Third DCO International Science Meeting in St Andrews, Scotland: New Directions for Deep Carbon Science

More than 150 members of the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) Science Network gathered at the University of St Andrews, Scotland to present forefront research on deep carbon science at the Third DCO International Science Meeting from 23-25 March 2017.

The interdisciplinary meeting explored DCO’s scientific advances into the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of deep carbon. Organized by the DCO Secretariat, the three-day meeting consisted of intensive oral presentations, poster sessions, and workshops.

During welcoming remarks, Science Program Committee Chair Chris Ballentine (University of Oxford, UK) and Local Host Sami Mikhail, (University of St Andrews, UK) explained the meeting’s nontraditional structure, in which early and mid-career scientists would give many of the oral presentations and senior scientists would give many of the poster presentations. This role reversal provided opportunities for all participants to learn about research conducted by early career scientists during the plenary oral sessions, and facilitated one-on-one conversations between early career and senior colleagues at the poster sessions. A primary motivation for this strategy is that DCO leadership views its burgeoning early career scientist community as one of the most important legacies of the program.

Digging Deep into Deep Carbon Science
The meeting program—which included approximately 40 oral presentations, 90 poster presentations, and five workshops—explored the roles of deep carbon from within Earth’s core to outer space. Oral and poster presentations spanned the fields of geology, geochemistry, chemistry and chemical physics, cosmochemistry, physics, microbiology and geomicrobiology, and data science.

Speakers presented on topics ranging from the Rosetta mission and possible origins of Earth’s carbon, to diamonds and the myriad of forms of carbon in Earth’s mantle, to the role of serpentinization and hydrogen formation in continental crust. Many DCO colleagues presented their progress toward quantifying and tracing the path of the deep carbon cycle, one of DCO’s decadal goals. Researchers shared their work on carbon fluxes to and from Earth’s mantle, including the role of subduction of carbon in marine sediments and carbon degassing from subaerial volcanoes, methane hydrates, and submarine mud volcanoes.

Many presenters demonstrated the success of using modeling and visualization as a means to synthesize disparate aspects of deep carbon science. In an invited public lecture at the University of St Andrews, for example, DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA) showed the power of big data for finding new patterns in vast datasets.

Promoting Early Career Scientists
Promoting the success of early career scientists is critical to establishing a robust community of deep carbon scientists beyond 2019. The Science Program Committee designed the meeting program with early career colleagues in mind. Early career scientists delivered more than half of the oral presentations and a significant portion of the poster presentations.

ECS Leadership awardsThe Executive Committee also recognized the contribution of early career scientists by presenting DCO Emerging Leader Awards to— Yves Moussallam (University of Cambridge, UK) and Maggie CY Lau (Princeton University, USA). Selected through an open nomination process, the two awardees were recognized for their outstanding contributions to deep carbon science and unique potential as future leaders of the DCO community. Both recipients delivered special award lectures on their work, with Moussallam presenting the “Trail by Fire” field campaign that visited 15 subduction zone volcanoes in South America, and Lau discussing her research on life in the deep continental subsurface.

DCO Field Studies
Several meeting presentations highlighted DCO scientists’ worldwide field activities including multiple International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) expeditions in which DCO scientists played leading roles. These included Expedition 357: Atlantis Massif Serpentinization and Life and Expedition 370: T-Limit of the Deep Biosphere off Muroto, Japan. Other DCO field studies featured prominently at the meeting were the Oman Drilling Project, an International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) initiative launched with DCO support, and DCO’s interdisciplinary Biology Meets Subduction fieldwork in Costa Rica, a program organized and run by early career scientists. Presenters also reported on results from the DECADE (Deep Earth Carbon Degassing) volcano monitoring network and investigations of deep energy and deep life in mines around the world.

DCO Science Meeting poster sessionWorkshops
The meeting included five workshops designed to engage the community more broadly and more deeply. Three workshops focused on DCO synthesis activities, including Earth in Five Reactions, DCO Modeling Initiatives, and DCO’s Educational Legacy. Two workshops focused on DCO’s data science capabilities and science communication.

Meetings of Opportunity
To take advantage of gathering of many of its members, the DCO Executive Committee convened a meeting in St Andrews on 22 March 2017 to continue planning DCO activities in 2017-2019, including synthesis activities that will culminate with celebratory events in the United Kingdom in 2019. DCO Director Craig Schiffries said, “We are planning for the future of deep carbon science beyond the DCO decadal program, which was launched in 2009 with generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.”

The DCO Deep Life Community also took advantage of the proximity of its member and met at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on 26 March 2017. A number of its members reviewed the achievements of the Deep Life Community and developed a strategy for contributing to DCO synthesis activities.

Looking Ahead
This intense three-day scientific program demonstrated how far deep carbon science has come and how many questions remain unanswered . Although the Sloan Foundation’s support for the DCO decadal program concludes in 2019, this meeting made it clear finding the answers to these outstanding questions in the field of deep carbon science will motivate the next generation of researchers in 2020 and beyond.


Science Program Committee

Chris Ballentine (University of Oxford, UK), Chair
Sami Mikhail (University of St. Andrews, UK), Local host / Reservoirs & Fluxes representative
Muriel Andreani (University of Lyon, France), Deep Energy representative
Tom Kieft (New Mexico Tech, USA), Deep Life representative
Jackie Li (University of Michigan, USA), Extreme Physics & Chemistry representative
Craig Manning (UCLA, USA), DCO Executive Committee representative
Tamsin Mather (University of Oxford, UK), DCO Reservoirs & Fluxes / Integration representative
Craig Schiffries (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), DCO Secretariat representative

Program and participants (.pdf)

Abstracts (.pdf)

Photos (Flickr)

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