About the Deep Carbon Observatory

DCO logoThe Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) is a global community of more than 1000 scientists on a ten-year quest to understand the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon in Earth.


Who we are

Ninety percent of Earth’s carbon resides inside the planet, yet we are only just beginning to understand the many ways deep carbon impacts the oceans, atmosphere, and life at the surface. That’s why in 2009 a team of scientists launched an international collaboration, with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to investigate how the deep carbon cycle drives our world.

Laurence Yeung
DCO scientist Laurence Yeung. Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

DCO brings together a multidisciplinary group of scientists, including geologists, chemists, physicists, and biologists.

Our community, the DCO Science Network, is made up of more than 1200 scientists from 55 countries, involving scientists at all stages of their careers. Many opportunities exist for early career scientists to be active participants in the Network.

How we are organized

DCO’s Executive Committee, a team of scientists from around the world, leads the Deep Carbon Observatory, guiding the community’s research and sharing its findings with the broader scientific community.

Four science communities conduct research, collectively illuminating the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon deep within Earth.

The four science communities are: Extreme Physics and Chemistry, Reservoirs and Fluxes, Deep Energy, and Deep Life.

DCO’s Secretariat provides central coordination for DCO supported projects and facilitates an international management structure, comprised of the Executive Committee and four Scientific Steering Committees. 

How we conduct research

Volcanic gas sampling
Volcanologist Yves Moussallam probing the temperature of fumaroles at Lastarria volcano in northern Chile. Credit: Trail by Fire Team

DCO scientists conduct research at approximately 100 field sites around the world.

Using innovative technology and instrumentation, laboratory experiments, and real-time observations, DCO scientists are answering the question of how deep carbon affects life on Earth.

Our scientists are also using modeling and visualization techniques to better comprehend the complex nature of carbon inside Earth.

DCO is integrating its findings across communities and synthesizing its findings to better understand the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon in Earth.

How we bring research to life

Plate reconstruction
A plate reconstruction from 180 million years ago. Credit: Sascha Brune/GPlates

The DCO Data Science Team works independently and in collaboration with scientists across the four communities to develop new analyses and exploit large, connected datasets.

Our Modeling and Visualization Initiative provides researchers with tools and techniques to better share their scientific findings among colleagues and with the public.

The DCO Engagement Team shares DCO science with scientists, educators, and the public via this website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr to help ensure DCO’s scientific findings are integrated into current scientific thinking.

DCO offers a wide array of resources for educators to help integrate DCO’s latest findings into university-level curricula.

Since Wikipedia is the first stop for information on the web, DCO is committed to integrating the latest deep carbon science research on Wikipedia. Learn how you can help.

Policies that guide our work

Members of the DCO Science Network commit to an atmosphere of collegiality and respect.

We are committed to sharing DCO Science in an openly accessible way, and strive to publish and archive our work responsibly and sustainably.

Who supports the work

Sloan Foundation LogoThe Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provided seed funding of $50 million over ten years to launch the Deep Carbon Observatory. This has leveraged a huge international investment in deep carbon science, with major research grants from both national and international agencies.

What lies ahead

DCO’s Synthesis Group 2019 is leading the charge to integrate and share findings of this ten-year program of research and discovery.

Task Force 2020 is exploring ways to keep this burgeoning field of deep carbon science going beyond the culmination of the DCO in 2019.




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