February 2016 Newsletter

From the Deep, a monthly newsletter from DCO
February 2016
Deep Carbon Observatory
Collecting volcanic gases on Lastarria volcano, Chile.
About this image: Ian Schipper (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) takes in situ gas measurements (H2O, CO2, SO2, H2S, H2) using a MultiGas instrument, and samples the plume with a Tedler bag (to determine isotopic values of CO2 using a Delta Ray spectrometer) at
Lastarria volcano, Chile. Credit: Yves Mousallam (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA).

Catch up on the latest from the Trail by Fire Expedition.

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News Features

Hadesarchaea: a New Archaeal Class of Cosmopolitan Deep Microbes
The deep biosphere encompasses a variety of ecosystems, from the marine subsurface to crevices in continental crust. These niches are characterized by different physical and chemical conditions, which in turn influence their microbial inhabitants. In a new paper in Nature Microbiology, a team of researchers including several DCO Deep Life scientists describes a new class of Archaea, which thrive in a variety of subsurface settings. The team, led by Brett Baker (University of Texas Austin, USA), used shotgun sequencing to obtain genomes from sediments from the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park and the White Oak River estuary. The Archaea they found are part of a class previously known as SAGMEG (South-African Gold Mine Miscellaneous Euchyarchaeal Group), and are very closely related to organisms found in the Lost City hydrothermal vent field and other deep locales. Read more...

Opportunities for US Underrepresented Geoscientists Working in Deep Carbon Science
In January 2015, the Deep Carbon Observatory began collaborating with the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) to increase the participation and retention of United States citizens and permanent residents who are geoscientists from underrepresented groups (African American, Hispanic, Latino/Latina, Native American, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, Filipino, and Pacific Islander) in DCO. This collaboration focuses on bolstering and advocating a broad awareness of DCO activities for early- to mid-career underrepresented geoscientists, including graduating doctoral candidates, post-doctoral fellows, assistant professors and their counterparts in the private sector. Read more...

Beyond Diamonds and Gems: The World's Rarest Minerals
Scientists have inventoried and categorized all of Earth's rare mineral species described to date, each sampled from five or fewer sites around the globe. Individually, several of the species have a known supply worldwide smaller than a sugar cube. These 2,550 minerals are far more rare than pricey diamonds and gems usually presented as tokens of love. But while their rarity would logically make them the most precious of minerals, many would not work in a Valentine's Day ring setting. Several are prone to melt, evaporate or dehydrate. And a few, vampire-like, gradually decompose on exposure to sunlight. Their greatest value to humanity lies in the tell-tale clues they offer about the sub-surface conditions and elements that created them, as well as insights into the planet's past biological upheavals. In fact, rare minerals represent Earth's truest distinction from all other planets, according to Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA) and Jesse Ausubel (The Rockefeller University, USA), authors of a paper in press to appear in the journal American Mineralogist. Read more...

Expedition to the Atlantis Massif Recovers Mantle Rocks with Signs of Life
An international team of scientists - recently returned from a 47-day research expedition to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean - have collected an unprecedented sequence of rock samples from the shallow mantle of the ocean crust that bear signs of life, unique carbon cycling, and ocean crust movement. Led by Co-Chief Scientists Gretchen Früh-Green (ETH Zurich, Switzerland) and Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, USA), both members of DCO's Deep Life Community, the team collected these unique rock samples using seabed rock drills from Germany and the UK - the first time in the history of the decades-long scientific ocean drilling program that such technology has been utilized. Read more...

New Updates from the Trail by Fire Expedition
Minding the Pampean Gap. Volcán Lastarria was a milestone for the Trail by Fire team because it marked the end of their travels in the Andean Central Volcanic Zone, the belt of active volcanoes that runs through southern Peru and northern Chile. Ahead of them was the long drive south across the Pampean Gap to reach the next target volcano. This gap reveals something fundamental about how volcanoes in the Andes work, and why the team is here in the first place, but it requires a bit of explanation. Read more...

Rapid Formation of Bubbles in Magma may Trigger Sudden Volcanic Eruptions
Some volcanoes erupt with little prior warning. Now, scientists have come up with an explanation behind these sudden eruptions that could change the way observers monitor active or dormant volcanoes. Previously, volcanologists thought eruptions were triggered by a build-up of pressure caused by the slow accumulation of bubbly, gas-saturated magma beneath volcanoes over tens to hundreds of years. But new research, published in Nature Geoscience, shows that some eruptions may be triggered within days to months by the rapid formation of gas bubbles in magma chambers very late in their lifetime. Read more...

New Company Launched to Commercialize Portable Gas Monitoring Instruments
Measuring carbon dioxide emissions from deep Earth is a complex and critically important challenge for the Deep Carbon Observatory. DCO convened a Gas Monitoring Workshop at Mt. Etna, Italy, in 2013, to identify and encourage the most promising technologies. As a result, Damien Weidmann (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK) received DCO support to develop his team’s prototype Laser Isotope Ratio-meter (LIR) into a field instrument capable of real time in situ measurement of 12CO2/13CO2. Two years later, the LIR is the first product of MIRICO Ltd., a company established by Weidmann and colleagues. Read more...

The Carbon Mineral Challenge at the 2016 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
All that glitters is not necessarily gold. Sometimes it’s an idea, a little networking, and a softball-sized rhodochrosite from the University of Arizona Department of Geosciences. To maintain the momentum of the recently launched Carbon Mineral Challenge, project lead Daniel Hummer (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA), Josh Wood (University of Rhode Island, USA), and Barbara Lafuente (University of Arizona, USA), represented the Challenge at the 2016 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. Read more...

Scientific Data Types for DCO Data
Data come in all shapes and forms. Tables, for example, contain data but often lack context, or mix data with metadata. Such context might include the meanings of quantity names and units, acronyms or community jargon, or the inter-relatedness of data columns or rows. The DCO Data Science Team works on ways to make disparate datasets accessible to scientists in diverse scientific disciplines by focusing on scientific context. Read more...

DCO Early Career Scientist Research Topic in Frontiers in Earth Sciences
As a direct outcome of the 2015 DCO Early Career Scientist Workshop, which took place 31 August – 5 September at the University of the Azores, the open access journal Frontiers in Earth Sciences has accepted a proposal to host a special research topic titled “Early Career Scientist Contributions to the Deep Carbon Observatory” Early career scientists from all four of DCO’s scientific communities (Deep Life, Deep Energy, Reservoirs and Fluxes, and Extreme Physics and Chemistry) are welcome to submit both primary research papers and review articles. Abstract submission deadline: 1 May 2016. Read more...

Upcoming Meetings and Workshops

Gordon Research Conference on Natural Gas Hydrates, Galveston, TX, USA, 28 February - 4 March 2016

DCO Executive Committee Meeting, Washington, DC, USA, 1-2 March 2016

Deep Life Modeling and Visualization Workshop, Monte Verita, Switzerland, 14–17 March 2016

European Geosciences General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, 17-22 April 2016

International Diamond School 2016, Edmonton, Canada, 8-10 June 2016
Following the two very successful International Diamond Schools held at Padua, the DCO Diamonds and Mantle Geodynamics of Carbon Consortium will host a 3 day International Diamond School in 2016 on Diamonds and their cratonic mantle hosts at the University of Alberta. Website forthcoming. Initial expressions of interest can be sent to Graham Pearson.

DCO Executive Committee Meeting, Yokohama, Japan, 25 June 2016

Goldschmidt 2016, Yokohama, Japan, 26 June - 1 July 2016
There are many sessions of special interest to DCO at Goldschmidt 2016. View DCO sessions of interest here. Information about travel grants for students and scientists from developing economy countries hereAbstract and travel grant submission deadline: 26 February 2016

4th International HSE Geochemistry Workshop, Durham, UK, 11-15 July 2016
The 4th International Workshop on Highly Siderophile Element Geochemistry is hosted by the Durham Geochemistry Group of the Department of Earth Sciences. 
Abstract submission deadline: 4 March 2016

Second DCO Summer School, Yellowstone National Park, USA, 23-28 July 2016 
DCO will hold its second Summer School in Yellowstone National Park from 23 - 28 July 2016. This Summer School will introduce approximately 35 students and early career researchers to the interdisciplinary concepts, which are the cornerstone of DCO’s approach to understanding Earth. Application deadline: 1 March 2016.

4th Serpentine Days, Séte, France, 25-29 September 2016
Serpentine Days is an international workshop supported by the Societé Francaise de Minéralogie (French mineralogical society) focused on multidisciplinary research on serpentines and serpentinization. 
Pre-registration deadline: 1 March 2016

NSF Subduction Zone Observatory Workshop, Boise, Idaho, USA, 28-30 September 2016
The workshop seeks a broad range of applicants interested in discussing the scientific motivations for an interdisciplinary earth, ocean, and atmospheric research program focused around the scientific questions and societal hazards related to subduction zones. Applicants will be selected by the organizing committee and notified of their application status no later than 1 July 2016.

Honors and Awards

View previous DCO Honors and Awards

Alexandra Navrotsky Named 2016 V.M. Goldschmidt Medalist
Alexandra Navrotsky, Interdisciplinary Professor of Ceramic, Earth, and Environmental Materials Chemistry at the University of California at Davis, will receive the 2016 V. M. Goldschmidt Award this summer. The Goldschmidt Award recognizes major achievements in geochemistry or cosmochemistry consisting of either a single outstanding contribution or a series of publications that have had great influence on the field. 

Polanyi Prize Awarded to Barbara Sherwood Lollar
Barbara Sherwood Lollar (University of Toronto, Canada) has won the prestigious NSERC John C. Polanyi Award for her pioneering research into billion-year-old water and the clues it may provide to ancient life on Earth and Mars.

Laurence Yeung Named 2016 F.W. Clarke Medalist
Laurence Yeung, assistant professor of Earth Science at Rice University, will receive the 2016 F.W. Clarke Award this summer. The Clarke Award recognizes an early career scientist for a single outstanding contribution to geochemistry or cosmochemistry published either as a single paper or a series of papers on a single topic.

Edward Young Named Fellow of Two Geochemical Associations
Edward Young has been named a Fellow of the Geochemical Society and of the European Association of Geochemistry. The award is "bestowed upon outstanding scientists who have, over some years, made a major contribution to the field of geochemistry".

Funding Opportunities

DCO: Deep Life Cultivation Internship Program
The DCO Deep Life Community 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 deep subsurface. In order 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 Deep Life Community’s field missions. Financial support includes $5,400 per person for travel and lodging costs and host lab research supply reimbursement. Interested applicants should send their CV, a brief one page statement of their cultivation plans, and a letter of support from their intended host to Fumio Inagaki and Douglas Bartlett.

Call for IODP Scientific Ocean Drilling Proposals
The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) explores Earth’s climate history, structure, dynamics, and deep biosphere. The D/V JOIDES Resolution plans to operate 10 months per year in 2018 and 2019 under a long-term, global circumnavigation track based on proposal pressure. Future JR expeditions are projected to follow a path from the southwestern Pacific Ocean, through the Southern Ocean, and into the Atlantic Ocean for opportunities starting there in 2019. The JR is then expected to operate in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico starting in 2020. Although JR proposals for any region are welcomed, pre- and full proposals for these future operational areas are strongly encouraged. MSP expeditions are planned to operate once per year on average, and proposals for any ocean are welcomed. Chikyu operations will be project-based, and new proposals to use Chikyu in riser mode must be Complementary Project Proposals (with cost-sharing). IODP aims to foster joint projects with the International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP). IODP therefore also invite proposals that coordinate drilling on land and at sea. Deadline: 1 April 2016

DCO Diversity Grants
In January 2015, the Deep Carbon Observatory began collaborating with the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) to increase the participation and retention of United States citizens and permanent residents who are geoscientists from underrepresented groups (African American, Hispanic, Latino/Latina, Native American, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, Filipino, and Pacific Islander) in DCO. AGI is offering eligible geoscience researchers support for attending national and international conferences to present DCO-related research, travel funds for attending DCO-related workshops, conferences, and events, funds for lab or fieldwork that advances DCO-aligned research, or instrumentation time at DCO-affiliated facilities. Awards are flexible in nature, and a diverse range of proposals is welcome. Applicants must join the DCO Science Network to be eligible. These awards are intended for geoscientists not already engaged in the DCO Science Network to foster collaborations with existing DCO researchers. More information about the grants is available here. Application deadline: 2 May 2016

New Publications

View more papers in the DCO publications browser

Genomic inference of the metabolism of cosmopolitan subsurface Archaea, Hadesarchaea
Brett J. Baker, Jimmy H. Saw, Anders E. Lind, Cassandre Sara Lazar, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, Andreas P. Teske & Thijs J. G. Ettema
Nature Microbiology (2016) doi:10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.2

On the nature and significance of rarity in mineralogy
Robert M. Hazen & Jesse H. Ausubel
American Mineralogist (2016) preprint 

Late-stage volatile saturation as a potential trigger for explosive volcanic eruptions
Michael J. Stock, Madeleine C. S. Humphreys, Victoria C. Smith, Roberto Isaia & David M. Pyle
Nature Geoscience (2016) doi:10.1038/ngeo2639

Employment Opportunities

Senior Lecturer / Reader / Chair in Geomicrobiology at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, UK
To maintain its international research activity in Geomicrobiology the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, intends to appoint a Senior Lecturer, Reader or Professor in Geomicrobiology. They seek exceptional candidates whose research is focused on microbial impacts on the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere, past and present. They are particularly looking for applicants with experience in one or more of the following fields: near surface to deep subsurface biosphere, microbial influences on element cycling, biosphere/geosphere interactions, anaerobic microbiology, biomineralization and microbe/mineral interactions, sedimentary and/or soil biogeochemistry, biogeochemical cycles, anaerobic microbial ecology and applied environmental microbiology. Deadline: 31 March 2016

DCO in the News

Read more DCO News here 

24 February 2016: Early-Career Scientists Tackle Deep Carbon
Meeting Report: Second Deep Carbon Observatory Early Career Scientist Workshop; São Miguel, Azores, Portugal, 31 August to 5 September 2015

16 February 2016: Earth's Rarest Minerals Give Diamonds A Run For Their Money
Chris D'Angelo for Huffington Post
Marilyn Monroe, who famously said, "Diamonds are a girl's best friend," probably hadn't heard of Sardinian ichnusaite. Ichnusaite, a pearly, colorless and brittle mineral, was discovered on the Italian island of Sardinia in 2013. Mineralogist Robert Hazen says that with only one known specimen, it's a true rarity. "If you wanted to give your fiancé a really rare ring, forget diamond. Give her Sardinian ichnusaite," said Hazen, co-author of a new paper categorizing Earth's rarest minerals.

16 February 2016: "Hellish" Ancient Organisms Found Living Inside Earth's Crust
Robin Andrews for IFLScience
Billions of years of evolution on Earth have produced “endless forms most beautiful,” as Darwin poetically noted. Some have evolved to live in “extreme” environments, such as deep sea hydrothermal vents and around the rims of lava lakes. Now, a new study published in Nature Microbiology reveals that extremely rare lifeforms have even managed to eke out a living inside the Earth’s crust itself.

16 February 2016: Hell (and Hadesarchaea) provides great research
Dave Armstrong for Earth Times
What the hell? In Hades, they have their own unique microflora. What hell holds for these organisms is largely unknown, except that they actually use carbon monoxide for energy. We have only just started looking at deep-sea and deep-in-the-ground life. These Hadesarchaea were first discovered in the US by Carl Woese, but now appear to be of even more immense significance.

13 February 2016: Earth's rarest minerals catalogued
Jonathan Amos for BBC
Scientists have categorised the Earth's rarest minerals. None of 2,500 species described is known from more than five locations, and for a few of them the total global supply could fit in a thimble. The researchers say it is important to hunt down these oddities because they contain fundamental information about the construction of our planet. Some will also undoubtedly have properties that are useful in technological applications. The list appears in a paper about to be published in the journal American Mineralogist. It is authored by Dr Robert Hazen, from the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC, and Prof Jesse Ausubel of The Rockefeller University, in New York.

12 February 2016: Geologists seeking help from rockhounds at gem show
Tom Beal for the Arizona Daily Star
The world’s collectors come to Tucson each February, seeking to add a gem, fossil or rock to their collections. Some geologists, meanwhile, are collecting rockhounds — enlisting those collectors in a challenge to complete the mathematical map of carbon-bearing minerals. The theoretical map of undiscovered minerals is based on work done at the University of Arizona, led by Robert Downs, to compile an open-access database of minerals.

3 February 2016: Bénédicte Menez on "la tete au carré" 
France Inter (French audio)

3 February 2016: Daniel Hummer interview about the Carbon Mineral Challenge
This Week in Science (video podcast)
Did you know that we are missing some minerals? 145 carbon minerals to be exact, and the Deep Carbon Observatory is challenging amateur and professional rock-hounds alike to search for them. Dan Hummer is with us tonight to talk about this Carbon Mineral Challenge…

1 February 2016: The 'alien life' deep underneath us: Researchers find first evidence of life in Earth's mantle under the Atlantic Ocean
Cheyenne Macdonald for the Daily Mail
Rock samples from an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean could help to explain how early life formed on Earth, or on other planets. In a 47-day expedition, researchers collected rock samples that reveal signs of life in the mantle of the ocean’s crust. The mantle rocks, which were collected by an international team using seabed rock drills, could provide clues about the reactions that fuel life in areas without sunlight, and the behaviour of carbon in such a setting.

1 February 2016: Unprecedented: Expedition recovers mantle rocks with signs of life
Science Daily
An international team of scientists - recently returned from a 47-day research expedition to the mid-Atlantic - have collected an unprecedented sequence of rock samples from the shallow mantle of the ocean crust that bear signs of life, unique carbon cycling, and ocean crust movement. These unique samples were collected using unique seabed rock drills.

30 January 2016: This theory about Earth will blow your mind!
BBC Radio
Stephen Nolan is overwhelmed when he speaks to Professor Edward Young who tells him that the Earth is not what he had believed. "For years we've thought that the moon was formed by a giant impact between two planets"

29 January 2016: New clues about how Earth got its moon
Amanda Barnett for CNN
It's the only world besides Earth that man has set foot on. But we still don't know exactly how it got there. Now, rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts in the late '60s and early '70s are providing new clues about how Earth got its moon.

29 January 2016: Primeval Diamonds Reveal Snapshot of Early Earth's Tumultuous History
Tia Ghose for Live Science
Earth has gotten a number of face-lifts over its 4.4-billion-year history, but in one respect, the planet may look the same way it did when it was young, new research shows. Primeval diamonds from Witwatersrand, South Africa, contain evidence that early Earth replaced its rocky outer plates with deeper-dwelling mantle rock, said Katie Smart, a geologist at the University of the Witwatersrand and co-author of the new study.

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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