January 2019 Newsletter

From the Deep, a monthly newsletter from DCO
January 2019
Deep Carbon Observatory
Planetary collision
Researchers propose that a planetary body the size of Mars crashed into early Earth, simultaneously delivering a mix of volatile elements necessary for life and creating the Moon. The hypothesis is based on a new study of how the presence of sulfur in a newly forming planet impacts whether carbon and nitrogen end up in the core or the mantle. Credit: Rajdeep Dasgupta. Read more...

Letter from the Director

As DCO approaches its culmination at the end of 2019, we encourage you to nominate DCO colleagues for awards conferred by scientific societies. DCO scientists have received more than 100 honors and awards to date, but many deserving colleagues have not yet been recognized for their contributions. Nomination deadlines include:

•    Geological Society of America awards and fellows; graduate student research grants: 1 February 2019 
•    American Geophysical Union awards, medals, and prizes; fellows: 15 March 2019
•    European Geosciences Union awards and medals: 15 June 2019
•    Geochemical Society awards: 31 October 2019 (unconfirmed)
•    Geochemical Society and European Association of Geochemistry fellows: 31 October 2019 (unconfirmed)
•    European Association of Geochemistry awards: 15 November 2019 (unconfirmed)
•    Japan Geoscience Union fellows: 31 December 2019 (unconfirmed) 

Coinciding with the culmination of the Deep Carbon Observatory, the Geological Society of London has designated 2019 as the Year of Carbon. The Year of Carbon will feature a series of deep carbon events, including public lectures and workshops.

Recent DCO papers span a wide range of deep carbon science. DCO members Damanveer Grewal, Rajdeep Dasgupta, Kyusei Tsuno, and colleagues conducted experiments that place new constraints on the delivery of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur to the silicate Earth by a giant impact

A paper led by Thomas Giunta with DCO members Oliver Warr, Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Edward Young, Issaku Kohl, Jeanine Ash, Douglas Rumble, Ileana Pérez-Rodríguez, and Doug LaRowe uses paired clumped isotopes of methane to place constraints on methane sources and sinks in continental sedimentary systems

DCO members Stefano Poli, Erwin Schettino, Marco Merlini, and Sutao Zhao developed an experimental and thermodynamic model for carbonated eclogites in the mantle. 

Research on the C–O–H–S magmatic fluid system at San Cristóbal volcano by DCO members Philippe Robidoux, Maria Luce Frezzotti, Erik Hauri, and Alessandro Aiuppa has unexpected implications for copper ore exploration. 

We are pleased to release Deep Carbon Observatory 2018: Year in Review, which highlights some of DCO’s successes in 2018.  

Going forward, we encourage you to submit deep carbon science abstracts by 29 March 2019 to relevant sessions at the 2019 Goldschmidt Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

We anticipate an exhilarating year for DCO in 2019. 


Craig Schiffries, DCO Director
Carnegie Institution for Science, Geophysical Laboratory
Washington DC, USA

News Features

Collision with a Mars-sized Body Delivered Carbon to Early Earth 
About 4.6 billion years ago, meteorites and other ancient building blocks began to coalesce to form the early Earth in a process called accretion. During that process, frequent, violent collisions with other planetary bodies and radioactivity kept the early Earth hot, creating an ocean of molten magma sitting over a molten metallic core. Despite the havoc these collisions created, at least one may have been responsible for forming the Moon, delivering the carbon and other volatile elements that make Earth habitable today. In a new paper in Science Advances, DCO members Damanveer Grewal, Rajdeep Dasgupta, Kyusei Tsuno, and colleagues (all at Rice University, USA), used high-temperature and high-pressure experiments to investigate how sulfur affects whether carbon and nitrogen end up in the core or mantle during planetary formation. Read more...

Bursting the Bubble: Copper Trapped Inside Volcanic Crystals   
After lying quiet for three centuries, the San Cristóbal volcano, which lies at the northwestern edge of Nicaragua, erupted in March 1976. Melted rock, called magma, bubbled up toward the surface, causing the mineral olivine to solidify into crystals, which trap droplets of magma known as melt inclusions. As these crystals cooled, carbon dioxide and other volatile compounds coalesced into tiny “shrinkage bubbles” inside the melt inclusions. Scientists have examined the content of these bubbles from other volcanoes and from ones they created in the lab. But shrinkage bubbles in melt inclusions from the San Cristóbal crystals held a surprise inside. These bubbles contained traces of copper minerals. DCO members Philippe Robidoux (Universidad Mayor, Chile), Maria Luce Frezzotti (University of Milano Bicocca, Italy), Erik Hauri (deceased, formerly of Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), and Alessandro Aiuppa (Università degli Studi di Palermo, Italy) analyzed shrinkage bubbles in melt inclusions from rocks erupted by San Cristóbal, finding carbon compounds, liquid water, and copper sulfides inside. They report these findings in a new study in the Journal of Petrology. Read more...

A Step Toward Modeling Carbonatites in the Subsurface
When generations of phytoplankton with calcium carbonate shells die, their shells accumulate on the ocean floor in the form of calcite. This calcium-rich ooze is a major carbon sink. After it descends into the mantle through subduction, it transforms at elevated pressures and temperatures into an alternate form of calcium carbonate called aragonite. At even greater temperatures, it becomes a liquid. Scientists have performed multiple experiments to predict the exact pressure and temperature conditions that will produce calcite, aragonite or liquid calcium carbonate in the mantle, but these studies have produced disparate estimates.In an attempt to resolve those discrepancies, members of the DCO Reservoirs and Fluxes and the Extreme Physics and Chemistry Communities Stefano Poli, Erwin Schettino, and Marco Merlini (all at the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy) and former post-doc Sutao Zhao (now at China University of Geosciences, China), performed high-temperature and pressure experiments in the lab and thermodynamic modeling to develop a definitive phase diagram that shows how calcium carbonate behaves under different conditions. These determinations are the first step in modeling a type of calcium carbonate-rich rock called carbonatite in the mantle. They published their findings in a new paper in Lithos. Read more...

Clumped Isotopologues Reveal Methane’s Origins
Understanding the origins of a methane reservoir can reveal a lot about what’s happening in the subsurface. Scientists have used isotopes, which are atoms with different numbers of neutrons, to determine whether gas is microbial (from microorganisms), thermogenic (from the breakdown of old organic matter at elevated temperatures), or abiogenic (from chemical reactions in rocks independent of life). But when gases from different sources migrate, mix or escape, the task of teasing apart their origins is especially challenging. New analytical tools that detect rare molecules of methane with multiple carbon and hydrogen isotopes, called clumped isotopologues, can yield even more information about methane’s origins, but researchers are still figuring out how to interpret the data. A new paper in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, advances that goal by looking at clumped isotopologues from previously studied methane reservoirs in two sedimentary basins with a mix of microbial and thermogenic gas. The study, performed by Thomas Giunta (formerly at University of Toronto, Canada; now at Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France), with DCO members Oliver Warr, Barbara Sherwood Lollar (both at University of Toronto, Canada), Edward Young, Issaku Kohl, Jeanine Ash (all at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA), Douglas Rumble (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), Ileana Pérez-Rodríguez (University of Pennsylvania, USA), and Doug LaRowe (University of Southern California, USA), and colleagues, further clarifies the relationship between clumped isotopologue measurements and the origins and evolution of methane in sedimentary basins. Read more...

Goldschmidt 2019: Sessions of Special Interest to DCO
The 29th Goldschmidt Conference will take place at the Center Convencions Internacional Barcelona, Spain, from 18-23 August 2019. The full program of the meeting is available here. Please contact the DCO Engagement Team to add additional items to this page. Abstract submission deadline: 29 March 2019 

Deep Carbon Observatory 2018: Year in Review
Highlights of DCO activities in 2018 captured in a presentation prepared by the DCO Secretariat.

2019 Designated as the "Year of Carbon"
The Geological Society of London has designated 2019 as the “Year of Carbon.” Throughout the year, the Society will explore the geoscience of carbon through research conferences, public lectures, educational programs, and other activities. Read more...

Deep Carbon Observatory Webinar Wednesdays Return for Another Run
2019 will begin with a new DCO Webinar Wednesday series highlighting several of DCO’s ongoing synthesis projects. Hosted by DCO’s Engagement Team and Synthesis Group 2019, these webinars will involve audiences in discussion about the challenges overcome by these projects to advance science. Tune in at 2pm ET on 20 February 2019 for the second in the series and join the Earth in Five Reactions project leaders Jackie Li (University of Michigan, USA), Simon Redfern (University of Cambridge, UK), and Donato Giovannelli (CNR-IRBIM, Italy and Rutgers University, USA)as they share how these five reactions were selected, and how they are being used to synthesize and disseminate deep carbon knowledge and findings. Read more...

Upcoming Events

DCO Webinar Wednesdays: Transforming planetary perceptions: Earth in Five Reactions, 2pm ET, 20 February 2019
The Earth in Five Reactions project leaders Jackie Li, Simon Redfern, and Donato Giovannelli will lead this webinar, sharing how carbon plays a central role in making Earth habitable. 

Janet Watson Meeting 2019: From core to atmosphere: Deep carbon, Geological Society of London, UK, 26-28 February 2019
This three-day meeting will bring together early career geoscientists and senior members of the Deep Carbon research community. 

DCO Webinar Wednesdays: Expanding our vision of space and time: EarthByte, 4pm ET, 6 March 2019
In this webinar, EarthByte developer Sabin Zahirovic will share progress in modeling deep carbon flux over deep time, showcase exciting new visualizations of Earth in action, and weigh in on what might be next for visualizing Earth’s processes. 

DCO Webinar Wednesdays: Translating knowledge into understanding: MELTS and DEW, 2pm ET, 20 March 2019
Modeling experts Mark Ghiorso and Dimitri Sverjensky are working to create a virtual laboratory. Join the webinar to discuss how this integration is transforming what we know about the deep carbon cycle and how you might be able to use these models in your own research. 

Industry-Rice Earth Science Symposia 2019: Minerals and energy: Science, economics and policy, Rice University, USA, 21-22 March 2019
The purpose of this symposium is to break down the barriers between scientists, policy makers, industry leaders, and business entrepreneurs to collectively generate a deeper understanding of our planet’s natural resources. 

European Geosciences Union General Assembly, Vienna Austria 7-12 April 2019
The EGU General Assembly 2019 will bring together geoscientists from all over the world to one meeting covering all disciplines of the Earth, planetary, and space sciences. 

Geobiology 2019, Owens Valley, Caltech, Wrigley Marine Institute, California, USA, 10 June - 14 July 2019
Now entering its 16th year, the International Geobiology Course is an intense, multidisciplinary summer course exploring the coevolution of Earth and its biosphere, with an emphasis on how microbial processes affect the environment and leave imprints on the rock record. Application deadline: 8 February 2019

CIDER 2019 Summer Program: Volcanoes, University of California, Berkeley, USA, 17 June-12 July 2019
The CIDER (Cooperative Institute for Dynamic Earth Research) 2019 summer program focuses on volcano science. CIDER's collaborative and interdisciplinary nature provides an ideal venue to expose students and postdocs to the rich developments in volcano science, to help synthesize ongoing work in volcanic systems, and to help develop new research teams and research directions. Application deadline: 15 February 2019

ICDP Training Course on Downhole Measurements, Kuopio/Outokumpu, Finland, 24-28 June 2019
This training course will encompass the different technical and scientific aspects of downhole measurements and their analysis in scientific drilling, including borehole logging under various conditions and scientific demands, seismic borehole measurements, downhole hydraulic tests, fluid logging & sampling, and fibre optical methods. The training course is recommended for graduate students, PhD students, early career and senior scientists involved in running or upcoming scientific drilling projects. Application deadline: 15 February 2019

AbSciCon 2019, Bellevue, Washington, USA, 24-28 June 2019
AbSciCon 2019 is the next in a series of conferences organized by the astrobiology community. The theme for AbSciCon 2019 is “Understanding and Enabling the Search for Life on Worlds Near and Far.” Abstract submission deadline: 6 March 2019

Goldschmidt 2019, Barcelona, Spain, 18-23 August 2019
Goldschmidt is the foremost annual, international conference on geochemistry and related subjects, organized by the European Association of Geochemistry and the Geochemical Society. Abstract submission deadline: 29 March 2019

YES Congress 2019, Berlin, Germany, 9-13 September 2019
The YES (Young Earth Scientists) Network is an international association of young and early career Earth scientists. The Congress focuses on climate, environmental, and geoscience challenges facing today’s society, as well as career and academic pathway challenges faced by early career geoscientists. Abstract deadline: 18 February 2019

2019 GSA Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ, USA, 22-25 September 2019 
The annual meeting of the Geological Society of America will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, and includes opportunities for local field experiences. Session submission deadline: 20 February 2019

Honors and Awards

Marie Edmonds, Reservoirs and Fluxes
University of Cambridge, UK
Thermo Fischer Scientific VMSG Award, 2019

Mustafa Yucel, Deep Life
Middle East Technical University, Turkey
2018 TÜBA-GEBİP Awards for Outstanding Young Scientists

Funding Opportunities

Geological Society of America Graduate Student Research Grants
The primary role of the GSA research grants program is to provide partial support of master's and doctoral thesis research in the geological sciences for graduate students enrolled in universities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. ExxonMobil Student Research Grants: ExxonMobil will sponsor 10 research grants at US $5,000 per grant. All applicants in the GSA Student Research Grant Program are eligible for these awards, regardless of the topic or location of their research. ExxonMobil will select the top ten proposals based on merit as recommended by the GSA Research Grant Review Committee. Specialized Awards: The Committee on Research Grants selects recipients of special awards from applicants to the general research grants program. A student may not apply directly for a specialized grant, however, may indicate on the application if he/she would like to be considered for an award. These are generally recognition awards only with no additional funding. However, some specialized awardees may be funded for an amount greater than US $2,500. Application deadline: 1 February 2019

Deep Life Cultivation Internship Program
DCO's Deep Life Community (DLC) realizes that the majority of deep microbial life has been resistant to cultivation in the laboratory, which complicates the characterization of physiological characteristics of deep community members. However, recent studies using bioreactor-cultivation techniques, under high pressure and/or temperature, have resulted in successful enrichment of previously uncultivable archaeal and bacterial components that mediate biogeochemical carbon cycling in the deep subsurface. To maintain and strengthen cultivation strategies in future deep life missions, the DLC will support early career researchers to visit some key laboratories (Inagaki - Kochi, Japan, Bartlett - La Jolla, USA, and others) to learn and practice newly developed cultivation and cultivation-dependent molecular/biogeochemical techniques, using samples from the DLC’s field missions.

C-DEBI: Rolling Call for Research Exchange Proposals
The Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) facilitates scientific coordination and collaborations by supporting student, postdoctoral, and faculty exchanges to build, educate, and train the deep subseafloor biosphere community. We award small research exchange grants for Center participants. These grants may be used to support research, travel for presenting C-DEBI research at meetings, or travel exchanges to other partner institutions or institutions that have new tools and techniques that can be applied to C-DEBI research. We anticipate ~10 awards of $500-5,000 with additional matched funds to be granted annually. 

New Publications

View more papers in the DCO publications browser.

Delivery of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur to the silicate Earth by a giant impact 
Damanveer S. Grewal, Rajdeep Dasgupta, Chenguang Sun, Kyusei Tsuno, and Gelu Costin  
Science Advances doi:10.1126/sciadv.aau3669

Shrinkage bubbles: The C–O–H–S magmatic fluid system at San Cristóbal Volcano
Philippe Robidoux, Maria Luce Frezzotti, Erik H Hauri, and Alessandro Aiuppa
Journal of Petrology doi:10.1093/petrology/egy092

The stability and melting of aragonite: An experimental and thermodynamic model for carbonated eclogites in the mantle 
Sutao Zhao, Erwin Schettino, Marco Merlini, and Stefano Poli 
Lithos doi:10.1016/j.lithos.2018.11.005

Methane sources and sinks in continental sedimentary systems: New insights from paired clumped isotopologues 13CH3D and 12CH2D2
Thomas Giunta. Edward D Young, Oliver Warr, Issaku Kohl, Jeanine L Ash, Anna Martini, Scott OC Mundle, Douglas Rumble, Ileana Pérez-Rodríguez, Mark Wasley, Douglas E LaRowe, Alexis Gilbert, and Barbara Sherwood Lollar
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta doi:10.1016/j.gca.2018.10.030

Employment Opportunities

View more employment opportunities on the DCO website.

Assistant Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA
The Josephine Bay Paul Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory invites applications for a faculty position at the Assistant Scientist level in the area of evolutionary and functional genomics. The successful candidate will apply experimental and computational approaches to research areas including but not limited to: microbiome interactions, functional studies of host-associated marine microbial communities, evolutionary and ecological changes in marine systems, or genomic and transcriptomic studies of marine organisms. Application deadline: 1 March 2019

Data Scientist - Rice University, USA
The Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences at Rice University seeks an experienced and innovative Data Scientist to build a new Data Science for the Earth initiative and enhance activities in the department’s Visualization Laboratory. The candidate will be willing to cross disciplines and support the software and hardware needs of research in geophysics, climate science, remote sensing, and geochemistry provided domain knowledge from students and faculty. Application deadline: 2 March 2019

Liddicoat Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Mineralogy, Materials Science and Gemology at GIA, USA
GIA (Gemological Institute of America) invites qualified candidates to apply for the Richard T. Liddicoat Postdoctoral Research Fellowships at its Carlsbad, California, and New York City locations. The one- to two-year fellowships encourage early career scientists to pursue full-time academic research in mineralogy, geology, physics, materials science, and other fields related to gemology – the study of diamonds, colored gemstones, pearls, and their treatment. Application deadline: 30 April 2019

Postdoctoral Positions in Isotope Geochemistry and Contaminant Hydrogeology - University of Toronto, Canada
Postdoctoral fellows in Earth sciences, hydrogeology, environmental chemistry, isotope geochemistry and/or microbiology sought for research projects in compound specific isotope analysis (CSIA) to investigate the fate and transport of hydrocarbon contaminants in the subsurface and at the groundwater-surface water interface. Through a combination of field, laboratory and modeling approaches we hope to explore the controls of diffusion, advective transport, sorption and biodegradation on contaminant profiles and isotopic signatures with the goal of refining the ability of CSIA to address biodegradation rates at contaminated sites for a variety of important hydrocarbon pollutants impacting soils, groundwaters, surface waters and the atmosphere. Open until filled.

Postdoctoral Positions in Fluid-Rock Interactions and Deep Subsurface Life - University of Toronto, Canada
One or more postdoctoral positions are available for research projects on the origin, residence times, and geochemical signatures of deep crustal fluids and the subsurface microbial communities that are sustained by water-rock reactions in the deep Earth. Field, laboratory, and modeling opportunities are available to extend the existing program to explore the implications of our work on Earth analogs to the search for life on the rocky bodies and ocean worlds of our solar system. Open until filled.

DCO in the News

28 January 2019 Modern-day explorer
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Why would UT microbiologist Karen Lloyd descend into the crater of an active volcano?

24 January 2019 Collision that helped formed the moon started life on Earth, study suggests
By Brett Molina for USA Today
A collision between Earth and another planet that helped form the moon may have also delivered key components for creating life, a study suggests...

24 January 2019 Life on Earth may have come from a collision with ancient planet more than 4 billion years ago
By Chris Ciaccia for Fox News
Life as we know it is made up of six chemical elements — carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Without the presence of these, life as we know it ceases to exist...

23 January 2019 Inside Earth, microbes approach immortality
By Jennifer Frazer for Scientific American
Mostly dead is slightly alive...

23 January 2019 This collision made life possible on Earth, study says
By Ashley Strickland for CNN
Earth didn't exactly start out ready to support life, but scientists now have a better idea of how the essential elements for life ended up on our planet, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances...

23 January 2019 Planet crash that made moon left key elements for life on Earth, scientists say
By Ian Sample for The Guardian
The cosmic collision that made the moon left a host of elements behind on Earth that were crucial for life to emerge, US scientists have claimed...

23 January 2019 The moon’s violent birth may have given Earth the ingredients of life
By Leah Crane for New Scientist
The cosmic collision that gave Earth its moon may have also given it the ingredients for life...

23 January 2019 Earth swallowed another planet and (maybe) that's why life exists
By Yasemin Saplakoglu for Live Science
The ancient collision that formed the moon may also have brought with it all the ingredients needed for life, a new study finds...

23 January 2019 A collision with another planet may have seeded Earth with the ingredients for life
By George Dvorsky for Gizmodo
New research suggests that much of the material that made life possible on Earth arrived after a cataclysmic collision between our planet and a Mars-sized object billions of years ago—likely the same collision that produced the Moon, the scientists say...

22 January 2019 For zombie microbes, deep-sea buffet is just out of reach
Science Daily
A new study is beginning to pick apart how bizarre zombie-like microbes survive by examining their source of 'food' - nearby molecules of organic carbon...

21 January 2019 Big Picture Science – Rip Van Winkle worm
By Gary Niederhoff for Blog Picture Science
Your shower pipes are alive. So are your sinks, books, and floorboards...

21 January 2019 La vie microbienne dans les sous-sols profonds
La Tête au Carré, France Inter
Dans le cadre d'un programme de recherche international, des scientifiques du monde entier ont fait une découverte capitale : environ 70% des microbes de la Terre vivent dans ses profondeurs, dans des roches autrefois considérées stériles mais où bactéries et autres micro organismes abondent...

10 January 2019 In search of life under the seafloor
By Gretchen L. Früh-Green and Beth N. Orcutt for Eos
A multinational research team drilled into the seafloor to see whether chemical processes in exposed shallow mantle rocks could generate nutrients to support life in the subsurface...

2 January 2019 These 7 expeditions could reveal some of Earth's biggest secrets in 2019
By Adam Mann for Live Science
This past year brought tons of fascinating new information about our planet. But as scientists gaze into their crystal balls, they can see that this year is also sure to contain exciting surprises. Here we take a look at the seven most highly anticipated geophysics and Earth science expeditions, missions and meetings of 2019...


Learn more about DCO's Scientific Communities


Extreme Physics and Chemistry
The Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community is dedicated to improving our understanding of the physical and chemical behavior of carbon at extreme conditions, as found in the deep interiors of Earth and other planets.

Reservoirs and Fluxes
The Reservoirs and Fluxes Community is dedicated to identifying the principal deep carbon reservoirs, to determining the mechanisms and rates by which carbon moves among these reservoirs, and to assessing the total carbon budget of Earth.

Deep Energy
The Deep Energy Community is dedicated to developing a fundamental understanding of environments and processes that regulate the volume and rates of production of abiogenic hydrocarbons and other organic species in the crust and mantle through geological time.

Deep Life
The Deep Life Community is dedicated to assessing the nature and extent of the deep microbial and viral biosphere by exploring the evolutionary and functional diversity of Earth's deep biosphere and its interaction with the carbon cycle.


Thanks for reading! Send us items for future newsletters by emailing Katie Pratt of the DCO Engagement Team. 

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