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From the Deep, a monthly newsletter from DCO
January 2018

Deep Carbon Observatory

garnet inclusions in diamond

Inclusions within diamonds offer the rare opportunity to peek into conditions in the mantle where diamonds form. These majoritic garnet inclusions have a maximum diameter of 0.2 millimeters, and formed between 240 and 500 kilometers deep inside Earth. Credit: Jeff Harris. Read more...

Letter from the Director

We begin the new year with a look back at DCO's many accomplishments from 2017, summarized by the DCO Secretariat in this Year in Review slide presentation. As always, DCO's accomplishments represent the incredible work you do as a community.

An international team of scientists has returned to the Samail Ophiolite for phase two of the Oman Drilling Project, which is focusing on the crust-mantle transition and active serpentinization. A film crew has joined the team to make a short educational video about one of DCO’s signature field investigations.
Kate Kiseeva (University of Oxford, UK) and several DCO colleagues are co-authors of a paper in Nature Geoscience reporting the surprising result that iron in garnets from the mantle may become more oxidized at deeper levels, which they suspect is due to oxidized carbonate compounds that react with iron and form diamonds.
With partial support from the DCO Census of Deep Life, Susan Lang (University of South Carolina, USA) and colleagues studied carbon cycling and microbial metabolism in the Lost City hydrothermal field at the Atlantis Massif in the North Atlantic Ocean. They determined that methane-producing microbes may rely on nearby bacterial species to provide key carbon compounds.
DCO colleagues are convening numerous sessions at the 2018 Goldschmidt Conference in Boston, USA, and we encourage you to submit abstracts to these sessions. The abstract deadline is 30 March 2018. DCO members Fumio Inagaki (JAMSTEC, Japan) and Bernard Marty (CRPG, France) have been selected to give plenary addresses.
Congratulations to the Carbonates at high Pressures and Temperatures (CarboPaT) consortium, which received renewed funding from German Research Foundation (DFG) through 2021. Scientists around the world are championing initiatives that build on DCO programs and extend beyond the culmination of the initial DCO decadal program in 2019. These powerful legacies will ensure the vitality of deep carbon science for many years to come.

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

News Features

Flawed, Precious Stones Carry Clues from Deep in the Mantle
Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere creates extremely oxidizing conditions at the surface. Anyone who has seen rusty metal has observed oxidation in action: the oxygen steals electrons from the metal, creating crusty, red, iron oxide. Within Earth’s core, however, low levels of oxygen create much more reduced conditions. Intuitively, many researchers have supposed that Earth’s layers become less oxidized with depth, but few samples have emerged from the deep Earth to support or disprove this idea. In a new paper in Nature Geoscience, DCO researchers report the surprising news that iron in the mantle may become more oxidized at deeper levels. DCO members Kate Kiseeva (University of Oxford, UK), Thomas Stachel (University of Alberta, Canada), Aleksandr Chumakov, Valerio Cerantola (both at European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, France), Jeff Harris (University of Glasgow, UK), Catherine McCammon, and Leonid Dubrovinsky (both at Bayreuth University, Germany), analyzed the oxidation state of iron from garnets. The garnets formed in the mantle between 240 and at least 500 kilometers deep and traveled to the surface as inclusions within diamonds. The researchers suspect that the increasing oxidation of iron in garnets with depth is due to oxidized carbonate compounds that react with iron and form diamonds. Read more...

Methanogens Can’t Make It On Their Own in the Lost City
The Lost City hydrothermal field’s most famous residents are methanogenic archaea. These methane-producing microbes grow thick, snotty biofilms all over the hydrothermal vent chimneys. But despite their success, a new study suggests these methanogens may be poorly equipped to colonize new chimneys, and may rely on nearby bacterial species to provide key carbon compounds. DCO members Susan Lang (University of South Carolina, USA) Gretchen Früh-GreenStefano Bernasconi, (both at ETH-Zurich, Switzerland), William Brazelton (University of Utah, USA), and Matthew Schrenk (Michigan State University, USA) investigated carbon cycling and microbial metabolism at the Lost City hydrothermal field. They applied genomic and isotopic techniques to previously collected hydrothermal vent samples to see how the community metabolizes formate, an organic acid formed from carbon from the mantle. The researchers discovered that methanogens could not use formate directly, but instead consumed carbon liberated by sulfate-reducing bacteria in the chimney. They report these findings in a new paper in Scientific Reports. Read more...

The ‘Kimberlite Bloom’ During Pangea’s End: Caused by Mantle Cooling or Deep Carbon Effects?
People have many uses for diamonds, ranging from engagement rings to industrial saws, and all of those uses were made possible by ancient eruptions of melted kimberlite. This carbon-rich magma forms more than 200 kilometers deep in the mantle and blasts through Earth’s continental crust, or “lithosphere,” carrying along diamonds and other deep minerals. Nowadays, these eruptions are rare, but between 250 and 50 million years ago, Earth experienced a “kimberlite bloom,” which brought diamonds to the surface in South Africa and many other parts of the world that sit on top of ancient and thick lithosphere. To understand the conditions that created this bloom, DCO members Sebastian Tappe, Malcolm Massuyeau (both at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa), and Katie Smart (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa), combined and analyzed several existing geoscientific data sets to explain how these kimberlite eruptions evolved. In a new paper in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, the researchers propose that after 2 billion years ago, a cooling Earth created just the right conditions for kimberlites to become more prominent within the mantle. Read more...

Passing of DCO Colleague and Mentor, David Hilton
Our DCO colleague Dave Hilton passed away Sunday, 7 January 2018 after a five-year battle with cancer. He will be remembered as a fantastic scientist, a great mentor, and a friend to many of his students and colleagues. Dave was 59 years old. He bravely fought through his illness and underwent a number of bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy, and radiation sessions before succumbing on 7 January 2018. He went into the lab each day he didn’t have a doctor’s appointment and planned treatment around international trips. Read more...

German Consortium CarboPaT Funded Through 2021
Carbonates at high Pressures and Temperatures (CarboPaT) is a German research consortium launched in 2015 with support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) to study carbonates at extreme conditions. In January 2018, DFG renewed CarboPaT’s funding for another three years, providing a continued platform for deep carbon science in Germany through 2021. “We are thrilled to see CarboPaT’s legacy extended,” said project proponent and DCO Extreme Physics and Chemistry collaborator Catherine McCammon (Bayreuth University, Germany). “Support for multi-disciplinary, multi-institution programs like this one, which reward investigators at all stages of their careers but especially young scientists, is crucial to the future of deep carbon science.” Read more...

Photos and Updates from Phase Two of the Oman Drilling Project
Phase two of the Oman Drilling Project began in November 2017, and the team is currently hard at work collecting cores and cuttings. Operations will continue until March 2018, completing the rock sampling part of the project. During phase two, the team are focusing on crust-mantle transition and active serpentinization sites, collecting samples for geological, hydrological, and biological analyses. 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 (JAMSTEC, Japan) and Bernard Marty (Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, France). Please contact the engagement [at] deepcarbon [dot] net?subject=Goldschmidt%202018%20Session(s)" target="_blank" style="mso-line-height-rule: exactly;-ms-text-size-adjust: 100%;-webkit-text-size-adjust: 100%;color: #800000;font-weight: normal;text-decoration: underline;">DCO Engagement Team to add additional items to this page. Abstract submission deadline: 30 March 2018

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. 

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.

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.

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

Funding Opportunities

NSF: Research Traineeship (NRT) Program
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship (NRT) program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new, and potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The NRT program seeks proposals that explore ways for graduate students in research-based master’s and doctoral degree programs to develop the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to pursue a range of STEM careers. The program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary research areas, through the use of a comprehensive traineeship model that is innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs. For FY2018, proposals are requested in any interdisciplinary research theme of national priority, with special emphasis on two high priority areas: (1) Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR) and (2) Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS). Proposal deadline: 6 February 2018

Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology
The Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology is open to field studies in any area of interest to astrobiology. Applications will be reviewed by a committee that includes members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the American Philosophical Society, and the wider science community as needed. Recipients will be designated as Lewis and Clark Field Scholars in Astrobiology. Application deadline: 15 February 2018

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

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

New Publications

View more papers in the DCO publications browser.

Oxidized iron in garnets from the mantle transition zone
Ekaterina S. Kiseeva, Denis M. Vasiukov, Bernard J. Wood, Catherine McCammon, Thomas Stachel, Maxim Bykov, Elena Bykova, Aleksandr Chumakov, Valerio Cerantola, Jeff W. Harris, and Leonid Dubrovinsky
Nature Geoscience doi:10.1038/s41561-017-0055-7

Deeply-sourced formate fuels sulfate reducers but not methanogens at Lost City hydrothermal field
Susan Q. Lang, Gretchen L. Früh-Green, Stefano M. Bernasconi, William J. Brazelton, Matthew O. Schrenk, and Julia M. McGonigle
Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-017-19002-5

Geodynamics of kimberlites on a cooling Earth: Clues to plate tectonic evolution and deep volatile cycles
Sebastian Tappe, Katie Smart, Trond Torsvik, Malcolm Massuyeau, and Mike de Wit
Earth and Planetary Science Letters doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2017.12.013

Employment Opportunities

Staff Scientist - Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science, USA
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.

Research Geologist, Smithsonian Institution, USA
This position is located in the Department of Mineral Sciences, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. The purpose of this position is to perform scholarly and professional research and curation in that portion of the National Collection embracing the earth sciences in the field of mineralogy and makes contributions to the field of geology. Responsibilities include: independently initiating, developing, and participating in research on minerals; performing research consisting of systematic and original studies or a series of studies resulting in scholarly publications; building the collections in area of specialization through field work and acquisition of specimens and data; preparing for publication scholarly reports of descriptive, analytical, and theoretical nature based on her/his own field work; and serving as a consultant and expert adviser on professional matters in her/his area of expertise. Application deadline: 2 February 2018

Solid Earth Endowed Professorship at Michigan State University, USA
The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Michigan State University is seeking an outstanding faculty candidate to fill the Thomas Vogel Endowed Professorship in Geology of the Solid Earth at the full professor rank with tenure. Exceptional candidates at the associate professor level may also be considered. This position contributes toward our mission of expanding upon a vigorous, internationally recognized Solid Earth program at MSU, serving to complement our dramatic growth in geophysics over the past few years. The position is broadly defined as Solid Earth, and we invite applicants with broad areas of expertise including, but not limited to, geochemistry, geophysics, geochronology, petrology, and lithospheric dynamics. Particular interest will be given to candidates with research that complements our current research growth and strength in igneous petrology and geochemistry, mineral physics, geodynamics, and seismology. Application deadline: 2 February 2018

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Microbial Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh, UK
We seek an outstanding microbiologist to take up a three-year UK Science and Technology Facilities Council-funded postdoctoral research associate position at the University of Edinburgh. Your work will involve understanding the effects of space conditions, including microgravity, on microbial communities, investigating their molecular biology and contributing to a broader interest in investigating life beyond Earth. An essential requirement of the position is a strong background in molecular biology either in –omics technologies or microbial molecular biology. Application deadline: 19 February 2018

Lectureship in Earth Sciences, University College London, UK
The Department of Earth Sciences invites applications for two lectureship posts from 1 September 2018 in any area of the Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences. Applicants whose research will contribute to areas of strategic importance, and complement and strengthen the current research portfolio within the department are particularly welcome. We are seeking to appoint outstanding individuals with academic standing, vision and proven expertise who will provide leadership in their field of expertise, develop world-class research programs and contribute to advanced teaching and knowledge exchange activities. Application deadline: 23 February 2018

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.

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 6 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, 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

29 January 2018: Living with volcanic gases
Professor Tamsin Mather, a volcanologist in Oxford's Department of Earth Sciences reflects on her many fieldwork experiences at Massaya volcano in Nicaragua, and what she has learned about how they effect the lives of the people who live around them...

29 January 2018: Unexpected deep-Earth oxidized iron surprises geologists
By Mihai Andrei for ZME Science
If there’s something you don’t expect to find kilometers beneath the surface, it’s rust...

23 January 2018: Scientists find oxidized iron deep within the Earth's interior
Scientists studying the Earth's mantle recently made an unexpected discovery...

12 January 2018: URI researchers seek to improve community for early scientists
By Shaun Kirby for The NK Standard-Times
When one thinks of scientists, the popular image is a learned and wise, older professional who is sure of their research and ability to navigate highly technical information...

4 January 2018: Our rover could discover life on Mars – here’s what it would take to prove it
By Claire Cousins for The Conversation UK
Finding past or present microbial life on Mars would without doubt be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time...

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.