December 2016 Newsletter

Deep Carbon Observatory
Large Diamonds

In a paper published in Science, a team of researchers led by Evan Smith of the Gemological Institute of America, and including Deep Carbon Observatory collaborators Steven Shirey and Fabrizio Nestola, suggests giant gemstone diamonds like these are super-deep diamonds formed under special mantle conditions. Read more here

Science Cover 12.16.16Letter from the Director

The Deep Carbon Observatory is sparkling as 2016 draws to a close. A major DCO contribution on the origin and significance of large gem diamonds is featured on the cover of the current issue of Science (16 December 2016). Evan Smith, Steven Shirey, Fabrizio Nestola, and colleagues present multiple lines of evidence that these diamonds grew from metallic liquid in Earth’s deep convecting mantle—providing broad implications for Earth’s evolution.
Diamonds are also the subject of a special issue of Lithos (15 November 2016) edited by DCO colleagues. “The nature of diamonds and their use in Earth's study” contains 30 papers by 134 authors. This special issue marks the second International Diamond School convened in Bressanone, Italy in 2015. Many contributors to the special issue were students at the Diamond School, which was sponsored by the Gemological Institute of America and the Deep Carbon Observatory.
DCO researchers presented nearly 200 papers at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco from 12-16 December 2016. In addition to important contributions from the DCO’s four Science Communities, the meeting featured results from DCO’s crosscutting initiatives, including instrumentation and field studies. For example, Edward Young and colleagues presented several papers with exciting new results on methane isotopologues based on data from the Panorama mass spectrometer. A paper by Young and 21 co-authors contains data from field sites around the world, integrating DCO’s instrumentation and field studies initiatives.
As 2016 winds down, I would like to express gratitude to all members of the DCO Science Network. Your curiosity, dedication to scientific excellence, and commitment to advancing deep carbon science is exceptional. This translated into sparkling scientific contributions in 2016 and bodes well for more gems in the years ahead. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive new year.

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

News Features

Earth’s Largest Diamonds Form in Metal-bearing Part of Earth’s Mantle

In a paper published in the journal Science, a team of researchers led by Evan Smith of the Gemological Institute of America and including Deep Carbon Observatory collaborators Steven Shirey (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA) and Fabrizio Nestola (Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy), suggests giant gemstone diamonds, like the 3106 carat Cullinan, are super-deep diamonds formed under special mantle conditions. Super-deep diamonds, which form more than 380 km deep in Earth’s mantle, are invaluable tools for deep carbon scientists. Not only do diamonds harbor clues about how they formed and therefore the reactions taking place inside Earth, diamonds also trap small samples of mantle minerals, so-called inclusions, within their carbon crystal structure as they grow. Tiny samples of Earth’s deep interior from where a diamond forms are preserved under high pressure within a super-strong, unreactive diamond shell. Read more...

Measuring Volcanic Eruptions from Space: Uniting Geophysical and Geochemical Data
When volcanoes erupt, they spew lava, ash, and gas into the atmosphere and over the surrounding landscape. The impacts of volcanic eruptions in populated areas are well documented becasue scientists can monitor gas emissions and collect physical samples with relative ease. But a significant fraction of Earth’s volcanoes are remote, making direct observation difficult. To tackle this challenge, some researchers have therefore turned to space-based techniques, collecting data from satellites. In a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications, DCO collaborators Brendan McCormick Kilbride, Marie Edmonds (both at the University of Cambridge, UK), and Juliet Biggs (University of Bristol, UK), analyzed several sets of satellite data to reconcile, for the first time, geophysical and geochemical models of magma composition. Read more...

New Special Issue of Lithos: The Nature of Diamonds and Their Use in Earth's Study
“The nature of diamonds and their use in Earth's study,” the 15 November 2016 edition of the journal Lithos, delves into the role of natural diamonds in deep Earth research. This special issue is edited by DCO scientists in the Reservoirs and Fluxes initiative, Diamonds and the Mantle Geodynamics of Carbon (DMGC), in recognition of the second International Diamond School. The School took place in January 2015 in Bressanone, Italy, and many of its students contributed papers to this special issue. The Deep Carbon Observatory and the Gemological Institute of America sponsored the school, which brought together more than 80 graduate students and postdocs from around the world. Many of the students of the school are authors in the special issue. Read more...

AGI Awards Diversity Grants to Geoscientists Studying Deep Carbon
In 2015, the Deep Carbon Observatory partnered with the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) to engage and actively recruit geoscientists from traditionally underrepresented groups in the United States. The latest recipients of these DCO Diversity Grants are Daniel Colman (Postdoctoral Researcher at Montana State University), Rosa Zayas (Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Delaware), Omar Harvey (Assistant Professor at Texas Christian University), and Pedro Marenco (Associate Professor at Bryn Mawr College). Additionally, AGI awarded travel grants to Pablo Garcia Del Real (PhD candidate at Stanford University), Moyo Ajayi (Master of Science candidate at Vanderbilt University), John Paul Balmonte (PhD Candidate at the University of North Carolina), and Heidi Needham (Master of Science candidate at the University of Hawaii), to attend DCO-related field experiences including the 2016 DCO Summer School. Read more...

DCO at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting
The 2016 AGU Fall Meeting, held from 12-15 December in San Francisco, USA, showcased a vast array of international research in Earth and space sciences. DCO researchers contributed nearly 200 presentations to the Fall Meeting and impacted numerous sessions and town halls by presenting new research ranging from the diversity of the subsurface biosphere in continental and marine settings, to carbon degassing in volcanic and tectonic settings, to the structure and composition of Earth’s core. Read more...

Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community Workshop, Stanford University, USA
Members of the Extreme Physics and Chemistry (EPC) community met at Stanford University on Saturday and Sunday, 10-11 December 2016, presenting scientific progress on studies of carbon in deep Earth. The workshop also included focused discussions addressing EPC goals for the near future and lasting legacies of the community’s work. Read more...

Carbon Mineral Challenge Update: Eight New Minerals Found Since Launch
In December 2015, the Deep Carbon Observatory launched the Carbon Mineral Challenge to encourage mineral collectors from around the world to look for new carbon minerals. The Challenge was inspired by work led by DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), which predicted at least 145 carbon-bearing minerals remained undiscovered on Earth. Since the launch, DCO’s Daniel Hummer (Southern Illinois University, USA) has taken the lead on the Carbon Mineral Challenge. During the first 12 months, 40 scientists and collectors from 6 countries found 8 new minerals that have been approved by the International Mineralogical Association. The new minerals include two of the 145 minerals specifically predicted by Hazen et al (2016), while others have unexpected chemical and structural characteristics. Read more...

Deep Earth Water Community Forms to Investigate Fluids in Deep Earth
During the Summer of 2016, Dimitri Sverjensky (Johns Hopkins University, USA) hosted a series of workshops throughout Europe to introduce primarily early career scientists to the Deep Earth Water model (DEW) and its capabilities. Published in 2014, DEW enables modeling of water-rock interactions at the conditions of Earth’s upper mantle. DEW has already been an important component of a suite of high profile publications. The workshops nucleated a new initiative within DCO, the Deep Earth Water Community. Read more...

Upcoming Events

Workshop: Demystifying the IODP Proposal Process for Early Career Scientists, Austin, Texas, USA, 23-25 January 2017
This workshop will focus on developing the next generation of IODP scientists, both by educating participants about upper-level IODP functions and building collaborative relationships. 

Third DCO International Science Meeting, St. Andrews, Scotland, 23-25 March 2017
The Deep Carbon Observatory will hold its Third International Science Meeting at the University of St. Andrews. This meeting will showcase recent results from scientists working in all fields of deep carbon research.

EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, 23-28 April 2017
Abstract submission deadline: 11 January 2017

Deep Continental Drilling into the Moho in the Ivaea-Verbano Zone ICDP Workshop, Baveno, Italy, 2-5 May 2017
This workshop is aimed at developing a strategic plan for drilling into the continental crust-mantle transition in the Ivaea-Verbano Zone. Application deadline: 1 February 2017

JpGU-AGU Joint Meeting, Makuhari Messe, Japan, 20-25 May 2017
In May 2017, JpGU and AGU will hold the first joint meeting of the two societies. More than 50 sessions, covering all areas of the Earth and space sciences, will be presented in English for inter- and trans-disciplinary scientists.  

Goldschmidt 2017, Paris, France, 13-18 August 2017
Goldschmidt, the foremost annual, international conference on geochemistry and related subjects, will be held in Paris in 2017. 

Honors and Awards

Chris Ballentine, Deep Energy Scientific Steering Committee
University of Oxford, UK
2016 Eni Award for New Frontiers of Hydrocarbons (Upstream)

Katie Pratt, DCO Engagement Team
University of Rhode Island, USA
2017 AAAS Community Engagement Fellow

Funding Opportunities

Hibbitt Early Career Fellows Program at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA 
The Hibbitt Early Career Fellows Program provides talented scientists a rare opportunity: the chance to set up research programs of their own as an alternative to traditional postdoctoral positions. Recent PhD (or equivalent degree) graduates with proven excellence in research will be given the necessary resources to work as principal investigators, free from financial constraints and distractions of formal faculty responsibilities. As their research programs mature, the hope is that Fellows will be able to attract funding from federal grants or other sources. Review of applications begins 1 January 2017 

Chateaubriand Fellowship Program Call for Applications 
The Chateaubriand Fellowship in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics & Biology-Health is a grant offered by the Embassy of France in the United States. Every year, it allows doctoral students enrolled in American universities to conduct research in France for four to nine months. Chateaubriand Fellows receive a stipend, a round trip ticket to France, and health insurance. The Chateaubriand Fellowship aims to initiate or reinforce collaborations, partnerships or joint projects between French and American research teams. This fellowship is offered by the Office for Science & Technology of the Embassy of France in partnership with universities and research organizations in France and the United States, including the National Science Foundation’s GROW program. Application deadline: 27 January 2017

New Publications

View more papers in the DCO publications browser.

Large gem diamonds from metallic liquid in Earth’s deep mantle
Evan M Smith, Steven B Shirey, Fabrizio Nestola, Emma S Bullock, Jianhua Wang, Stephen H Richardson, and Wuyi Wang
Science doi: 10.1126/science.aal1303

Observing eruptions of gas-rich, compressible magmas from space
Brendan McCormick Kilbride, Marie Edmonds, and Juliet Biggs
Nature Communications doi: 10.1038/ncomms13744

The nature of diamonds and their use in Earth's study 
Ed. Fabrizio Nestola, Matteo Alvaro, D Graham Pearson, and Steven B Shirey
Lithos Special Issue; Volume 265 

Magmas near the critical degassing pressure drive volcanic unrest towards a critical state 
Giovanni Chiodini, Antonio Paonita, Alessandro Aiuppa, Antonio Costa, Stefano Caliro, Prospero De Martino, Valerio Acocella, and Jean Vandemeulebrouck
Nature Communications doi:10.1038/ncomms13712

Employment Opportunities

Harry Hess Postdoctoral Fellows Program at Princeton University, USA
The Department of Geosciences at Princeton University announces competition for the 2016-2017 Harry Hess Fellows Program. This honorific postdoctoral fellowship program provides opportunities for outstanding geoscientists to work in the field of their choice. Research may be carried out independently or in collaboration with members of Princeton's Geosciences Department. One or more Hess Fellows may be appointed. Applicants for the Hess Fellowship may also be considered for other available postdoctoral positions in the Geosciences Department. Application deadline: 1 January 2017

PhD Position at the University of Southampton, UK, with the Oman Drilling Project
A project, "Coupled geochemical and hydrogeological monitoring and modeling of a mantle peridotite aquifer in the Oman Ophiolite," will focus on integrated studies of hydrogeological and geochemical parameters and their change along the subsurface flow path in the peridotite aquifer. To this aim, physical parameters such as permeability, porosity, and storativity as well as solute transport parameters (dispersion, diffusion) will be quantified along the water-rock reaction pathway using hydrogeological methods (e.g. geophysical borehole wireline logging, pumping, and tracers tests). Furthermore, rates of fluid flow and water-rock reactions along the reactive flow paths will be defined by time-space controlled fluid and dissolved gas sampling and analyses using submersible pumps and straddle-packer tools at the multi-borehole test site in Oman. These field and laboratory results will be integrated into numerical models of reactive transport to further understand the coupling between physical and geochemical processes. Application deadline: 2 January 2017

Lecturer in Earth Sciences at Durham University, UK
The Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University wishes to recruit an outstanding Lecturer in Earth Sciences. The Department has broad interests across the range of geosciences and seeks applications from exceptional candidates working in any areas of geoscience research that complement and build on its current expertise and interests. The position offers an exciting opportunity to conduct research and teaching of the highest, international quality. Academics are expected to raise funding to undertake research, to recruit and supervise postgraduate students and postdoctoral research staff, and to explore the full potential for impact of their research. Application deadline: 29 January 2017

Assistant Professor of Geology in Petrology/Mineralogy, University of Georgia, USA
The Department of Geology at the University of Georgia seeks to fill a position for a tenure-track assistant professor in the field of petrology/mineralogy, welcoming applications from scientists in both the Earth and planetary sciences to complement the department’s growing focus in planetary sciences. We encourage applications from petrologists/mineralogists with strong backgrounds in chemistry and physics who may employ unconventional and interdisciplinary approaches to address big-picture questions including but not limited to petrologic and/or mineralogical aspects of planetary evolution involving core, mantle, and/or crustal processes. Open until filled.

PhD Positions in Geomicrobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, USA
The Department of Earth and Environmental Science and the Center for Energy Research at the University of Pennsylvania seek graduate students interested in any of the following research areas: geomicrobiology, ecology, microbe-microbe and microbe-mineral interactions, biogeochemistry, ecophysiology and bioenergetics. The successful applicants will be awarded a PhD Fellowship package that includes: tuition, fees, health care, and stipend for living expenses. These packages are available starting Fall 2017.

DCO in the News

Read more DCO News here

20 December 2016: Neutron diffraction probes forms of carbon dioxide in extreme environments
Science Daily
Carbon dioxide is a key component in the carbon cycle of Earth, both in the atmosphere and in the mantle, or hot layer under Earth's crust...

20 December 2016: ‘Waterworld’ Earth preceded late rise of continents, scientist proposes
By Thomas Sumner for Science News
Earth may have been a water world for much of its history, a new proposal contends...

19 December 2016 Scientists discover the oldest-known pool of water
By Danny Lewis for
About two miles below the Earth’s surface, researchers digging in a mine in Ontario, Canada have discovered a remarkable time capsule: the oldest-known pool of water on the planet...

19 December 2016 Miners found a huge 3,100-carat diamond roughly a century ago. A new study reveals how it formed.
By Ben Guarino for The Washington Post
In January 1905, at the Premier Mine in northeastern South Africa, a mine superintendent named Frederick Wells discovered a diamond...

18 December 2016 Du métal au cœur de diamants très précieux
By Tristan Vey for Le Figaro
Ces inclusions d'alliages métalliques témoignent de la présence inattendue de fer et de nickel liquides dans le manteau terrestre...

16 December 2016 Strange giant diamonds give hints to the inner Earth's composition
By Mary Beth Griggs for Popular Science
The largest diamonds ever mined on earth aren’t just set apart by their large size and luster, but by a unique origin story as well...

16 December 2016 Diamanten aus 600 Kilometer Tiefe
By Anja Garms for Spiegel Online
Einige der größten und wertvollsten Diamanten formten sich außergewöhnlich tief im Inneren des Erdmantels - in flüssigem Metall...

16 December 2016 Los diamantes grandes desvelan el funcionamiento interno de la Tierra
EFE Futuro
El estudio, del equipo liderado por el investigador posdoctoral del Instituto Gemológico de América (GIA, por su sigla en inglés), Evan Smith, examinó el tamaño y la calidad de los diamantes para destapar indicios sobre la geología de la Tierra...

16 December 2016 Oldest water in the world found in Ontario by U of T scientists
By Michelle Cheung for CBC News
A team of University of Toronto geoscientists has made a discovery that could lead to a new understanding of ancient life on Earth and other planets: two billion-year-old water, believed to be the oldest H2O ever found, in a mine in Timmins, Ontario...

15 December 2016 Big diamonds bring scientists a message from superdeep Earth
By Rae Ellen Bichell for NPR
Evan Smith wanted to get his hands on the world's biggest diamonds — the kind that sit atop royal scepters, and the ones that are always the target of elaborate movie heists...

15 December 2016 Maji ya kale zaidi duniani yagunduliwa Canada
BBC News Swahili
Wanasayansi nchini Canada wamegundua maji yanayoaminika kuwa ya kale zaidi duniani, ambayo wanaamini yamekuwepo angalau kwa miaka bilioni mbili...

15 December 2016 The world's oldest water is even more ancient than we realised
By Peter Dockrill for ScienceAlert
Scientists have discovered the world's oldest known water in an ancient pool in Canada that's at least 2 billion years old...

15 December 2016 Earth's biggest diamonds may form in strange 'metal pools'
By Charles Q Choi for Live Science
The world's largest, most valuable diamonds may be born in pockets of liquid metal located deep within the Earth, a new study finds...

15 December 2016 Huge, rare diamonds are born in pools of liquid metal deep below the Earth's surface
By Martha Henriques for International Business Times
The world's largest, purest diamonds form in pools of molten metal in the Earth, much deeper than the majority of more common diamonds, scientists say...

15 December 2016 Earth’s rarest diamonds formed in pockets of liquid metal
By Sid Perkins for Science
Some of the most prized diamonds on Earth are unusually clear, exceedingly rare, and often extraordinarily large...

15 December 2016 Megadiamonds point to metal in mantle
By Laurel Hamers for Science News
Imperfections in supersized diamonds are a bummer for gem cutters but a boon for geologists...

15 December 2016 World's oldest water discovered 3 kilometers underground
By Josh Davis for IFLScience
Deep down within a Canadian mine researchers have made an ancient discovery. They have found the world's oldest water...

14 December 2016 World’s oldest water gets even older
By Rebecca Morelle for BBC News
The world’s oldest water, which is locked deep within the Earth’s crust, just got even older...

Learn more about DCO's Scientific Communities


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.

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.

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.

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