Deep Carbon 2019: A Decade of Discovery and a Road Map to the Future

300 members of the Deep Carbon Observatory community met from 24-26 October 2019 in Washington, DC, USA, for “Deep Carbon 2019: Launching the Next Decade of Deep Carbon Science.” This international conference celebrated a decade of DCO discoveries and served as a launching pad for the future of deep carbon science.

The US National Academy of Sciences and the Carnegie Institution for Science hosted Deep Carbon 2019: Launching the Next Decade of Deep Carbon Science from 24–26 October 2019 at their historic locations in Washington, DC. Close to 300 members of DCO’s international community convened for a lively program of talks, posters, and other activities.

A Decade of Discovery

The conference marked the culmination of a decade of deep carbon science as summarized in the Deep Carbon Observatory’s decadal report, a 50-page document released in October 2019. With a DCO community of 1200 scientists in 55 countries researching a broad range of cutting-edge scientific questions, synthesizing the DCO decade was no small feat. The report strives to present the complex story of the community’s contributions across four scientific communities (Extreme Physics and Chemistry, Reservoirs and Fluxes, Deep Energy, and Deep Life) and four crosscutting activities (field studies, instrumentation, modeling and visualization, and data science) to understanding what is known and unknown about the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon in Earth. 

Eric Isaacs DC2019
Plenary sessions took place at the National Academy of Sciences.

These thematic areas formed the basis for Deep Carbon 2019, with the plenary oral sessions at the National Academy of Sciences highlighting DCO achievements through different lenses. Using presentation strategies ranging from lightning talks, to panel discussion, to keynote lectures, speakers shared highlights from the four DCO science communities as well as novel insights from field investigations, high-risk instrumentation projects, data science, and modeling and visualization. Forward-looking sessions also focused on continuing research initiatives that grew out of DCO’s initial vision and are launching the next decade of deep carbon science. 

Poster sessions at the Carnegie Institution for Science complemented these plenary oral sessions, with 130 papers presented over two days. Early career scientists featured prominently in both the oral program and the poster sessions, and meeting delegates congratulated the 2019 recipients of the DCO Emerging Leader Awards

Poster session
Poster sessions took place at Carnegie Institution for Science.


The meeting also served as a nexus for sharing DCO’s many synthesis products. Several scientific presenters shared research findings contained in Deep Carbon: Past to Present, a 20-chapter volume published by Cambridge University Press, which was distributed to conference participants. More than 100 members of the community contributed to this volume, which is fully open access and available online. It provides a comprehensive guide to carbon inside Earth. 

Several special issues of journals and collections of papers also were released in conjunction with Deep Carbon 2019, including a special open access issue of Elements and a special collection in Nature, with many papers available in open access format. 

Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything by DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen was also distributed to conference participants. While the conference was taking place in Washington, DC, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra was busy recording composer David Earle’s Symphony in C: A Carbon Symphony, inspired by Hazen’s book. 

Beth Orcutt on DCPP
Deep Carbon: Past to Present featured in many presentations.

Sharing Deep Carbon Science

Meeting planners also made a concerted effort to share deep carbon science with local science enthusiasts and beyond. DCO Deep Life community member Karen Lloyd gave a public lecture on the deep microbial biosphere to a standing room only crowd as the featured speaker in Carnegie’s Capital Science Evening series. On another evening, five DCO scientists took the stage at a special edition of The Story Collider, where they shared personal stories about how science has impacted their lives (listen to the stories here). Members of the DCO community not in attendance could watch a livestream of the plenary program (view the archive here), and many attendees shared their experience in real time on Twitter (#DeepCarb19).

Deep Carbon 2019 was a meeting filled with many opportunities to explore advances made by DCO’s community members. A typical poster session also included virtual reality demonstrations, interactive ePosters, maps and globes, and a DCO Cinema, which notably included the premier screening of “ABOVE and Beyond,” a 20-minute documentary about field research using drones to monitor volcanic degassing in Papua New Guinea (watch the film here). A photo exhibit, which will remain on display at Carnegie’s headquarters building through the end of the year, captured the excitement, challenges, and dangers involved in this groundbreaking expedition.

The DCO Executive Committee convened a joint meeting with a successor committee that will lead the next decade of deep carbon science. Immediately after Deep Carbon 2019, DCO convened three community workshops on Extreme Physics and Chemistry, Reservoirs and Fluxes, and Deep Energy. These workshops provided opportunities for technical presentations and discussions about the future of deep carbon science. 

DC2019 activities
From left to right: DCO Story Collider, virtual reality demonstrations, and Carnegie's Capital Science Evening public lecture.

Celebration, Collaboration, and Community

DCO’s legacy is defined by a vibrant community of deep carbon scientists, who will continue to tackle big scientific questions well into the future. Several groups met in smaller group settings, as well as community symposiums to discuss the future of their science and to strengthen the collaborations nurtured by DCO. This community will continue tackling big questions into the future. 

DCO’s success depends on the devotion of its many participating scientists. Their numerous contributions were recognized at a reception at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. The Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals was the setting for the reception. Participants had the opportunity to view the Kimberly Diamond, which was added to the display on the day of the reception. This diamond served as a fitting reminder of the brilliant work accomplished by DCO’s 1200 scientists over the last decade, with equally bright promise for the decade ahead.   

DC2019 Reception
A reception took place at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.


Download the program (.pdf, 823 KB)

Download the abstracts (.pdf, 1.1 MB)

View more photos on Flickr: Thursday | Friday | Saturday

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