the modeling and visualization forum, scientists involved in this effort will work towards generating a planetary-scale “box model” of carbon pathways and explore key processes such as the role of melting in fluxes.
The final approved proposal submission, from Principal Investigator Claude Jaupart (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, France), outlines a plan for maintaining DCO’s legacies in 2020 and beyond. This grant will fund the formation of Task Force 2020; an international group of scientific leaders who will recommend strategies for building upon DCO’s decade of interdisciplinary discovery. Task Force 2020 will identify new and existing opportunities for deep carbon science post-2019 and will develop initiatives to secure DCO’s legacies for the future. In addition to considering DCO’s instrumentation and modeling legacies, members of Task Force 2020 will engage and focus on DCO’s vibrant community of Early Career Scientists.