Inaugural Gordon Conference Sparks Deep Thoughts on Deep Carbon

A diverse, multidisciplinary group of scientists attended the inaugural Gordon Research Conference on Deep Carbon Science, 17-22 June 2018 for five days of lively, provocative discussions.

Gordon Research Conference


A diverse and interdisciplinary group of Earth scientists, planetary scientists, and geobiologists from 11 countries converged at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island to participate in the inaugural Gordon Research Conference on Deep Carbon Science. Discussion was lively throughout the five-day conference, which launched with a Sunday evening session on 17 June and concluded on Friday morning 22 June 2018. Craig Manning (University of California, Los Angeles, USA) and Isabelle Daniel (Université Claude Bernard Lyon, France) chaired the conference. 

The meeting focused on the evolution of deep carbon in Earth’s biological and nonbiological reservoirs over 4.6 billion years. Oral sessions and discussions addressed how carbon is incorporated into a growing planet, what fraction is sequestered in the interior and what fraction returned to space, and how early planetary processes mediate these transfers. After focusing on planetary assembly, discussion turned to the evolution of carbon reservoirs in the first 800 million years of Earth (the Hadean). Then, presenters and participants went on to explore early deep life: the population of terrestrial niches, the challenges that were overcome, and the feedbacks and interactions between the geosphere and the biosphere. The final phase of the conference addressed the deep carbon cycle and how it has evolved through time.  Despite the conference’s expansive scope, participants seemed to find common ground. 

As is typical of Gordon Research Conferences, the schedule was designed to maximize interaction of participants and ensure an opportunity for robust and frequent discussion between and among scientific investigators. Over the course of five days, the 22 presentations were allotted ample time for questions and answers. Poster sessions, held most days, and communal meals also provided opportunities for discussion in more informal settings. With formal programming held to the morning and evening, mid-day was reserved for free time, which enabled meetings, field trips, and daily World Cup Soccer viewing with a decidedly international perspective.

Bryant University
Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, USA, was the setting for the inaugural Gordon Research Conference on Deep Carbon Science. Credit: Josh Wood

Said co-chair Craig Manning, “The success of this first Gordon Research Conference on Deep Carbon Science holds great promise for serving as a sustainable successor for DCO international science meetings. It is a superb model for stimulating discussion, sharing of new and provocative science, and bringing together a diverse community of scientists who study aspects of deep carbon science. ”

Edward D. Young (University of California, Los Angeles, USA) and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs (University of Bremen, Germany) served as vice-chairs of the 2018 Gordon Research Conference on Deep Carbon Science and will chair the 2020 session. Conference participants elected Douglas LaRowe (University of Southern California, USA) and Tamsin Mather (University of Oxford, UK) to chair a third GRC session on deep carbon science. 

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