March 2019 Newsletter

From the Deep, a monthly newsletter from DCO
March 2019
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Deep Carbon Observatory
Davidbrownite-(NH), one of 11 new carbon minerals documented in the Carbon Mineral Challenge. Collectors and mineralogists have found 28 new carbon minerals since the Challenge’s launch in December 2015. Credit: Anthony Kampf. Find out more about the new minerals.

Letter from the Director

DCO scientists are making important data-driven discoveries in disparate areas of research. Novel applications of network analysis to fossil data indicate that the evolution of early complex eukaryotes was affected by two biologic turnover events, perhaps the earliest mass extinctions of complex life, which helped shape the trajectory of early animal evolution. The research team—which includes paleontologists Drew Muscente and Andrew Knoll, data scientists Ahmed Eleish, Anirudh Prabhu, Feifei Pan, and Peter Fox, and DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen—is a triumph of the partnerships between DCO data scientists and specialists in other fields.

DCO Deep Life Community members Yinzhao Wang, Fengping Wang, Xiang Xiao, Gunter Wegener, and colleagues conducted a global survey of existing metagenomic data to find genes for a methane metabolism enzyme. They identified new and diverse groups of Archaea capable of producing or consuming methane, which suggests that methane metabolism evolved early in the evolution of Archaea.

Based on five years of high-frequency volcanic gas emission data, DCO Reservoirs and Fluxes Community members Maarten de Moor, Andrés Diaz, John Stix, Alessandro Aiuppa, Tobias Fischer, and colleagues observed patterns that provide precursors to violent eruptions.

In other DCO developments, the Carbon Mineral Challenge has now documented 28 new carbon minerals since the program’s launch in December 2015.

We are grateful to DCO early career scientists Simon Matthews and Lotta Purkamo, who  served as co-chairs of the highly successful Geological Society of London’s (GSL) 2019 Janet Watson Meeting on “Atmosphere to Core: Deep Carbon.” This flagship meeting was part of GSL’s Year of Carbon. 

The upcoming 2019 Goldschmidt Conference in Barcelona, Spain in August will feature numerous sessions that address deep carbon science. We encourage you to submit abstracts by the deadline on 29 March 2019. The deadline for session, town hall, and workshop proposals for the 2019 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) is also coming up, 17 April 2019. And please consider nominating a colleague for an AGU honor; the deadline for nominations has been extended until 15 April 2019.

And finally, congratulations to Donald DePaolo, who has been named the 2019 V.M. Goldschmidt Medalist, and Barbara Sherwood Lollar, who has been named the 2019 Clair C. Patterson Medalist by the Geochemical Society. Cin-Ty Lee, Shuguang Li, Barbara Sherwood Lollar, and Yuji Sano will become Fellows of the European Association of Geochemistry and the Geochemical Society. Brendan McCormick-Kilbride received the William Smith Fund from the Geological Society of London. 


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

News Features

Deep Life Not Limited to Microbes: Earthquakes Move Surface Animals to the Deep
In 2009, researchers discovered a tiny nematode living happily in the water inside rock fractures, more than a kilometer deep in a South African goldmine. They nicknamed the new creature the “devil worm” in honor of its dark, hot, deep home. Ever since the discovery of this and similar animals found more than three kilometers deep, they have wondered, how did these creatures get there? In a new paper in Scientific Reports, the researchers finally reveal the answer. By collecting water samples from boreholes in several South African mines and simulating the effects of earthquakes, the researchers propose that seismic activity forces surface water, and any organisms it contains, into deeper, rocky environments. While many of the imported organisms likely die off, some survive and reproduce. The findings suggest that areas with significant seismic activity may be good places to dig when looking for life on Mars because these sites may harbor life forms that once thrived on the surface. DCO members Gaetan Borgonie (Extreme Life Isyensya, Belgium), Cara Magnabosco (Flatiron Institute, USA), Borja Linage-Alvarez (University of the Free State, South Africa), Esta van Heerden (BioSaense Solutions, South Africa), Barbara Sherwood Lollar (University of Toronto, Canada), and Tullis Onstott (Princeton University, USA), collaborated on the project along with Scott Mundle (University of Windsor, Canada). Read more...

Remote Gas Monitoring Gives Warning Before Wet Eruptions
Poás volcano in Costa Rica is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America as well as a popular tourist destination. Inside its main crater sits a warm, hyperacidic lake saturated with sulfur. An underground hydrothermal system of water-filled conduits feeds the pond and also periodically releases impressive geyser-like jets of water. In mid-April, 2017, these occasional “phreatic” eruptions of water, steam, and other gases lead to “phreatomagmatic” eruptions that also included chunks of glowing rocks that damaged nearby structures. Historically, eruptions at “wet” volcanoes have been difficult to predict, but research at Poás is demonstrating that clear warning signals often exist in the gas emissions. In a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters, DCO researchers report that the gases emitted from Poás can give clues to interactions between water and melted rock, called magma, in the subsurface, and may signal an upcoming eruption. Reservoirs and Fluxes Community Members Maarten de Moor (Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica, and University of New Mexico, USA), Andrés Diaz (Universidad de Costa Rica), John Stix (McGill University, Canada), Alessandro Aiuppa, (Università di Palermo, Italy), Tobias Fischer (University of New Mexico, USA), and colleagues, tracked and analyzed the volcano’s emissions over five years. Read more...

Methane Metabolism in Archaea is Ancient and Widespread
In the oxygen-free parts of lakes, hot springs, and marine environments worldwide, some microbes generate a lot of methane as part of their daily metabolism, while others consume it for energy. Over geological timescales, the interplay of these activities likely had a big impact on Earth’s climate and the global carbon cycle. But despite the importance of methane metabolism, the identities of the microbial species involved is still poorly understood. DCO Deep Life Community members Yinzhao Wang, Fengping Wang, Xiang Xiao (all at Shanghai JiaoTong University, China), Gunter Wegener (Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and MARUM, Germany), and colleagues expanded the number of groups of archaea believed to use or produce methane. By searching genomic data from environmental samples collected worldwide, the researchers identified a key gene needed for methane metabolism in unexpected and unrelated groups of archaea not known to use methane. The existence of the gene in diverse groups suggests that methane metabolism arose early in archaeal evolution and has long impacted Earth’s carbon cycle. They report their findings in a new paper in Nature Microbiology. Read more...

Early Extinctions Set the Stage for Life as We Know It
Many of the fossils left by the strange “Ediacara biota” that thrived during the Ediacaran Period (about 635 to 540 million years ago) look like ribbed pancakes, armored worms, and fat fern fronds. Despite finding these fossil deposits worldwide, paleontologists have struggled to place the unfamiliar creatures on the tree of life or even to agree on where and when they lived. Now, researchers are turning to data science tools to make sense of Ediacaran fossil data accumulated from decades of paleontological research. For the first time, researchers used a technique called network analysis, which reveals connections in complex systems, to analyze Ediacaran fossil collections and to match them to specific environments and times. The analysis provides evidence that two extinction events potentially linked to disturbances in the global carbon cycle occurred during this period. The extinctions created an opening for the subsequent Cambrian explosion, when most major groups of animals appeared for the first time in Earth’s history. Drew Muscente (formerly of Harvard University, now at University of Texas, Austin, USA), and Andrew Knoll (Harvard University, USA), with DCO researchers Ahmed Eleish, Anirudh Prabhu, Feifei Pan, Peter Fox (all at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA), and DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), report these findings in a new paper in Nature Communications. Read more...

Aquifer Microbes Survive on Hydrogen and Carbon Dioxide Diet
Based on what we know of early Earth and the origin of life, scientists think that the first cells lived in a warm environment fueled by water-rock reactions, such as a hydrothermal vent system, hot spring, or aquifer. The cells likely would have used hydrogen for energy and dissolved carbon dioxide for carbon to build their cells. Similar environments still exist on Earth today, and new research shows that the organisms that inhabit them probably make a living in the same way. In a new paper in The ISME Journal, DCO researchers report that microbes living on grains of the mineral olivine in a deep, subseafloor aquifer rely on an ancient type of metabolism called the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway, which uses hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Deep Life Community members Amy Smith (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA), Martin Fisk, Rick Colwell (both at Oregon State University, USA), Olivia Mason (Florida State University, USA), Radu Popa (University of Southern California, USA), and colleagues, sequenced the DNA from the community of microbes living on the grains and separated them into genomes representing 11 microbial species. Read more...

New Book on Simulating Chemistry Under Extreme Conditions
A new book, edited by DCO Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community member Nir Goldman (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA), covers the use of multiple approaches for simulating various types of organic chemistry under electromagnetic fields and extreme pressure and temperature conditions. The book is entitled “Computational Approaches for Chemistry Under Extreme Conditions” and covers several computational approaches to simulate a range of chemical reactions relevant to deep carbon science, from prebiotic chemistry that led to the origin of life to hydrocarbons under extreme temperatures and pressures. Read more...

Janet Watson Meeting 2019 - Atmosphere to Core: Deep Carbon
The Geological Society of London’s 2019 Janet Watson meeting brought together 30 early career scientists to celebrate deep carbon science. The annual Janet Watson meeting showcases the research of early career scientists and is named in honor of the first female president of the Geological Society of London. Read more...

Of Meteorites and Mines: Recent Highlights from the Carbon Mineral Challenge
The Carbon Mineral Challenge has now documented 28 new carbon minerals since the program’s launch in December 2015. Project lead Daniel Hummer (Southern Illinois University, USA), is taking stock of the discoveries as the program enters its final six months, but in the meantime, here’s a survey of the latest 11 minerals. Each is packed with its own story and surprise. 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. Please contact the DCO Engagement Team to add additional items to this page. The full program of the meeting is available here. Abstract submission deadline: 29 March 2019

Upcoming Events

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. 

US National Poetry Haiku Day, 17 April 2019
Challenge your creativity, and submit a Deep Earth Haiku. Deep Earth Haiku grew out DCO's Earth in Five Reactions synthesis project.

Second Geobiology Society Conference, Banff, Canada, 9-13 June 2019
A major goal of this conference is to facilitate bridge-building across disparate fields within geobiology, particularly from the geological and biological ends of the spectrum. Registration deadline: 30 April 2019

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. 

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. 

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 and sampling, and fibre optical methods. 

AbSciCon 2019, Bellevue, WA, 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.” 

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. 

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.

Fourth Microbial Single Cell Genomics Workshop, Boothbay Harbor, ME, USA, 22-26 September 2019
This workshop will explore microbial single cell genomics and related areas, such as bioinformatics, single cell RNA-sequencing of multicellular organisms, single cell physiology, probing, and imaging. Application deadline: 31 March 2019

Deep Carbon 2019: Launching the next decade of deep carbon science, Washington, DC, USA, 24-26 October 2019
Deep Carbon 2019 will highlight DCO’s many scientific advances, representing the culmination of ten years of deep carbon research, exploration, and discovery. 

2019 AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA, 9-13 December 2019 
As AGU marks its Centennial in 2019, the Fall Meeting returns to San Francisco, the home of the Fall Meeting for more than 40 years. Session, Town Hall, and Workshop submission deadline: 17 April 2019

Honors and Awards

Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Deep Energy
University of Toronto, Canada
2019 Geochemistry Fellow

Shuguang Li
China University of Geosciences, China
2019 Geochemistry Fellow

Yuji Sano, Reservoirs and Fluxes
University of Tokyo, Japan
2019 Geochemistry Fellow

Cin-Ty Lee
Rice University, USA
2019 Geochemistry Fellow

Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Deep Energy
University of Toronto, Canada
2019 Clair C. Patterson Award 

Don DePaolo, Deep Energy
University of California Berkeley, USA
2019 V.M. Goldschmidt Award 

Brendan McCormick-Kilbride, Reservoirs and Fluxes
University of Cambridge, UK
2019 GSL William Smith Fund

Award Nomination Deadlines

The American Geophysical Union Awards, Medals, and Prizes
For nearly 80 years, AGU has recognized individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of the Earth and space sciences, to the service of the community, and public outreach. Please take this opportunity to recognize a colleague, mentor, peer, or student for their achievements and contributions to the Earth and space sciences. Nomination deadline extended: 15 April 2019

Funding Opportunities

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.

New ecosystems in the deep subsurface follow the flow of water driven by geological activity
Gaetan Borgonie, Cara Magnabosco, Antonio García-Moyano, Borja Linage-Alvarez, Abidemi Oluranti Ojo, L. Brenda Freese, Charl Van Jaarsveld, Christelle Van Rooyen, Olukayode Kuloyo, Errol Duncan Cason, Jan-G Vermeulen, Caroline Pienaar, Esta Van Heerden, Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Tullis C. Onstott, and Scott O. C. Mundle 
Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-019-39699-w 

Insights on hydrothermal‐magmatic interactions and eruptive processes at Poás Volcano (Costa Rica) from high‐frequency gas monitoring and drone measurements 
J. Maarten de Moor, John Stix, Geoffroy Avard, Cyril Muller, Ernesto Corrales, Jorge Andres Diaz, Alfred Alan, Jorge Brenes, Joanna Pacheco, Alessandro Aiuppa, and Tobias P. Fischer
Geophysical Research Letters doi:10.1029/2018GL080301 

Expanding anaerobic alkane metabolism in the domain of Archaea
Yinzhao Wang, Gunter Wegener, Jialin Hou, Fengping Wang, and Xiang Xiao
Nature Microbiology doi:10.1038/s41564-019-0364-2 

Ediacaran biozones identified with network analysis provide evidence for pulsed extinctions of early complex life
Drew D. Muscente, Natalia Bykova, Thomas H. Boag, Luis A. Buatois, M. Gabriela Mángano, Ahmed Eleish, Anirudh Prabhu, Feifei Pan, Michael B. Meyer, James D. Schiffbauer, Peter Fox, Robert M. Hazen, and Andrew H. Knoll 
Nature Communications doi:10.1038/s41467-019-08837-3

Carbon fixation and energy metabolisms of a subseafloor olivine biofilm
Amy R. Smith, Brandon Kieft, Ryan Mueller, Martin R. Fisk, Olivia U. Mason, Radu Popa, and Frederick S. Colwell 
The ISME Journal doi:10.1038/s41396-019-0385-0

Computational approaches for chemistry under extreme conditions
Ed. Nir Goldman
Springer ISBN: 978-3-030-05600-1

Employment Opportunities

View more employment opportunities on the DCO website.

Postdoctoral Fellow in Geochemistry and Data Science - Carnegie Institution for Science, USA
The successful candidate should have deep knowledge of geochemistry and petrology, particularly in the context of deep-time data-driven discovery, as well as proficiency in numerical modeling, high-performance computing, geospatial analysis, and machine learning. The successful candidate will work in close collaboration with members of the international 4D Initiative team as well as the emerging Deep-Time Digital Earth project being developed in China. Application deadline: 8 April 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 

Analytical Laboratory Manager - Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, USA
Under the general guidance of the Director of the Marine Science Institute (MSI), the Analytical Laboratory Manager is responsible for the full range of activities of MSI's research laboratory services located in the Analytical Laboratory. Management responsibilities encompass overall responsibility for management of staff and equipment used in conducting complex and high volume chemical analyses. Application deadline: 1 May 2019 

Research Faculty - University of New Hampshire, USA 
The successful applicant can expect to interact with faculty from the life sciences, ocean engineering, Earth sciences, and oceanography as well as the social sciences and humanities to address critical coastal and marine science problems in new and coordinated ways. While primarily a research appointment, graduate level teaching and research interaction with diverse students is encouraged. Application deadline: 1 May 2019 

DCO in the News

18 March 2019 Why we should stop ignoring the life stories of minerals
By Bethany Brookshire for Science News for Students
The crystals shouldn’t just be classified by shape alone, one scientist argues...

12 March 2019 Explaining the genesis of superdeep diamonds
By Terri Cook for Eos
Real-time tracking during diamond anvil cell experiments indicates reaction rates may control the unusual depth distribution of the extremely rare diamonds that form deep within Earth’s mantle...

4 March 2019 How creatures end up miles below the surface of Earth, and maybe Mars too
By Marc Kaufman for Many Worlds
When scientists speculate about possible life on Mars, they generally speak of microbial or other simple creatures living deep below the irradiated and desiccated surface...

4 March 2019 New key players in the methane cycle
Science Daily
Methane is not only a powerful greenhouse gas, but also a source of energy...

1 March 2019 Isabelle Daniel : "Notre connaissance du carbone des profondeurs a progressé à pas de géant "
By Cécile Klingler for La Recherche
Un courriel, puis une discussion téléphonique, fin 2010, avec l'un des fondateurs de l'Observatoire du carbone profond ou Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), aux États-Unis, et voilà Isabelle Daniel embarquée dans ce projet phare de la décennie dans le domaine de la géologie...

1 March 2019 Why this professor will “never go back to term papers”
By Cassidy Villeneuve for Wiki Edu 
It’s not every day that a student takes the time to officially thank their professor for a great project. But that’s what Madeleine Hardt, Dr. Jennifer Glass’ student at Georgia Institute of Technology, did after learning how to write Wikipedia articles as a class assignment...


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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