February 2018 Newsletter

From the Deep, a monthly newsletter from DCO
February 2018
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Deep Carbon Observatory
Karen Lloyd TED talk

Watch DCO's Karen Lloyd (University of Tennessee Knoxville, USA) deliver a TED talk on the nature of the deep subsurface biosphere, recorded in October 2017 in Milan, Italy. 

Letter from the Director

This month's newsletter highlights results from four DCO crosscutting activities (modeling and visualization, field studies, instrumentation, and data science), which complement DCO's four Science Communities (Extreme Physics and Chemistry, Reservoirs and Fluxes, Deep Energy, and Deep Life). 
New clumped isotope analyses indicate a hot and deep origin for methane at seafloor hot springs in unsedimented oceanic crust, according to a new paper by DCO members David Wang (formerly at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), Eoghan Reeves (University of Bergen, Norway), Jill McDermott (Lehigh University, USA), Jeffrey Seewald (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA), and Shuhei Ono (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA). Without sediment, methane had to be derived from another source and the new data demonstrate it equilibrated at high temperatures. This important finding was made possible by a novel tunable infrared laser direct absorption spectroscopy instrument, which was developed with support from the Deep Carbon Observatory.
A modeling and visualization study by DCO members Dietmar Müller and Adriana Dutkiewicz (both at the University of Sydney, Australia) demonstrates that the oceanic crust-mantle carbon cycle is a previously overlooked mechanism connecting plate tectonic pulsing with fluctuations in atmospheric carbon and surface environments.
Based on field studies in deep mines in South Africa, DCO members Thomas Kieft (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, USA), Verena Heuer (University of Bremen, Germany), Esta van Heerden (University of the Free State, South Africa), Barbara Sherwood Lollar (University of Toronto, Canada), and Maggie C.Y. Lau and Tullis Onstott (both at Princeton University, USA) investigated organic matter in deep fracture waters in billion year old rocks. “There’s an internal deep carbon cycle that’s going on here within the microbial communities,” said Kieft. “Carbon is derived from the subsurface itself.”
Speaking of deep life, DCO’s Karen Lloyd (University of Tennessee, USA) delivered a TED talk on deep subsurface microbes, providing an engaging introduction to an ecosystem with a fundamentally different relationship with time and energy than surface life.
The DCO Data Science Team received a grant to improve data curation and research reproducibility, which could greatly increase the recognition and reuse of DCO legacy products.
Many opportunities exist for DCO members to share their knowledge with the larger scientific community. Please consider submitting abstracts to a plethora of sessions of special interest to DCO at the 2018 Goldschmidt Conference in Boston, USA (abstract deadline: 30 March 2018). You might also consider organizing deep carbon science sessions at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting in Washington, DC, USA (session proposal deadline: 18 April 2018). And the application window is now open (deadline: 20 May 2018) to attend the inaugural Gordon Research Conference on Deep Carbon Science.
Last but not least, congratulations to Craig Manning (UCLA, USA) and Dan Frost (University of Bayreuth, Germany) for their election as fellows of the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry. 

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

News Features

A Hot and Deep Origin of Methane in Seafloor Hydrothermal Springs
Since the discovery of the first hydrothermal vents along the Galápagos Rift in 1977, scientists have puzzled over the origin of methane rising from these deep-sea hot springs. Regardless of differences in location, geology, and chemistry, all hydrothermal vents worldwide release at least some methane in varying amounts. Whether the gas comes from water-rock reactions during fluid circulation, or preexists as pockets of methane stored in the crust, remains a controversial question. A new study by DCO researchers finds striking similarities between methane from very diverse vents associated with relatively high amounts of methane, pointing to a common source in the crust. DCO members David Wang (formerly at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), Eoghan Reeves (University of Bergen, Norway), Jill McDermott (Lehigh University, USA), Jeffrey Seewald (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA), and Shuhei Ono (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) used a novel method to infer the temperature at which hydrothermal vent methane formed or was stored. Results from four diverse vent fields suggest that methane was produced above 270 degrees Celsius in all fluids, implying that it came from the crust, rather than forming in shallower and cooler environments, or during fluid circulation. The researchers report these findings in a new paper in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Read more...

The Mass of Microbes in Deep African Mines Lead Lives of Quiet Desperation
The Witwatersrand Basin in southern Africa, one of the oldest geological formations on Earth, began as a shallow sea about 3 billion years ago. The Basin is home to extensive gold and diamond mining operations, where humans have dug some of the deepest mines in the world. These deep mines have been a boon to scientists, as well. The mining companies drill boreholes into surrounding pristine rock, which intersect with fractures filled with groundwater. Scientists can analyze this water to probe the limits of deep life and to learn how microbes make a living when trapped kilometers beneath the surface. DCO Deep Energy and Deep Life Community members Thomas Kieft (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, USA), Verena Heuer (University of Bremen, Germany), Esta van Heerden (University of the Free State, South Africa), Barbara Sherwood Lollar (University of Toronto, Canada), and Maggie C.Y. Lau and Tullis Onstott (both at Princeton University, USA) investigated the organic matter in fracture waters to find clues to how microbes live in these ancient rocks. The researchers sampled from mine boreholes reaching just over 3.4 kilometers deep and characterized the dissolved organic matter within. Their results paint a picture of isolated microbial communities eking out a living using dissolved hydrogen gas and inorganic carbon released by the rocks, with little or no input of organic carbon from the surface. The researchers report their findings in a new paper in the journal Organic Geochemistry. Read more...

New Seafloor Sponges Up Carbon to Stabilize the Climate
Several worldwide phenomena related to land, sea, and sky occur in 26 to 30 million-year cycles. Such phenomena include ocean anoxic events where parts of the ocean run out of oxygen, the deposition of evaporates (chemical precipitates that accumulate as layers through evaporation of marine waters), fluctuations in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and even the growth of mountain ranges. Some scientists have suggested “extraterrestrial” causes for these cycles, such as cosmic showers periodically pelting the planet as it moves through the plane of the Milky Way, but no one could provide clear evidence of what causes these cycles. In a new paper in the journal Science Advances, DCO members Dietmar Müller and Adriana Dutkiewicz (both at the University of Sydney, Australia) describe a process that ties together these multi-million-year cycles, the spreading of new seafloor and its ability to store and release carbon. After new ocean crust emerges from the diverging boundaries of oceanic plates, called mid-ocean ridge spreading centers, the crust takes in varying amounts of carbon dioxide depending on ocean water temperature. The researchers used their model of how tectonic plates have moved over the last 230 million years to understand how much carbon the ocean crust has soaked up over this time frame, how carbon storage has fluctuated, and how the recycling of the seafloor relates to 26 to 30 million-year cycles in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Their findings indicate that this process is an important mechanism linking plate tectonics with atmospheric carbon dioxide, helping to maintain a stable climate. Read more...

VIDEO: Karen Lloyd Delivers TED Talk on Deep Subsurface Microbes
How deep into Earth can we go and still find life? Marine microbiologist Karen Lloyd (University of Tennessee Knoxville, USA) introduces us to deep subsurface microbes: tiny organisms that live buried meters deep in ocean mud and have been on Earth since way before animals. Learn more about these mysterious microbes, which refuse to grow in the lab and seem to have a fundamentally different relationship with time and energy than we do. Watch now...

VIDEO: A Search for Magmatic Carbon Dioxide Degassing in the Afar Rift
From 1-12 November 2017, an international group of scientists headed to Afar, Ethiopia to measure carbon dioxide degassing in this rifting area, where three tectonic plates are diverging. The team, led by Raphael Pik and Bernard Marty of the Centre Nationnal de la Recherche Scientifique at the University of Lorraine, France, is trying to understand the deep, magmatic origins of degassing in this tectonically active region. The expedition was supported by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation and the Deep Carbon Observatory. Watch now...

Marchettiite Joins the New Carbon Mineral Roster as #13
Marchettiite is the latest in a series of new organic carbon minerals approved by the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification. It is the 13th and latest addition resulting from the Deep Carbon Observatory’s Carbon Mineral Challenge, a quest to find approximately 145 predicted missing carbon minerals. The mineral is a “natural anhydrous ammonium hydrogen urate,” explained Fabrizio Nestola, professor at the University of Padua, Italy and co-author of the paper. “It’s formed by circulation of meteoric waters at low temperatures, between 20 and 40ºC, and enriched with soluble altered biological material.” Read more...

Fourth International Diamond School Convenes in Bressanone, Italy
The INDIMEDEA (Inclusions in diamonds: messengers from the deep Earth) research team, led by Fabrizio Nestola (University of Padua, Italy) along with co-organizers Steven Shirey (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), Graham Pearson (University of Alberta, Canada), Matteo Alvaro (University of Pavia, Italy), and Wuyi Wang (Gemological Institute of America, USA), ran the Fourth International Diamond School in Bressanone, Italy, between 29 January and 2 February 2018. The event was part of the outreach and training program of the Diamonds and the Mantle Geodynamics of Carbon (DMGC) group of the Deep Carbon Observatory. The school provided a general overview of the recent advances in diamond research, combining geology, exploration, and the gemology of diamond. Read more...

DCO Data Science Team Takes Steps to Improve Data Curation and Research Reproducibility
The Deep Carbon Observatory Data Science Team, based at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, recently won a grant from the Research Data Alliance (RDA) US office to explore adoption of two RDA recommendations. These grants support teams in adopting technologies and best practices, as articulated in RDA recommendations, and then in capturing the lessons from that adoption. The DCO Data Science Team proposed incorporating the Scalable Dynamic Data Citation (DDC) and “Scholix” recommendations into the DCO Data Portal infrastructure, with the aim of making DCO data and publications more widely findable, available, and interconnected as part of a larger scholarly network. Read more...

DCO Webinar Wednesdays Return: Wikipedia in Higher Education
With the sheer volume of information now available on the internet, having trustworthy, accurate digital resources is more important than ever. During this webinar, we will discuss content gaps on Wikipedia, and we will encourage attendees to help close these gaps and make information more accessible and comprehensible to the public. Led by Wiki Education’s Samantha Weald, participants will hear about learning benefits for students and scholars, and details about Wiki Education's suite of tools, trainings, and available Wikipedia expertise. We also will discuss strategies for engaging students by assigning Wikipedia content editing, and providing active Wikipedia volunteers with remote access to scholarship related to your field. Please join us live on Wednesday, 28 March at 2pm EDT for this webinar, hosted jointly by Synthesis Group 2019 and the DCO Engagement Team. Read more...

Goldschmidt 2018: Sessions of Special Interest to DCO
The 28th Goldschmidt Conference will take place at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston, USA, from 12-17 August 2018. The program of the meeting includes numerous sessions and workshops of special interest to DCO, and plenary talks from DCO Science Network members Fumio Inagaki (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Japan) and Bernard Marty (Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, France). Please contact the DCO Engagement Team to add additional items to this page. Abstract submission deadline: 30 March 2018

Upcoming Events

Earth in Five Reactions Workshop, Washington DC, USA, 22-23 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. 

DCO Webinar Wednesday: Wikipedia in Higher Education, 2PM EDT, 28 March 2018
During this webinar, Samantha Weald (Wiki Education) will discuss content gaps on Wikipedia, highlighting learning benefits for students and scholars, and details about Wiki Education's suite of tools, trainings, and available Wikipedia expertise.

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. Early registration deadline: 1 March 2018

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.

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 

Goldschmidt 2018, Boston, 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. Abstract submission deadline: 30 March 2018

GSA Annual Meeting, Indianapolis, 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. Session proposal deadline: 18 April 2018

Honors and Awards

Craig Manning, Extreme Physics and Chemistry
University of California Los Angeles, USA
2018 Geochemical Fellow

Daniel Frost, Reservoirs and Fluxes
University of Bayreuth, Germany
2018 Geochemical Fellow

Funding Opportunities

Deep Life Cultivation Internship Program
DCO's Deep Life Community (DLC) realizes that the majority of deep microbial life has been resistant to cultivation in the laboratory, which complicates the characterization of physiological characteristics of deep community members. However, recent studies using bioreactor-cultivation techniques, under high pressure and/or temperature, have resulted in successful enrichment of previously uncultivable archaeal and bacterial components that mediate biogeochemical carbon cycling in the deep subsurface. To maintain and strengthen cultivation strategies in future deep life missions, the DLC will support early career researchers to visit some key laboratories (Inagaki - Kochi, Japan, Bartlett - La Jolla, USA, and others) to learn and practice newly developed cultivation and cultivation-dependent molecular/biogeochemical techniques, using samples from the DLC’s field missions.

C-DEBI: Rolling Call for Research Exchange Proposals
The Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) facilitates scientific coordination and collaborations by supporting student, postdoctoral, and faculty exchanges to build, educate, and train the deep subseafloor biosphere community. We award small research exchange grants for Center participants. These grants may be used to support research, travel for presenting C-DEBI research at meetings, or travel exchanges to other partner institutions or institutions that have new tools and techniques that can be applied to C-DEBI research. We anticipate ~10 awards of $500-5,000 with additional matched funds to be granted annually. 

New Publications

View more papers in the DCO publications browser.

Clumped isotopologue constraints on the origin of methane at seafloor hot springs
David T. Wang, Eoghan P. Reeves, Jill M. McDermott, Jeffrey S. Seewald, and Shuhei Ono
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta doi:10.1016/j.gca.2017.11.030

Dissolved organic matter compositions in 0.6–3.4 km deep fracture waters, Kaapvaal Craton, South Africa
Thomas L. Kieft, Clifford C. Walters, Meytal B. Higgins, Anthony S. Mennito, Catherine F.M. Clewett, Verena Heuer, Michael J. Pullin, Sarah Hendrickson, Esta van Heerden, Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Maggie C.Y. Lau, and T.C. Onstott
Organic Geochemistry doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2018.02.003

Oceanic crustal carbon cycle drives 26-million-year atmospheric carbon dioxide periodicities
R. Dietmar Müller and Adriana Dutkiewicz
Science Advances 10.1126/sciadv.aaq0500

Employment Opportunities

PhD opportunity at the Institute of Petrology and Structural Geology, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
A PhD research topic in Experimental Petrology entitled “Heterovalent elements in apatite as proxies for the oxidation state of magmas” is available at the Institute of Petrology and Structural Geology, Charles University in Prague, under the supervision of Dr. Alessandro Fabbrizio. The experimental work will include piston-cylinder experiments performed at the Earth Science Department of La Sapienza University (Roma, Italy) in collaboration with Prof. Mario Gaeta. Analytical work (SEM, EMPA, and LA-ICP-MS) will be done at Charles University. Previous experience in experimental petrology is not needed but a solid background in petrology/geochemistry/mineralogy is required. Application deadline: 16 March 2018

John W. Miles Postdoctoral Fellowship, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA
The Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography has an opening for the John W. Miles Postdoctoral Fellowship in Theoretical and Computational Geophysics starting in late 2018. Funding from the Green Foundation for Earth Sciences is available to support a postdoctoral position in the broad areas of computational and theoretical geophysics, including machine learning applied to geosciences. Applicants must contact potential mentors at IGPP prior to the application deadline, to ensure a feasible research collaboration. The position is available for two years for applicants that are less than five years from PhD degree. Application deadline: 30 March 2018

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. 

Postdoctoral Scientist in Molecular Microbial Ecology at the Marine Biological Laboratory, USA
A postdoctoral position in molecular microbial ecology is available at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole. This US National Science Foundation-funded collaborative project with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution seeks to identify the nature of microbial predator-prey interactions using laboratory chemostats combined with RNA stable isotope probing, sequencing, and trait-based modeling. We are seeking an individual with expertise in molecular microbial ecology, including those with interests in microbial, viral, and eukaryotic dynamics, microbial food webs, and theoretical ecology. 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. 

Postdoctoral Position in Physical Volcanology at the ENS Lyon, France
The Department of Geology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France invites applications for a postdoctoral position in the field of physical volcanology. This is a 12-month contract funded by the IDEX Lyon that could be extended for another six months by the ENS Lyon. The position must be filled before the end of the year 2018. The aim of the postdoctoral work will be to study the primitive magmatic processes acting during the early times of the terrestrial planets. The main focus will be investigating the link between impact cratering and magmatism using mechanical models of magma ascent below craters and the analysis of available remote-sensing observations on the terrestrial planets (the Moon, Mars, and Mercury). 

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

23 February 2018: Люди меняют геологию Земли: 208 новых минералов
Эти 200 с лишним составляют всего 4% от существующего разнообразия минералов, однако все они впервые сформировались за последнюю сотню лет...

19 February 2018: Earth’s crust absorbs lots of carbon dioxide, but not enough to save humanity
By John Dyer for Seeker
New research finds that subduction along the seafloor absorbs carbon dioxide, which helps explain why the climate fluctuates over millions of years...

15 February 2018: Slow carbon cycle driven by weathering on the seafloor
By Chrissy Sexton for Earth.com
Researchers at the University of Sydney have discovered a previously unknown connection between atmospheric carbon dioxide cycles and the shifting amount of carbon dioxide stored in ocean crust...

14 February 2018: How seafloor weathering drives the slow carbon cycle
A previously unknown connection between geological atmospheric carbon dioxide cycles and the fluctuating capacity of the ocean crust to store carbon dioxide has been uncovered by two geoscientists from the University of Sydney...

12 February 2018: Life on the rocks
By James Nestor for Scientific American
Scientists are probing deep beneath the ocean’s surface to learn how life on Earth began...

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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