Image of an active hydrothermal vent (background left) located southeast of the central Von Damm hydrothermal field. DCO scientists Rika Anderson, Julie Huber, Julie Reveillaud, Jill McDermott, and Jeffrey Seewald investigated fluids from Von Damm and Piccard vents at the Mid-Cayman Rise to study microbial evolution. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program. Read more...
Letter from the Director
The Deep Carbon Observatory is extremely grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for awarding grants that provide continuing support for the Extreme Physics and Chemistry and Deep Life Communities. We have great confidence in the continued success of both Communities as indicated by recent publications and results presented at an Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community Workshop at Arizona State University on 4-5 November 2017.
The Sloan Foundation awarded two additional grants to advance synthesis of deep carbon science. The first was to Adrian Jones (University College London, UK) on catastrophic perturbations to Earth’s deep carbon, which addresses a gap in DCO’s research portfolio. The second award went to Sabin Zahirovic and Dietmar Müller (EarthByte Group, University of Sydney, Australia) on the deep carbon cycle through geological time, which will provide an interdisciplinary synthesis of the carbon cycle in Earth’s lithosphere-biosphere system. This project is already off to a fast start with a session on “4D carbon cycle: a global interdisciplinary evaluation through space and time” at the 2018 European Geoscience Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna, Austria. The deadline for abstracts is 10 January 2018.
On the science front, DCO researchers have elucidated evolutionary processes occurring within some of the deepest known hydrothermal vents in the seafloor. Deep Life Community members Rika Anderson, (Carleton College, USA), Julie Huber (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA), and Julie Reveillaud (CIRAD, France), and Deep Energy Community members Jill McDermott (University of Toronto, Canada) and Jeffrey Seewald (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA) determined that two adjacent, but geochemically distinct hydrothermal vents, are experiencing different evolutionary pressures due to challenges in their environments that affect how the microbes evolve.
A DCO instrumentation project has led to an important discovery about Earth’s atmosphere. Using the Panorama mass spectrometer, Laurence Yeung (Rice University, USA) and colleagues discovered extreme enrichment in atmospheric 15N15N, which they attribute to a planetary-scale balance of biogeochemical and atmospheric nitrogen chemistry.
Also, congratulations are in order for Donald Dingwell, who was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Robert Hazen, who was awarded Honorary Membership in the Russian Mineralogical Society.
Finally, we are grateful to all of the members of the DCO Science Network who investigate the mysteries of deep carbon, many of whom will present their latest work at the AGU Fall Meeting in New Orleans 11-15 December 2017. We look forward to seeing you there!
Craig Schiffries, DCO Director
Carnegie Institution for Science, Geophysical Laboratory
Washington DC, USA
Chemical Tug-of-War Determines Composition of Nitrogen in the Atmosphere
Talk to a group of carbon scientists and they will probably tell you that of all the elements, carbon makes the world go round. But all living things also depend on nitrogen, as well as carbon, to survive. Like carbon, nitrogen has a biogeochemical cycle that shuttles the element between the deep Earth, oceans, and atmosphere, but details of that cycle are poorly understood. Now, a new study by DCO researchers provides a novel way to track the movement of nitrogen through the environment. Laurence Yeung (Rice University, USA), Edward Young and Issaku Kohl, (both at the University of California, Los Angeles), Tobias Fischer (University of New Mexico, USA), and colleagues, used the new DCO-funded, high-resolution mass spectrometer named Panorama, to make the first accurate measurements of atmospheric 15N15N. These rare molecules of nitrogen gas are slightly heavier than most because each atom in the pair has one extra neutron in the nucleus. This discovery, described in a new paper in Science Advances, paves the way for using 15N15N as a natural tracer to monitor nitrogen cycling on Earth and other planetary bodies. Read more...
The Carbon Trap: Carbon Dioxide Injections Stimulate Peculiar Subsurface Microbial Communities
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a strategy that aims to offset carbon dioxide created from burning fossil fuels by injecting this gas directly into the subsurface. In the case of mineral storage, the injections target certain types of volcanic rocks, so that the carbon dioxide will react with underground minerals to form long-lasting carbonate compounds. The efficiency and hence the long-term viability of mineral storage, however, is still in question. One aspect of CCS that some researchers have overlooked is the role of subsurface microbes. DCO members Rosalia Trias, Bénédicte Ménez, Paul le Campion, Aurélien Lecoeuvre, and Emmanuelle Gérard, (all at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, France), examined how native microbial communities responded to the injection of carbon dioxide into a CCS pilot site adjacent to an Icelandic power plant. In a new paper in Nature Communications, the researchers describe how the injections created successive blooms in certain microbial species. The results suggest that, rather than fully solidifying into carbonate minerals, some of the carbon dioxide became bacterial biomass, which may impact the long-term success of carbon storage. Read more...
Microbial Evolution in the Hot Seat
The hot, mineral-rich fluids circulating within hydrothermal vent systems along the seafloor are one of the top contenders for the location of life’s origin. But despite being an enduring host for life, scientists know little about the evolutionary forces that shape the microbes living in these dynamic habitats. DCO Deep Life Community members Rika Anderson, (Carleton College, USA), Julie Huber (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA), and Julie Reveillaud (CIRAD, France), and Deep Energy Community members Jill McDermott (University of Toronto, Canada) and Jeffrey Seewald (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA), investigated how microbes are evolving within these systems. The researchers collected fluids from two adjacent, but geochemically distinct, hydrothermal vents and sequenced all the DNA in the samples to create a metagenome. Their analysis showed that the two vents were experiencing different evolutionary pressures, due to challenges in their environments that affect how the microbes evolve. They also identified a recent bloom of bacteria, possibly related to acquisition of new genes to avoid viral infections. They report their findings in a new paper in Nature Communications. Read more...
Burning Questions Remain After Discovery of Recent Volcanic Eruptions in Angola
When a group of Spanish researchers led by Marc Campeny and Joan Carles Melgarejo (Universitat de Barcelona, Spain) traveled to Angola to study volcanoes, they faced many challenges in a country that had survived 26 years of civil war and isolation. The scientists stuck close to their guides to avoid the land mines that littered their path, slept in huts, and had to secure permission from tribal leaders to gain access to study sites. All of their efforts were not in vain, however, as they led to the discovery that volcanic activity in the Catanda complex, a small cluster of volcanic cones in Angola, is surprisingly recent. Andrea Giuliani, a member of the Reservoirs and Fluxes Community, and his colleagues at the University of Melbourne and University of Tasmania (Australia) joined the collaboration to analyze the volcanic rock samples collected by his Spanish partners. Using geochemical techniques to determine the age and source of the samples, Giuliani estimates that they originated in the mantle and came to the surface very recently, only about 500 to 800 thousand years ago. Furthermore, by employing geophysical and geochemical modeling, the researchers think that the volcanic activity is due to an upwelling rising up from deep in the mantle underneath Angola. They report their findings in a new paper in Geology. Read more...
When Continents Tear Apart, Stored Carbon Escapes
Earth’s crust and mantle hold a giant stockpile of carbon. This carbon can be released to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide gas from the mid-ocean ridges as tectonic plates stretch apart on the ocean floor, from arc volcanoes at the edges of colliding plates, and through volcanic islands like Hawaii. But volcanoes and ridges are not the only way that Earth lets out a little gas. Scientists are beginning to recognize that continental rifts, where the crust rips apart in the middle of continents, are important relief valves for releasing deep carbon trapped in the crust. DCO Reservoirs and Fluxes Community members Stephen Foley (Macquarie University, Australia) and Tobias Fischer (University of New Mexico, USA), published a new Perspectives paper in Nature Geoscience to propose that continental rifts represent a major source of deep carbon released at the surface, with a single rift emitting up to 34 megatons of carbon each year. They suggest that as carbon in the mantle melts, rises, and solidifies in the crust, it accumulates and eventually funnels out through rifts. When considered over geological timescales, this carbon release likely had a huge impact on the evolution of Earth’s climate. Read more...
Degassing from Continental Rifts Controls Earth’s Thermostat
As a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has played a major role in regulating Earth’s climate throughout its history. There are vast stores of carbon in the subsurface, but the global carbon cycle controls how much of that carbon enters the atmosphere. As methods for monitoring and tracking the carbon dioxide that moves from the subsurface to the atmosphere improve, scientists have identified continental rift zones, which are the long fissures that form inside plates as they stretch, as important contributors to atmospheric carbon and thus global climate. In a new paper in Nature Geoscience, Sascha Brune (GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Germany), with DCO member Dietmar Müller, and Simon Williams (both at the University of Sydney, Australia), examine the impact of carbon dioxide release from continental rifts over geological time. The researchers catalogued rift lengths over the last 200 million years and estimated their impact on the global climate. Their analysis identified two periods of continental rifting that coincided with especially warm periods in Earth’s history. Read more...
Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community Workshop, Arizona State University, USA
Members of the Extreme Physics and Chemistry (EPC) community met at Arizona State University on Saturday and Sunday, 4-5 November 2017, to share scientific progress on studies of carbon in the deep Earth. The workshop also included focused discussions addressing EPC goals for the near future and the legacy of the community’s work. EPC community co-chairs Craig Manning (University of California Los Angeles, USA) and Wendy Mao (Stanford University, USA) organized the meeting, which was hosted by Everett Shock (Arizona State University, USA). Early career researchers and leaders in deep carbon research from around the globe presented talks and posters on new insights into carbon and its interactions with other elements in environments ranging from shallow reservoirs in soils and crustal rocks to Earth’s deep mantle and core. Read More...
Deep Life and Extreme Physics and Chemistry Proposals Funded
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded two years of funding for Extreme Physics and Chemistry and Deep Life community activity as part of its ten-year commitment to the Deep Carbon Observatory. As the end of the decade approaches, both communities will focus on addressing DCO’s guiding questions, synthesizing community data, and sharing what they have learned about deep carbon. Read more...
2017 AGU Fall Meeting: Sessions, Talks, and Posters of Interest to DCO
A large contingent of DCO researchers will participate in the AGU Fall Meeting on 11-15 December 2017 in New Orleans, USA. This day-by-day listing will help you find sessions, talks, and posters of interest to DCO scientists, as well as those featuring members of the DCO Science Network. To add items to these listings, please contact the DCO Engagement Team. Sign up for daily email updates during the meeting here. Join DCO and C-DEBI for a poster swarm on Monday 11 December during session B11G (10am, New Orleans Ernest N Morial Convention Center–Poster Hall D-F).
AGU Fall Meeting, New Orleans, USA, 11-15 December 2017
AGU’s Fall Meeting is the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world. This is a day-by-day guide to DCO talks and posters.
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.
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, 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
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.
C-DEBI Research Grant Program
The US National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) invites proposals for 1-year research projects (in the anticipated range of $50,000-$80,000) and 1-2 year graduate student and postdoctoral fellowships that will significantly advance C-DEBI’s central research agenda: to investigate the subseafloor biosphere deep in marine sediment and oceanic crust, and to conduct multi-disciplinary studies to develop an integrated understanding of subseafloor microbial life at the molecular, cellular, and ecosystem scales. C-DEBI’s research agenda balances exploration-based discovery, hypothesis testing, data integration and synthesis, and systems-based modeling. Application deadline: 1 December 2017
Schlanger Ocean Drilling Fellowship
The Schlanger Fellowship Program offers merit-based awards for outstanding graduate students to conduct research related to the International Ocean Discovery Program. Research may be related to the objectives of past expeditions or it may address broader science themes. Selected fellows will receive an award of $30,000 for a 12-month period that can be used for research, stipend, tuition, or other approved costs. Schlanger Fellowships are open to all graduate students enrolled at U.S. institutions in full-time MS or PhD programs. Applications require reference material from two referees, one of whom must be the student’s faculty advisor. Application deadline: 15 December 2017
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
Extreme enrichment in atmospheric 15N15N
Laurence Y. Yeung, Shuning Li, Issaku E. Kohl, Joshua A. Haslun, Nathaniel E. Ostrom, Huanting Hu, Tobias P. Fischer, Edwin A. Schauble, and Edward D. Young
Science Advances doi:10.1126/sciadv.aao6741
High reactivity of deep biota under anthropogenic CO2 injection into basalt
Rosalia Trias, Benedicte Ménez, Paul le Campion, Yvan Zivanovic, Lena Lecourt, Aurelien Lecoeuvre, Phillippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Jenny Uhl, Sigurour Gislason, Helgi A. Alfreðsson, Kiflom G. Mesfin, Sandra O. Snæbjörnsdóttir, Edda S. Aradóttir, Ingvi Gunnarsson, Juerg M. Matter, Martin Stute, Erik H. Oelkers, and Emmanuelle Gérard
Nature Communications doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01288-8
Genomic variation in microbial populations inhabiting the marine subseafloor at deep-sea hydrothermal vents
Rika E. Anderson, Julie Reveillaud, Emily Reddington, Tom O. Delmont, A. Murot Eren, Jill M. McDermott, Jeff S. Seewald, and Julie A. Huber
Nature Communications doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01228-6
Southwestern Africa on the burner: Pleistocene carbonatite volcanism linked to deep mantle upwelling in Angola
Andrea Giuliani, Marc Campeny, Vadim S. Kamenetsky, Juan Carlos Afonso, Roland Maas, Joan Carles Melgarejo, Barry P. Kohn, Erin L. Matchan, Jose Mangas, Antonio O. Gonçalves, and Jose Manuel
An essential role for continental rifts and lithosphere in the deep carbon cycle
Stephen F. Foley and Tobias P. Fischer
Nature Geoscience doi:10.1038/s41561-017-0002-7
Potential links between continental rifting, CO2 degassing and climate change through time
Sascha Brune, Simon E. Williams, and R. Dietmar Müller
Nature Geoscience doi:10.1038/s41561-017-0003-6
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.
The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program
The Department of Mineral Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History invites applications for postdoctoral and graduate fellowships. Active areas of research include mineral spectroscopy, biomineralogy, environmental mineralogy, geochemistry, petrology, experimental petrology, volcanology, meteorite studies, solar system formation, and planetary formation and evolution. The department also houses the National Meteorite Collection, the National Rock and Ore Collection, the National Gem and Mineral Collection, and the Global Volcanism Program. Application deadline: 1 December 2017
Postdoctoral Fellowships, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, DC, USA
Applications are invited for postdoctoral fellowship positions to conduct independent research in the fields of astronomy, cosmochemistry, geochemistry, geophysics, planetary science, or volcanology. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism staff scientists pursue these fields in the general quest for improved understanding of the origin and evolution of Earth and other planets and planetary systems. The successful applicants' primary field of research should overlap with one or more of these fields, but collaboration with other research areas on campus is encouraged. Application deadline: 1 December 2017
2018 Carnegie Fellowships for the Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, DC, USA
The Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science invites applications for postdoctoral fellowships. The Geophysical Laboratory emphasizes interdisciplinary experimental and theoretical research in fields ranging from geoscience, microbiology, chemistry, to physics. The Laboratory supports world-class facilities in high-pressure research, organic, stable isotope and biogeochemistry, mineral physics and petrology, and astrobiology. Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellowships are awarded once a year. The deadline for submitting an application is 1 December 2017 and the position begins the following summer or autumn.
Assistant Professor in Earth Materials, Department of Geology, University of Maryland, College Park, USA
The Department of Geology at the University of Maryland invites applications for a tenure-track assistant professor in Earth Materials. Research areas of interest include, but are not limited to: experimental and theoretical aspects of petrology, mineral physics, nanogeoscience, and economic geology. The appointee will be expected to develop and maintain an active, externally funded research program that will involve both graduate and undergraduate students, and to participate fully in teaching at all levels, including mineralogy. We particularly encourage applications from those who integrate across traditional disciplinary boundaries within the Department of Geology, throughout the College of Computer, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences, and area governmental and private entities. Review of applications will begin in December 2017, and will be ongoing until the position is filled.
Faculty Position in Experimental Earth Science in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University seeks applicants for a tenure-track Assistant Professor position with expertise in experimental laboratory approaches to understanding Earth materials and processes. We are open to a broad set of research topics relating to the application of chemical thermodynamics and reaction kinetics over a wide range of conditions, from the Earth's surface to its interior. The ideal candidate will conduct research that complements existing and strategic priorities of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, and Columbia University, including but not exclusive to: carbon capture and storage and other climate solutions, magmatic and volcanic processes, hydrothermal systems, marine and environmental geochemistry, fluid-rock interaction, climate-life-solid-earth interactions, and natural resources. Application Deadline: 18 December 2017
Two Postdoctoral Positions in Environmental Microbiology at Stanford University, USA
The Dekas Geomicrobiology Laboratory at Stanford University is accepting applications for two postdoctoral research positions. Each successful candidate will have a PhD in a related field, a strong publication record, research experience in microbial ecology, and a desire to learn/use nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (nanoSIMS). Interested candidates should send a complete CV, cover letter, and a list of three professional references to Dr. Anne Dekas. Application Deadline: 20 December 2017
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.
DCO in the News
Read more DCO News here.
27 November 2017: Volcanic eruptions are incredibly hard to predict. Here's why.
Mary Beth Griggs for Popular Science
The Indonesian volcano Agung on the island of Bali is rumbling, shooting a mix of gases and sharp fragments of ash in a column thousands of feet high into the sky...
22 November 2017: Mysterious deep-Earth seismic signature explained
New research on oxygen and iron chemistry under the extreme conditions found deep inside Earth could explain a longstanding seismic mystery called ultralow velocity zones...
17 November 2017: Heavy nitrogen molecules reveal planetary-scale tug-of-war
Researchers have discovered a planetary-scale tug-of-war between life, deep Earth and the upper atmosphere that is expressed in atmospheric nitrogen...
13 November 2017: When continents break it gets warm on Earth
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere determines whether the Earth is in greenhouse or ice age state...
Learn more about DCO's Scientific Communities
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.
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.