December 2017 Newsletter

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From the Deep, a monthly newsletter from DCO
December 2017

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Deep Carbon Observatory

ultralow-velocity zones

In this artistic representation of the formation of ultralow-velocity zones, the blue water released from water-bearing minerals in the subducting slab reacts with the yellow, iron-rich outer core to form the orange hydrogen-bearing iron peroxide patches along Earth’s core-mantle boundary. 
Credit: Qingyang Hu See the full image, and read more about the research behind it, here.

Letter from the Director

As the year comes to a close, I would like to thank everyone in the DCO Science Network for making 2017 a banner year for deep carbon science.
Deep carbon science had a large presence at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in New Orleans, USA from 11-15 December 2017. DCO researchers gave more than 100 scientific presentations, including many by a strong contingent of DCO early career scientists. Two DCO scientists, Bernard Marty (Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, France) and Craig Manning (University of California Los Angeles, USA), delivered this year’s Norman L. Bowen Award Lectures. DCO scientists Chris Ballentine (University of Oxford, UK) and Peter Kelemen (Columbia University, USA) presented the award citations.
A new paper in Nature by DCO members Jin Liu, Wendy Mao (both at Stanford University, USA), and Ho-Kwang (Dave) Mao (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA) contains exciting results about a potential reservoir of oxygen and hydrogen at the core-mantle boundary. “This discovery could tie in with a lot of other pieces of evidence suggesting that Earth’s deep material is interacting with the surface,” said Wendy Mao.
I encourage you to watch Biology Meets Subduction, a fascinating film that follows a group of DCO scientists on a unique expedition across the Costa Rican volcanic arc. This short film won first prize in the inaugural Goldschmidt Film Festival in August and is now available on the DCO website.
DCO co-sponsored the Deep Carbon Cycle Symposium in Hyderabad, India on 7 December 2017 to strengthen and broaden mutually advantageous scientific partnerships between DCO and researchers in India. Presentations on topics such as carbonated magmas in Earth’s mantle, kimberlites and carbon from deep Earth, gas hydrates, microbial life in deep continental crust beneath the Deccan Traps, and the Koyna scientific drilling project demonstrated opportunities for increased collaboration with Indian deep carbon scientists.
Congratulations to Alberto Vitale Brovarone (Institut de Minéralogie et de Physique des Milieux Condensés, France), Daniel Hummer (Southern Illinois University, USA), and Taryn Lopez (University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA) for receiving the 2017 DCO Emerging Leader Awards. The strength of DCO’s early career scientist network gives us great confidence in the future of deep carbon science.
As a community of more than 1000 members around the globe, the Deep Carbon Observatory is committed to promoting a safe and respectful environment for all. To this end, the DCO Executive Committee has established a community-wide code of conduct and policy on respect. We encourage everyone to read and follow these policies.
Together, let’s welcome 2018 and the many new exciting opportunities in deep carbon science it will bring.

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

News Features


Patches Along Core-Mantle Boundary May Be Deep Hiding Place for Oxygen
Almost 3,000 kilometers below the surface, mysterious patches sit in between the rocky mantle and Earth’s iron-rich core. Scientists know of these blotches because they significantly slow passing seismic waves generated by earthquakes. Since the discovery of these so-called “ultralow-velocity zones” (ULVZs) in the mid-1990s, researchers have proposed several possible explanations, but no one has been able to fully account for these subsurface anomalies. DCO members Jin Liu, Wendy Mao (both at Stanford University, USA), and Ho-Kwang (Dave) Mao (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA) may have come up with an explanation for what’s inside ULVZs. They and their colleagues report their findings in a new paper in Nature. Through high-pressure and high-temperature lab experiments, the researchers show that a new form of iron peroxide (FeO2Hx), created from water and iron under conditions found in the mantle, can slow sound waves, much like ULVZs in Earth. If correct, these findings suggest that ULVZs may help cycle water and other volatile materials through the subsurface, providing a deep hiding place for oxygen. Read more...

One of The Supercontinents Is Different from the Others (It’s Rodinia)
Many people have heard of Pangaea, the supercontinent that included all continents on Earth and began to break up about 175 million years ago. But before Pangaea, Earth’s landmasses ripped apart and smashed back together to form supercontinents repeatedly. This cycle has been going on for at least the last 3.0 billion years of Earth’s history, regulating our planet’s geography, climate, and carbon cycles. Each supercontinent has its quirks, but one, called Rodinia, assembled from 1.3 to 0.9 billion years ago and broken up about 0.75 billion years ago, is particularly odd. A study led by postdoctoral researcher Chao Liu, DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen (both at Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), and Professor Andrew Knoll (Harvard University, USA) describes why Rodinia is so unusual in a new paper in Nature Communications. Read more...

2017 DCO Emerging Leader Awards
The Deep Carbon Observatory has selected three early career scientists to receive the 2017 DCO Emerging Leader Awards. These awards, bestowed annually, honor DCO early career researchers for distinguished performance and unique potential as leaders of the deep carbon science community. This year’s award recipients are Alberto Vitale Brovarone (Institut de Minéralogie et de Physique des Milieux Condensés, France), Daniel Hummer (Southern Illinois University, USA), and Taryn Lopez (University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA). They were selected from an outstanding group of candidates, all nominated by DCO colleagues through an open call for nominations. Read more...

DCO at the 2017 AGU Fall Meeting
The 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (11-15 December 2017) embraced the unfamiliar, bringing 22,000 Earth and space scientists together in New Orleans instead of the usual San Francisco. Deep carbon science was again ubiquitous, with more than 200 talks and posters throughout the week either involving DCO scientists or of potential topical interest to DCO attendees. Read more...

Expanding the DCO Science Network in India
The Deep Carbon Cycle Symposium in Hyderabad, India on 7 December 2017 strengthened and broadened mutually advantageous scientific partnerships between the Deep Carbon Observatory and researchers in India. Co-sponsored by India’s National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), the Indian Geophysical Union (IGU), and DCO, the symposium brought together more than 70 scientists with expertise across a broad spectrum of deep carbon science. Read more...

VIDEO: Biology Meets Subduction
On 11 February 2017, 25 researchers from six nations met in San Jose, Costa Rica for a 12-day sampling expedition across the Costa Rica volcanic arc. Members of the four Deep Carbon Observatory Science Communities conducted a scientific investigation at Costa Rican volcanic sites through the lenses of biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. This multidisciplinary view is affording researchers from different fields the unique opportunity to work side by side, sharing their insights, and asking questions to achieve a broader picture of the role of carbon in this active volcanic arc. This short film, created in partnership with Co Lab Productions, shows the team in action, and in August 2017 won the inaugural Goldschmidt Film Festival out of 92 entries. Watch now...

To Jupyter and Beyond: A Conversation with Peter Fox
In his role leading DCO’s Data Science Team, Peter Fox (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA) has been instrumental in helping the DCO deal with its data. As a professor of Earth and environmental science, computer science and cognitive science, chair of the Tetherless World Constellation, and a member of the DCO Executive Committee, he is ideally positioned to cultivate a culture of data sharing. His group has built an infrastructure to manage DCO datasets, collaborated on new research projects that utilize Earth science data for novel discoveries, and constructed plans to keep DCO data accessible to scientists far beyond 2019. Fox spoke with DCO science writer Patricia Waldron about how data science creates new opportunities in Earth sciences research and the data science tools now available to DCO researchers. Read more...

DCO Code of Conduct and Policy on Respect 
As a community of more than 1000 members around the globe, the Deep Carbon Observatory strives for a safe and respectful workplace environment. To this end, the DCO Executive Committee has come together to solidify a community-wide code of conduct and policy on respect. Read more...

Upcoming Events

Fourth International Diamond School, Bolzano-Bozen, Italy, 29 January - 2 February 2018
The school will provide a general overview of recent advances in diamond research, combining geology, exploration, and gemology of diamond. 

Whole Earth Carbon Cycling – Bridging Academia and Industry, Rice University, USA, 21-23 February 2018
This workshop will bring together a diverse set of experts from academia and industry to follow carbon from its geology to its biology to its use as the energy that sustains 7 billion people on our planet. 

Earth in Five Reactions Workshop, Washington DC, USA, 21-23 March 2018
Through keynote talks, panel discussions, and breakout sessions, invited participants will agree upon the five most important and relevant reactions that impact deep carbon science. 

EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, 8-13 April 2018
The EGU General Assembly 2018 will bring together geoscientists from all over the world to one meeting covering all disciplines of the Earth, planetary, and space sciences. Abstract submission deadline: 10 January 2018

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 

Honors and Awards

Taryn Lopez, Reservoirs and Fluxes
University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
2017 DCO Emerging Leader Award

Daniel Hummer, Extreme Physics and Chemistry
Southern Illinois University, USA
2017 DCO Emerging Leader Award

Alberto Vitale Brovarone, Deep Energy
Institut de Minéralogie, de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie, France
2017 DCO Emerging Leader Award

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. 

Census of Deep Life Sequencing Opportunities - Call for Proposals
Since 2011, the Deep Carbon Observatory’s Deep Life Community has sponsored the Census of Deep Life that 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 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). 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: 31 December 2017

Call For Postdoctoral Fellowship Proposals in Deep Life Modeling and Visualization
The Deep Life Modeling and Visualization network of the Deep Life community of the Deep Carbon Observatory is looking to fund postdoctoral fellows to develop interdisciplinary models that produce fundamental new insights or hypotheses regarding the carbon cycle on Earth. Themes may include but are not limited to (1) biosphere-geosphere coupling in the deep carbon cycle, (2) integration of microbiological data and data on (bio)geochemical rates, processes, or fluxes, (3) integration of quantitative microbiological data with physical and geochemical data to identify the limits of life and distribution of microbial biomass throughout the biosphere, and/or (4) modeling of interactions between deep life and continental evolution. Proposals may involve the (1) synthesis of insights and data produced by members of the Deep Life community, and (2) integration of these insights and data with insights and data produced by other communities within and outside the DCO. Ideal candidates will have a proven track record in interdisciplinary and quantitative biological, geochemical, and/or geological sciences that includes modeling and visualization, and demonstrated ability to work in a team of multi-disciplinary scientists. Submission deadline: 20 January 2018

New Publications

View more papers in the DCO publications browser.

Hydrogen-bearing iron peroxide and the origin of ultralow-velocity zones
Jin Liu, Qingyang Hu, Duck Young Kim, Zhongqing Wu, Wenzhong Wang, Yuming Xiao, Paul Chow, Yue Meng, Vitali B. Prakapenka, Ho-Kwang Mao, and Wendy L. Mao
Nature doi:10.1038/nature24461

Geochemical and mineralogical evidence that Rodinian assembly was unique 
Chao Liu, Andrew H. Knoll, and Robert M. Hazen
Nature Communications doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02095-x

Employment Opportunities

PhD projects at the University of Leeds, UK
The University of Leeds, UK, is advertising several volcanic and magmatic themed PhD projects for entry next academic year. Positions are awarded in open-competition as part of the Leeds-York  Natural Environment Research Council doctoral training partnership. For detailed project descriptions please visit this website. Application deadline: 8 January 2018

Open Rank faculty position in STEM at Bates College, USA
Bates College invites applications for an open rank faculty position, broadly defined, to encompass any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) discipline at Bates. The successful candidate will demonstrate expertise in supporting the success of students from underrepresented groups, in addition to commitment to excellence and innovation in both teaching and scholarship. Bates College is a small residential liberal arts college that offers majors in the STEM departments of Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Geology, Mathematics, and Physics and Astronomy, as well as the interdisciplinary programs of Environmental Studies and Neuroscience. The position is open to applicants at the Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor rank. Review of applications begins 10 January 2018.  

Staff Scientist - Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science
The Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science invites applications for a Staff Scientist position. We seek to hire a creative and exceptional early career scientist to develop and execute world-class research in areas that complement and strengthen the on-going research at the Laboratory. The Geophysical Laboratory fosters a collegial and vibrant research environment, and under the guidance of Director Michael Walter, staff scientists will have the freedom and support to explore the most compelling scientific questions. Current research at the Geophysical Laboratory falls primarily within three overlapping thematic areas: Earth and Planetary Science, Astrobiology and the Origin of Life, and the Chemistry and Physics of Materials at Extreme Conditions. Synergies among these thematic areas, as well as links to many closely related research pursuits at Carnegie’s co-located Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, provide Geophysical Laboratory scientists with exceptional opportunities for collaboration. Consideration of applications will begin on 1 February 2018 and will continue until the position has been filled.

Petrology PhD Opportunity, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Please consider applying to study as a PhD student for a newly funded project looking at water diffusion in mantle materials associated with melt channelling and veining in mantle ophiolite sections. This PhD opportunity at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, will require both field work (New Zealand and USA) and extensive geochemical and petrologic work, with the applicant starting as soon as possible to make use of the southern hemisphere summer.

Two Postdoctoral Positions at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA
The Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is searching for two Postdoctoral Investigators to join their team. These are temporary positions and the initial appointment will be for one year (available immediately) with the possibility of an extension for up to two years. These positions will work in Julie Huber's laboratory. Huber's research focuses on the composition and function of microbes in the deep sea to understand microbial dynamics and the resulting biogeochemical implications. Much of her work has involved the ocean crustal aquifer (e.g., hydrothermal systems; ocean ridge and arc volcanoes; and off-ridge sub-seafloor crust). More broadly, her research interests span from the deep sea to coastal ponds and astrobiology. The postdoctoral investigator positions will participate in studies of subseafloor crustal microbial communities. While the primary focus of the work will be in research, the postdoctoral investigator will have an opportunity to participate in educational and outreach activities associated with the project.

PhD studentship in volcano remote sensing at Michigan Technological University, USA
Applications are invited for a NASA-funded PhD studentship in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Technological University. The student will be trained to use a suite of NASA satellite observations to detect and quantify volcanic emissions of sulfur dioxide and other trace gases, to advance understanding of volcanic processes and the atmospheric, environmental and health impacts of volcanic degassing. The project will involve close collaboration with scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, USA. Up to three years of PhD student support is available; PhD students are encouraged to apply for other fellowships and small grants to supplement their funding.

DCO in the News

Read more DCO News here

13 December 2017: What drones can teach us about volcanic eruptions
The Poás volcano in Costa Rica erupted suddenly and violently in late April, hurling chunks of rock into the air, destroying a nearby observation platform and wrecking a single piece of monitoring equipment: a sensor recording gas concentrations in the bottom of the crater...

12 December 2017: Awesome jobs: Meet Julie Huber, deep sea microbiologist
Erin Biber for Tested
Julie Huber, a marine microbiologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, specializes in finding itty bitty lifeforms in the deepest parts of the ocean...

11 December 2017: Precious gems bear messages from Earth’s molten heart
Natalie Angier for The New York Times
Around 1920, Justo Daza, an experienced mine worker, and Fritz Klein, a mining engineer, were scrambling over the steep mountainside terraces of Chivor, a legendary emerald site in northeast Colombia...

7 December 2017: Rare nitrogen molecules offers clues to makeup of other life-supporting planets
A team of scientists using a state-of-the-art UCLA instrument reports the discovery of a planetary-scale "tug-of-war" of life, deep Earth and the upper atmosphere that is expressed in atmospheric nitrogen...

6 December 2017: The labs that forge distant planets here on Earth
Shannon Hall for Nature
Yingwei Fei and his colleagues had spent a month carefully crafting the three slivers of dense silicate — shiny and round, each sample was less than a millimetre thick...

5 December 2017: Role of carbon dioxide in climate evolution more significant than previously thought
UNM Newsroom
New research has identified that the storage of carbon dioxide in the deep solid earth and its release into our atmosphere has a much greater role in shaping past climate variations than previously thought...

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.