From the Deep, a monthly newsletter from DCO
April 2018
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Deep Carbon Observatory
Modeling Workshop in Cambridge, 2018

 DCO scientists convened this month at the University of Cambridge, UK, to discuss synthesis and modeling of deep carbon science data through deep time. Read more about the workshop.
Image credit: Sabin Zahirovic

Letter from the Director

I would like to call your attention to two opportunities for participating in deep carbon science activities this summer. First, we encourage you to apply to the inaugural Gordon Research Conference on Deep Carbon Science, 17-22 June 2018. The application deadline is 20 May 2018, but please apply now to ensure your place at the meeting. Financial support is available to partially offset registration and/or travel costs for a limited number of early career scientists and international participants.
Second, core-logging activities as part of the Oman Drilling Project will take place from 4 July to 5 September 2018 on board the Drilling Vessel Chikyu, while the ship is docked in Shimizu, Japan. Applications to participate in the shipboard party are due 30 April 2018. Project leader Peter Kelemen (Columbia University, USA) is featured in a beautifully illustrated news article in The New York Times about the significance of these rocks.
The past month was exceptionally busy for DCO, including a redesign of the DCO website. The DCO Secretariat, Engagement Team, and Data Science Team worked together to modernize the website, make information easier to find, and improve its functionality. We hope you like the new look.

DCO convened a workshop at the University of Cambridge, UK to integrate deep carbon science into tectonic models of Earth through geologic time. The workshop, which is part of a DCO synthesis initiative led by Sabin Zahirovic (University of Sydney, Australia), launched several collaborative research projects.

A group of DCO Deep Life Community members led by Cody Sheik (University of Minnesota Duluth, USA) and Brandi Kiel Reese (Texas A&M University, USA) published a meta-analysis that identifies putative contaminants associated with the DCO Census of Deep Life dataset, recommends best practices for removing contaminants from samples, and proposes a series of best practices for subsurface microbiology sampling.
A recent study by DCO Reservoirs and Fluxes Community members Michael Broadley and Bernard Marty (Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, France) and colleagues demonstrates that ancient carbonaceous compounds can be used as a new tracer of atmospheric evolution, with implications for dating the widespread nature of early life.
A new paper by DCO Deep Energy and Deep Life Community member Jennifer Macalady (Pennsylvania State University, USA), and colleagues demonstrates that cave minerals deposited in the presence of microbes may record biosignatures that can be utilized to detect subsurface life on Earth, Mars, or other habitable worlds.
Finally, we are grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for awarding grants to the DCO Engagement Team, Synthesis Group 2019, and Modeling and Visualization Forum. These complementary grants converge on the central goal of synthesizing and sharing deep carbon science after a decade of research and discovery.


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

News Features

Clues to Archean Skies Trapped in Ancient Carbon
Xenon is a noble gas found in tiny amounts in the atmosphere, but this unreactive element has had a turbulent history on Earth. Much of the original atmospheric xenon likely came from a mixture of meteors and comets during the final stages of Earth’s accretion. Later, in the Archean eon, most of the primordial xenon escaped to space as the atmosphere changed and evolved. New research finds evidence of these atmospheric events, and the transition from primordial to modern xenon compositions, preserved inside ancient carbonaceous compounds. In a new paper in Science Advances, David Bekaert, with DCO Reservoirs and Fluxes Community members Michael Broadley and Bernard Marty, (all at Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, France), along with colleagues at Sorbonne Université and the California Institute of Technology, analyzed xenon trapped in ancient organic matter, called kerogen. By determining the isotopic composition of xenon in the sample, which is the ratio of atoms with different numbers of neutrons, researchers can estimate the deposition age of the organic material. This technique will enable researchers to date early cells and biologically relevant compounds deposited with Archean formations, independently of the surrounding host rock. The knowledge may refine our estimates of when and where life first emerged on Earth. Read more...

Isotope Study in Italian Cave Shows Life Comes At You Fast
Inside limestone caves, sparkling crystals of gypsum form when hydrogen sulfide gas dissolved in deep aquifers degasses and turns into sulfuric acid that reacts with the cave walls. This white mineral can form slowly from purely chemical reactions. Or, it can form many times faster with the help of bacteria that rapidly transform the hydrogen sulfide into sulfuric acid. These microbial activities leave behind clues called “biosignatures” inside the gypsum, a property that may one day be useful to find signs of life on Mars and other remote locations. In a project funded by NASA, Deep Energy and Deep Life Community member Jennifer Macalady (Pennsylvania State University, USA), and colleagues, analyzed gypsum in the Frassassi cave system in Italy to better understand these biosignatures. The researchers measured ratios of sulfur isotopes, which are atoms that have differing numbers of neutrons in the nucleus. They discovered distinct gradient patterns in the sulfur isotope ratios occurring across the walls of the cave, caused by the movement of the hydrogen sulfide gas and the actions of bacteria. The researchers published their findings in a new paper in Astrobiology. Read more...

Cleaning Up Dirty Datasets from the Deep
Subsurface environments present many challenges to researchers who sample microbial DNA to identify the local microbes. The low numbers of microbial cells in many subsurface environments make these samples especially susceptible to even low levels of contamination. Extraneous DNA sequences can come from drilling fluids during sampling, from kits used to isolate and sequence the DNA in the lab, and even from microbes on the researchers’ skin. But with proper screening techniques, scientists can safeguard their data sets from these unwanted sequences. A group of DCO Deep Life Community members has developed guidelines to reduce contamination while collecting and sequencing subsurface samples and to remove interloping sequences. Cody Sheik (University of Minnesota Duluth, USA), Brandi Kiel Reese (Texas A&M University, USA), Katrina Twing (University of Utah, USA), Jason Sylvan (Texas A&M University, USA), Sharon Grim (University of Michigan, USA), Matthew Schrenk (Michigan State University, USA), Mitchell Sogin (Marine Biological Laboratory, USA), and Frederick Colwell (Oregon State University, USA) published these guidelines in a new paper in Frontiers in Microbiology. Through these screening methods, the researchers discovered that more than one quarter of the sequences in the Census of Deep Life database are potential contaminants, some of which have the potential to alter how scientists interpret microbial carbon cycling in the subsurface. Read more...

DCO Workshop Integrates Deep Carbon Science into Tectonic Models of Earth Through Time
Almost 30 members of the Deep Carbon Observatory Science Network met on 5 and 6 April 2018 at the University of Cambridge, UK to discuss ways of linking plate tectonic reconstructions to aspects of the deep carbon cycle over geological time. Sabin Zahirovic (EarthByte, University of Sydney, Australia), DCO Synthesis Group 2019 Chair Marie Edmonds (University of Cambridge, UK) and her Cambridge colleague Emily Mason co-organized the meeting, which brought together a range of interdisciplinary early career and senior researchers to tackle the complex deep-time planetary carbon cycle. The two-day workshop produced a number of clear goals and sub-projects, which the team will pursue throughout 2018-2019 as part of the DCO Synthesis program. Read more...

Biology Meets Subduction, Again: DCO Early Career Scientists Head Back to Central America
From 3-20 April 2018, the Biology Meets Subduction team headed back into the field to extend the study they began in February 2017. The sampling campaign, part of a DCO synthesis project to unite researchers form all four DCO science communities (Extreme Physics and Chemistry, Reservoirs and Fluxes, Deep Energy, and Deep Life) at a single field focus site, took the team from southern Costa Rica into Panama, exploring springs and hydrothermal features along the Central American volcanic arc. Read more...

DCO Webinar Wednesdays Summer Data Science Series
In this four-part series, members of DCO’s Data Science Team will walk through data acquisition, processing, and analytics best practices in the geosciences, using Jupyter Notebooks to analyze the datasets used by all four of DCO’s science communities (Extreme Physics and Chemistry, Reservoirs and Fluxes, Deep Energy, and Deep Life). Synthesis Group 2019 and the DCO Engagement Team are hosting this series, which will begin on 9 May 2018 at 2PM ET. Read more...

The Road to 2019: Sharing Deep Carbon Science after a Decade of Research and Discovery
In a suite of successful proposals to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, DCO’s Engagement Team, Synthesis Group 2019, and Modeling and Visualization Forum shared a vision for what each hopes to accomplish over the next 21 months. While independent in many ways, the three proposals converge on the central goal of synthesizing deep carbon science across communities and sharing what has been learned with the scientific community and broader audiences in 2019. Read more...

Oman Phase Two Drilling Complete: Opportunity for Core Logging on D/V Chikyu
On Wednesday, 28 February 2018, members of the Oman Drilling Project field team completed Phase Two drilling. This marked the end of the drilling campaign for the project, while launching an exciting new phase of analysis and discovery. The cores collected during this second drilling phase are headed to the Japanese scientific drilling vessel D/V Chikyu. This summer, scientists will gather aboard Chikyu to use its state-of-the-art laboratory facilities to analyze the core samples and compare them with Phase One cores, which were drilled from December 2016 - March 2017. Phase Two core logging will take place from 5 July - 5 September 2018, again, using D/V Chikyu’s sophisticated onboard lab. If you would like to take part in Phase Two core description activities, please apply here by 30 April 2018. Read more...

Inaugural Gordon Research Conference on Deep Carbon Science
In 2018, the Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) will hold their first conference focused entirely on the emerging field of deep carbon science. Since 2009, the Deep Carbon Observatory has supported several Gordon Research Conferences that dovetail with DCO themes, including GRCs on biomineralization, origins of the solar system, high pressure, geobiology, and natural gas hydrates. However, each of these conferences has only covered a small subset of DCO research. DCO is excited to announce that GRC has established a new conference fully dedicated to the deep carbon cycle. The inaugural Deep Carbon Science GRC will focus on deep carbon in the context of geological time and will be held from 17-22 June 2018 at Bryant University in Rhode Island, USA. The conference “will spotlight the evolution of deep carbon in Earth’s biological and nonbiological reservoirs over 4.6 billion years.” It will gather Earth, life, and physical scientists to explore planetary assembly, early deep carbon reservoirs, early forms of deep life, and the carbon cycle through geological time. APPLY NOW

Upcoming Events

DCO Webinar Wednesdays: Data Acquisition, 2PM EDT, 9 May 2018
This webinar, presented by Hao Zhong, will kick off our four-part webinar series on data science in the geosciences, presented by the DCO Data Science Team at Tetherless World Constellation, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

4D Workshop: Deep-Time Data Driven Discovery and the Evolution of Earth, Washington DC, USA, 4-6 June 2018
The objective of this workshop is to explore ways to advance our understanding of Earth’s complex co-evolving geosphere and biosphere through the collection, analysis, and visualization of large and growing data resources.

DCO Webinar Wednesdays: Adopting RDA Technologies into the DCO Data Portal, 2PM EDT, 13 June 2018
In this webinar, Mark Parsons will review various technologies recommended by the Research Data Alliance and how they are being implemented in the DCO Data Portal.

Deep Carbon Science Gordon Research Conference, Bryant University, USA, 17-22 June 2018
The meeting will cover deep carbon science in the context of time. We will spotlight the evolution of deep carbon in Earth’s biological and nonbiological reservoirs over 4.6 billion years. Application deadline: 20 May 2018 

MELTS/FPMD Training School, Milos, Greece, 18-22 June 2018
Early career scientists are invited to attend a training school on thermodynamic modeling of natural silicate liquids and their equilibria with minerals and fluids, from atomistic to macroscopic scales. 

DCO Webinar Wednesdays: Data Science for Geosciences: Data Processing, 2PM EDT, 11 July 2018
In this webinar, Fang Huang will focus on data processing using relatively simple python codes, and should be of interest to any researchers working on data science-related projects.

DCO Webinar Wednesdays: Data Science for Geosciences: Analytics, 2PM EDT, 8 August 2018
In the final webinar of this series, Anirudh Prahbu will demonstrate real-world “geoscience use cases,” helping participants solve scientific problems using data/model-driven decision-making. 

Goldschmidt 2018, Boston MA, USA, 12-17 August 2018
Goldschmidt is the foremost annual, international conference on geochemistry and related subjects, organized by the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry. View DCO sessions of special interest here.

School on Convective and Volcanic Clouds Detecting, Monitoring, and Modeling, Nicolosi, Italy, 28 September-6 October 2018 
The purpose of the school is to train students in the detection, monitoring, and modeling of convective and volcanic clouds, including utilizing a variety of techniques, instruments, and satellite data. Early bird registration deadline: 15 May 2018

International Symposium on Deep Earth Exploration and Practices (DEEP-2018), Beijing, China, 24-26 October 2018
The meeting will serve as a platform where participants exchange ideas on progress in deep exploration of the lithosphere, better understand deep processes in Earth, expand the new knowledge into practical applications, consider the future, and promote international collaboration on deep exploration of Earth. Registration now open.

GSA Annual Meeting, Indianapolis IN, USA, 4-7 November 2018
The annual meeting of the Geological Society of America will highlight the Indiana area geology, as well as the wider world of geoscience research. 

AGU Fall Meeting, Washington DC, USA, 10-14 December 2018
The American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting is the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world.

Honors and Awards

Antje Boetius, Deep Life
University of Bremen, Germany
2018 Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal

Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Deep Energy
University of Toronto, Canada
2018 Logan Medal

Funding Opportunities

Travel support for American and Japanese Participants of the JKASP Workshop
We are pleased to announce a scholarship opportunity for American and Japanese scientists to participate in the 10th Biennial Workshop on Japan-Kamchatka-Alaska Subduction Processes (JKASP) to be held in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia, August 20-26, 2018. This opportunity has been made possible through funding from the Deep Carbon Observatory DECADE project and the Lounsbery Foundation and aims to promote international research among American, Russian, and Japanese partners on subduction processes. Applicants should submit a one paragraph (300 word maximum) description of how they will benefit from attending the meeting, how their research will advance understanding of subduction processes in the United States, Russia or Japan, and how their participation will foster international collaboration. Applicants should also include their full name, email address, physical address (including country of residence) and phone number, institute and department name, position, a budget of their travel expenses to attend the JKASP meeting, and the amount of support requested from DCO-DECADE. Application deadline: 7 May 2018

Simons Postdoctoral Fellowships in Marine Microbial Ecology
The Simons Foundation invites applications for postdoctoral fellowships to support research on fundamental problems in marine microbial ecology. The Foundation is particularly interested in applicants with training in different fields who want to apply their experience to understanding the role of microorganisms in shaping ocean processes, and vice versa, as well as applicants with experience in modeling or theory development. While these cross-disciplinary applicants will receive particular attention, applicants already involved in ocean research also are encouraged to apply. The Foundation anticipates awarding five fellowships in 2018. Applicants should have received their PhD or equivalent degree within three years of the fellowship’s start date. Preference will be for applicants with no more than one year of postdoctoral experience. Applicants may be citizens of any country. Awards can only be issued to nonprofit research universities or research institutions in the U.S. Application deadline: 15 June 2018

Request for Proposals: Census of Deep Life Sequencing Opportunities
Since 2011, the Deep Carbon Observatory’s Deep Life Community has sponsored the Census of Deep Life (CoDL), which has supported surveys of the diversity of microbes present in several deep continental and subseafloor environments. The first surveys (2011-2012) were conducted using 454 pyrosequencing and subsequently (2013) Illumina sequencing strategies were adopted. Through this initiative, the Deep Life Community has allowed the characterization of the diversity of subsurface microbial communities at numerous sites worldwide, including the subseafloor and deep continental locations from a range of geologic settings (e.g., large igneous provinces, subglacial lakes, methane hydrate-rich sediments, cratons). The Illumina platform provides increased numbers of reads for more samples at reduced cost. For DNA samples submitted to the CoDL for sequencing, proponents have the option of obtaining 400-450 nt sequences that span the V4V5 region of Bacterial and Archaeal rRNA coding regions or a greater number of reads for V6 regions that through complete overlap of forward and reverse reads allows detection of lower abundance taxa with reduced stochastic error rates. Shotgun metagenomic DNA sequencing for key samples also can be performed. This call for proposals aims to support sequencing that represents expanded analyses from ongoing Deep Life Community projects or projects that represent sites and investigators new to the DCO’s Deep Life Community. Application deadline: 15 July 2018

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.

Archean kerogen as a new tracer of atmospheric evolution: Implications for dating the widespread nature of early life
David V. Bekaert, Michael W. Broadley, Frédéric Delarue, Guillaume Avice, Francois Robert, and Bernard Marty
Science Advances doi:10.1126/sciadv.aar2091

Transport-induced spatial patterns of sulfur isotopes (δ34S) as biosignatures
Muammar Mansor, Khadouja Harouaka, Matthew S. Gonzales, Jennifer L. Macalady, and Matthew S. Fantle
Astrobiology doi:10.1089/ast.2017.1650

Identification and removal of contaminant sequences from ribosomal gene databases: lessons from the Census of Deep Life
Cody S. Sheik, Brandi Kiel Reese, Katrina I. Twing, Jason B. Sylvan, Sharon L. Grim, Matthew O. Schrenk, Mitchell L. Sogin, and Frederick S. Colwell
Frontiers in Microbiology doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.00840

Publication Opportunities

Invitation to Contribute to Fluid-Mineral Interactions Special Issue
A new special issue of Minerals will explore advances in the understanding of fluid-rock inteactions. Edited by DCO’s Alberto Vitale Brovarone (Intitut de Minéralogie, de Pysique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie, IMPMC, CNRS, France) and Simone Tumiati (Università degli studi di Milano, Italy), the thematic issue aims at exploring fluid-mineral processes from different angles, from natural observations, to experimental and theoretical studies and their implications on reactivity and transformations at lithospheric conditions. Contributions related to the study of deep carbon are especially welcome. All members of the DCO Science Network are invited to submit articles. The submission period will run through the end of 2018. Read more...

Employment Opportunities

Tenure track position in “volcanic risks,” University of Clermont-Auvergne, France
The candidate will be part of the volcanology group of the “Laboratoire Magmas & Volcans.” Research activities will be focused on physical and socioeconomic impacts of volcanic events, hazard–risk evaluation, vulnerability resilience assessment, and risk/hazard communication strategies. The candidate will be required to develop collaborative projects with other laboratories. Our aim is to recruit an experienced specialist in the area of volcanic hazards with recognized international experience. Application deadline: 3 May 2018

Assistant (tenure track) or Associate Professor position in Mineral Resources at the University of Geneva, Switzerland
Applicants are expected to lead a diversified research and teaching program in the field of mineral resources. The successful candidate will implement an ambitious research program addressing the fundamental physical and chemical processes involved in ore forming systems in Earth’s crust, combining cutting edge analytical methods with field-based projects, ideally in collaboration with the mining industry. The research projects should also aim at developing novel concepts and tools in economic geology, applicable to regional scale fertility evaluation projects, footprint identification of ore-forming systems, and mineral and geochemical vectoring at the mining district scale. Ultimately, the research goals should be driven by the challenge of securing sustainable raw material supply to our society and future generations. The successful candidate will join a very active Department with a long tradition of research in Economic Geology. Application deadline: 31 July 2018

Postdoctoral position in Earth Science, American Museum of Natural History, USA
The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, American Museum of Natural History, seeks a candidate for a unique, three-year postdoctoral fellowship consisting of 75% research and 25% education. The research will be conducted in fields related to the interests of curatorial faculty member Denton S. Ebel, particularly research that uses the meteorite and/or sedimentary record to understand what chondrite meteorites reveal about the early solar system, and/or what impact ejecta reveal about Earth history. The teaching component supports an innovative Master-of-Arts in Teaching program designed to educate teacher candidates in both the science and pedagogy required to successfully teach the New York State Regents Earth sciences curriculum, which includes about 50% Earth history topics. Field experience is an advantage in this regard. The successful applicant must demonstrate the ability to develop a robust research program, teach collaboratively with museum professionals in the MAT program particularly during summer field experience and research exercises, and assist in coordinating teacher candidate science activities. 

DCO in the News

26 April 2018: How Oman’s rocks could help save the planet
By Henry Fountain for The New York Times
In the arid vastness of this corner of the Arabian Peninsula, out where goats and the occasional camel roam, rocks form the backdrop practically every way you look...

20 April 2018: Deep Italian cave may help detect life on Mars
By Sangeeta Krishnan for Jagran Josh
Scientists have discovered signs of life in a massive cave in Italy that is located about 1300 feet below the ground...

18 April 2018: Scientists say an 8-mile-deep Italian cave may be the key to finding life on Mars
By Chris Mahon for Outer Places
To prepare for missions to Mars, NASA tests out its tech in extreme locales like Death Valley, Calif., and Lake Vostok in Antarctica, but it turns out that the Frasassi Caves in Italy may be one of the best places to explore when it comes to the search for life on Mars...

17 April 2018: Deep Italian cave provides clues for how to detect life on Mars
By David Kubarek for Penn State News
What can a massive cave in Italy tell us about life on Mars and other planets?

3 April 2018: Lights, cameras, science: Using video to engage broader audiences
By Katie Pratt for Research Whisperer
There’s no escaping the fact that having broader impact activities on your CV is a must for any researcher today...

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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