On 12 September 2016, an international team of researchers boarded the drilling vessel Chikyu, the world’s largest scientific research vessel, in Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan, to begin a 60-day quest to determine the limits of life below the ocean’s floor. Working with six additional shore-based scientists, the team will attempt to clarify key factors, including pressure, limiting Earth’s underground habitable zone. Photo courtesy of JAMSTEC.
Read more about IODP Expedition 370: T-Limit of the Deep Biosphere off Muroto.
Letter from the Director
The Deep Carbon Observatory is beginning the academic year with a burst of opportunities, activities, and accomplishments. DCO’s Synthesis Group 2019 issued an open call for synthesis proposals for activities that synthesize and integrate deep carbon science, and DCO’s Deep Energy Community issued a third call for proposals for short-term projects.
The Oman Drilling Project achieved an important milestone with the approval of permits needed to commence scientific drilling in the Samail Ophiolite, and you can apply to participate in the field work and detailed core logging activities. Our DCO colleagues embarked on a 60-day expedition aboard Japan’s $540 million drilling vessel Chikyu to explore the temperature limits of life beneath the seafloor. This research, which targets many DCO science goals, is part of International Ocean Discovery Program’s (IODP) Expedition 370.
DCO colleagues played prominent roles in the Second European Mineralogical Conference in Rimini, Italy, which featured a series of sessions on DCO themes. Next week, DCO leaders will receive top honors at the 2016 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting. Donald Dingwell (University of Munich, Germany) will receive the 2016 GSA Arthur Day Medal, Anat Shahar (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA) will receive the 2016 Mineralogical Society of America Award, and Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA) will receive the 2016 Mineralogical Society of America Roebling Medal; they will deliver award lectures and participate in special sessions in their honor.
Craig Schiffries, DCO Director
Carnegie Institution for Science, Geophysical Laboratory
Washington DC, USA
Study Suggests Earth's Carbon Originated in a Planetary Smashup
In a new study published in Nature Geoscience, DCO scientist Rajdeep Dasgupta (Rice University, USA) and colleagues offer a new answer to a long-debated geological question: How did carbon-based life develop on Earth, given that most of the planet's carbon should have either boiled away in the planet's earliest days or become locked in Earth's core? Dasgupta's lab specializes in recreating the high-pressure and high-temperature conditions that exist deep inside Earth and other rocky planets. His team squeezes rocks in hydraulic presses that can simulate conditions about 250 miles below Earth's surface or at the core-mantle boundary of smaller planets like Mercury. Read more...
New Genus of Bacteria Found Living Inside Hydraulic Fracturing Wells
Researchers analyzing the genomes of microorganisms living in shale oil and gas wells have found evidence of sustainable ecosystems taking hold there—populated in part by a never-before-seen genus of bacteria they have dubbed “Frackibacter." The new genus is one of 31 microbial members found living inside two separate fracturing wells, DCO's Kelly Wrighton (Ohio State University, USA) and colleagues report in the journal Nature Microbiology. Even though the wells were hundreds of miles apart and drilled in different kinds of shale formations, the microbial communities inside them were nearly identical. Many of the species the researchers found probably came from the surface ponds that energy companies draw on to fill the wells. But that's not the case with the newly identified Candidatus Frackibacter. Read more...
HIMU Ocean Island Sources linked to Carbonated Continental Roots
Volcanic islands form from mantle plumes, where hot mantle wells up from the core-mantle boundary to erupt on the ocean floor. Examples of such islands include the Hawaiian and Galápagos chains. Prevailing scientific theory says that mantle plumes involve recycled basaltic ocean crust as a major component. However, a new paper by DCO scientists published in Nature presents new evidence that in some mantle plumes, old continental roots are key constituents. The team of scientists, Yaakov Weiss, Cornelia Class, Steven L. Goldstein (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, USA) and Takeshi Hanyu (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC, Japan), focused on lavas from the Cook-Austral islands in the south Pacific, which have the highest lead isotopic compositions among oceanic lavas. Read more...
DCO PRESS RELEASE: How Hot is Too Hot for Earth-Style Life? International research mission to explore limits of life deep beneath the seafloor
Mission seeks to answer key questions: How deep is Earth's habitable zone? How deep is the deep subseafloor biosphere? How does the deep biosphere affect life at the surface? Could life have originated deep and moved upward? The ocean floor is teeming with worms (nematodes) and other eukaryotic organisms, which live in sediments together with a myriad of microbes representing the three domains of life (Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryotes). As the sediments get deeper and warmer, microbial forms become less abundant. During IODP Expedition 370, scientists will look for as few as 100 cells per cm3, or roughly the equivalent of 100 sand grains floating in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Finally, in the deepest samples retrieved on this research cruise, the team expects samples beyond the borders of life where current knowledge predicts that no living cells persist. This is the first attempt to explore this boundary, the biotic fringe, in detail. The team aims to determine whether it is sharp, diffuse, or exists at all. Read more...
DCO T-Limit Blog: Updates from Scientists Onboard IODP Expedition 370
20 September: Any moment now…
By Justine Sauvage
Here it is, the Integrated Ocean Discovery Program can add a new site to its collection: Site C00023, the target of IODP Expedition 370 is on the map! Last Friday, around 8 am, Expedition 370 scientists watched with great excitement as the drill bit undulated above the seafloor for a little while until finally “spudding” into the sediment. Read more...
15 September: Bon Voyage! IODP Expedition 370, here we finally are!
By Justine Sauvage
I will be sailing as an inorganic geochemist on this expedition and couldn't be more thrilled to be at the forefront of scientific discovery on Earth's largest scientific drilling vessel, the D/V Chikyu, for the next few months. Read more...
8 September: Why now, why me, and why the Nankai Trough?
By Stephen Bowden
The D/V Chikyu (science's tallest ship) has been to the Nankai Trough several times and this time I want to go. But why is the Chikyu going back to the Nankai Trough and why would I want to go? For sure, geological elements have moved in the Nankai Trough since Ocean Drilling Program Leg 190 last visited in 2000, but not that much. What has really moved forward is the technology needed to measure and investigate the limits of deep life in the deep biosphere. Read more...
Continuing DCO Engagement and Outreach: Announcing the DCO Engagement Advisory Committee
Five DCO scientists, representing each of the four DCO Science Communities and an at-large position, are serving as liaisons between their DCO Communities and the DCO Engagement Team. Formally known as the Engagement Advisory Committee, the members are tasked with ensuring that the work of their respective communities - publications, important findings, events, and other potentially newsworthy items - is shared with the Engagement Team and disseminated to the entire DCO Science Network and broader public audiences. Read more...
Deep Life Researchers Investigate Ecosystems in Minnesota Iron Mine
In August 2016, a team of University of Minnesota researchers led by Jon Badalamenti conducted field sampling across multiple levels of the Soudan Mine. In addition to collecting brines from Level 27, the team, which included Cara Santelli and colleagues, explored other levels of the mine for novel fungi that could be playing a role in metal redox transformations and/or sequestration, such as a copper-rich pool fed by groundwater intrusion on Level 10. Ongoing work at Soudan seeks to understand the structure and function of native microbial and fungal populations, as well as their potential for biotechnological applications. Read more...
Oman Drilling Project Permits Approved: Apply to Join the Expedition
The Oman Drilling Project received permission in September 2016 to begin operations in mid-November 2016. The project targets the Samail Ophiolite in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, which is the world’s largest, best-exposed, and most-studied subaerial block of oceanic crust and upper mantle. Drilling the Samail Ophiolite will address long-standing unresolved questions regarding formation of oceanic lithosphere at mid-ocean ridges, hydrothermal alteration of the sea floor, and subsequent mass transfer between the crust and the oceans and recycling of volatile elements in subduction zones. The science team also will explore new frontiers including subsurface weathering processes that lead to natural uptake of CO2 from surface waters and the atmosphere—as well as the nature of the subsurface biosphere in areas where these processes are occurring. Applications to join the project are welcome here. Read more...
EarthByte Deep Carbon Modeling Workshop, Sydney, Australia
On 29-30 August 2016, the EarthByte group hosted a workshop at the University of Sydney School of Geosciences to bring together data scientists and geoscientists exploring the deep carbon cycle. The EarthByte team demonstrated their open-source subduction zone and oceanic crust modeling tools. The tools make it possible for scientists to visualize data in deep time and to help researchers test hypotheses about the planetary scale deep carbon cycle with a plate kinematic model. Read more...
Deep Carbon Science in Wikipedia
Wikipedia, the free crowd-sourced online encyclopedia, is one of the top ten websites in the world. It contains five million articles covering a vast range of topics, dozens of which relate to topics of interest to DCO, from bioreactor to kimberlite to x-ray diffraction. For DCO, Wikipedia offers an opportunity to present deep carbon science to a broader audience. Presenting the advances in deep carbon science to an audience numbering in the millions will be an important part of DCO's legacy. For all of these reasons, the Engagement Team is spearheading the effort to include DCO science in relevant Wikipedia entries. To this end, we are soliciting recommendations for article topics. In some cases, DCO researchers will be able to improve or expand upon existing articles by providing expert review. In other cases, DCO researchers may want to provide entirely new content. The Engagement Team will facilitate this process by updating the articles with DCO scientists' edits. While we encourage everyone in the DCO Science Network to review and edit Wikipedia content directly, we are available to assist, answer questions, or make the edits on your behalf. Read more...
T-Limit of the Deep Biosphere off Muroto, DV Chikyu, Nankai Trough, Japan, 10 September - 10 November 2016
Deep Life scientists Verena Heuer and Fumio Inagaki are onboard D/V Chikyu through 10 November 2016 to determine when temperatures become too hot for microbial life to survive below the seafloor and consequently helping to define the depth of Earth's habitable zone. Throughout the expedition, cores will be sent via helicopter to the Kochi Core Center, where a team led by Yuki Morono will analyze the samples.
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.
GSA 2016, Denver, Colorado, USA, 25-28 September 2016
At the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America several sessions are of particular interest to DCO.
NSF Subduction Zone Observatory Workshop, Boise, Idaho, USA, 29 September - 1 October 2016
This workshop will unite a broad range of participants interested in discussing the scientific motivations for an interdisciplinary Earth, ocean, and atmospheric research program, focused around scientific questions and societal hazards related to subduction zones.
ICDP Training Course on Continental Scientific Drilling, Potsdam, Germany, 16-20 October 2016
This training course will touch upon all relevant aspects of continental scientific drilling, including project planning and management, pre-site surveys, drilling engineering, sample handling and storage, on-site studies, downhole logging, data management, and post-drilling measures.
IAVCEI Cities on Volcanoes, Puerto Varas, Chile, 20-25 November 2016
The Cities and Volcanoes Commission of IAVCEI aims to provide a link between the volcanology community and emergency managers, to serve as a conduit for exchange of ideas and experience among people living and working in ‘cities on volcanoes’, and to promote multi-disciplinary applied research, involving the collaboration of physical and social scientists and city officials.
AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, USA, 12-16 December 2016
View DCO sessions of interest here.
JpGU-AGU Joint Meeting, Makuhari Messe, Japan, 20-25 May 2017
In May 2017, JpGU and AGU will hold the first joint meeting of the two societies covering all areas of the Earth and space sciences. More than 50 sessions will be presented in English for inter- and trans-disciplinary scientists. Session proposal submission deadline: 13 October 2016
Goldschmidt 2017, Paris, France, 13-18 August 2017
Goldschmidt is the foremost annual, international conference on geochemistry and related subjects. Session proposal submission deadline: 1 November 2016
Open Call for Synthesis Proposals Runs Through 25 October
Throughout the remainder of its decadal program, DCO will focus on synthesis and integration, culminating in a wide range of activities and products by 2019. To encourage innovation and broad, creative thinking, DCO invites pre-proposals from all DCO Science Network members. DCO aims to arrange for funding of three proposals in this round, with a value of up to $50,000 each. We encourage applicants to look for other sources of leveraged funds to increase the scope of their projects. We will consider a variety of synthesis and integration activities, but they must combine data and knowledge from within communities or across different disciplines to advance understanding of deep carbon in Earth. The deadline for pre-proposal submissions is 25 October 2016.
Third Call for Proposals: Deep Energy Community
The Deep Energy Community (DEC) of the Deep Carbon Observatory invites proposals for short-term funding of projects and/or activities aimed at addressing the DEC’s decadal goals and/or strengthening the international DEC community and its abilities to generate funding for new and ongoing initiatives. The DEC is dedicated to quantifying the environmental conditions and processes from the molecular to the global scale that control the quantities, movements, forms, and origins, of reduced carbon compounds derived from deep carbon through deep geologic time. Deadline: 20 November 2016
C-DEBI Proposal Calls for Deep Biosphere Research and Fellowship Grants
The NSF 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 welcomes proposals from applicants who would enhance diversity in C-DEBI and STEM fields. This request for proposals is open to all interested researchers at US institutions able to receive NSF funding as a sub award. Deadline: 1 December 2016
C-DEBI Proposal Calls for Deep Biosphere Education Grants
C-DEBI also invites proposals to support education and outreach projects, with a budget of up to $50,000 and a project duration of 1 year. The C-DEBI Education & Outreach Grants Program will fund the development of educational opportunities and materials that are pertinent to deep biosphere research in the subseafloor environment in support of our education and outreach goal to create distinctive, targeted education programs and promote increased public awareness about life below the seafloor. C-DEBI welcomes proposals from applicants who would enhance diversity in C-DEBI and STEM fields. This request for proposals is open to all interested researchers at US institutions able to receive NSF funding as a sub award. Deadline: 1 December 2016
Lab Manager for the new Noble Gas Lab at Washington University in St. Louis, USA
Washington University in St. Louis is seeking a highly motivated individual to assist in establishing and maintaining the new Noble Gas Laboratory in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Experience with ultra-high vacuum systems, mass spectrometry, and gas-processing methods is preferred. The new laboratory will be capable of measuring the full suite of noble gas abundances and isotopic compositions, and will be fully automated using Labview software to run 24 hours. To apply, visit the WUSTL jobs website and search for the job ID number 34204. Applications must be submitted through the website, and applicants should additionally send a CV and contact information for two references to Rita Parai.
Two Faculty Positions in Volcanology at the University of Oregon, USA
The Department of Earth Sciences (formerly Geological Sciences) is seeking outstanding scientists to fill two new open-rank faculty positions beginning fall 2017 as part of a newly funded Center for Volcanology and Volcanic Hazards. Appointment can be at any rank from tenure-track assistant professor to tenured full professor. We seek applicants who investigate eruption precursors, volcano deformation, conduit processes, magma fragmentation, plume behavior, and/or the transport and deposition of tephra through the use of remote sensing, geodesy, and theoretical, experimental, or numerical modeling approaches. We seek candidates who will complement our existing strengths in volcanology, petrology, geochemistry, seismology, geodynamics, and surface processes. Application deadline: 14 October 2016
Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University at Newark, USA
The Ohio State University at Newark is seeking applications for a 9-month, full-time tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences beginning fall 2017. Teaching duties include delivering approximately 18 credit hours of instruction per year (semester calendar), primarily in lower-level courses. Research duties include conducting research in accordance with the expectations of the School of Earth Sciences. Service duties encompass contributions to the campus, department, university, and communities in the region. Required qualifications include a PhD in Earth sciences, a culturally responsive pedagogy appropriate for a racially and ethnically diverse student population, a documented record of excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level, and the ability to produce research publishable in scholarly journals. Application deadline: 15 October 2016
Postdoctoral Position in Geodynamical Modeling at Penn State University, USA
Postdoctoral position in geodynamical modeling, to work on newly funded NSF project entitled “Collaborative Research: Controls on along-strike variations in locked and creeping megathrust behavior at the Hikurangi convergent margin.” The project is an interdisciplinary, multinational program focused on the Hikurangi margin in New Zealand, aimed at evaluating processes that govern both slip behavior and long-term deformation at subduction zones via an integrated approach combining large-scale seismic imaging, paleoseismology, and geomorphology, focused through the lens of state-of-the-art numerical modeling. The successful candidate will have a PhD in geoscience, geophysics, or a closely related field; experience in quantitative modeling applied to Earth sciences is preferred. Applicants should submit a curriculum vita, a brief (1-2 page) statement of interest, and the names of three references here. Materials will be reviewed beginning 15 October 2016 and will be accepted until the position is filled.
Faculty Position in Geodynamics at Northwestern University, USA
The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Northwestern University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professorship in geodynamics, to begin fall 2017. We seek a creative and innovative scientist to develop an active research program in the broad range of dynamic processes of the solid Earth and/or planets. Areas of specialization are open, but candidates whose expertise complements that of existing faculty in solid Earth geophysics, planetary science and habitability, natural hazards, seismology, and mineral physics are especially encouraged. The successful candidate is expected to teach both undergraduate and graduate level courses and develop a vibrant, externally funded research program. A PhD is required at the time of appointment. Review of applications will begin 15 October 2016 and continue until the position is filled.
Wiess Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, Rice University, USA
The Department of Earth Science at Rice University is inviting applications for the Wiess Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in the broad fields of Earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences. Applicants must have a PhD awarded within three years of the time of appointment. Applicants are requested to develop a proposal of research to be undertaken during the fellowship period. The principal selection criteria are scientific excellence and a clearly expressed research plan to address questions at the forefront of Earth science, broadly defined. Applicants are encouraged to explore possible research synergies with faculty in the Department of Earth Science, but the proposed research should encompass independent research ideas and explore new directions beyond the applicant’s PhD. Application deadline: 15 November 2016
DCO in the News
Read more DCO News here.
20 September 2016: Auf der Suche nach dem Tiefpunkt des Lebens
By Von Pia Heinemann for Die Welt
Forscher wollen mit einer Bohrung im Japanischen Meer herausfinden, wann es auch extremen Organismen zu viel wird...
12 September 2016: Auf der Suche nach der Grenze der Biosphäre
By Dagmar Röhrlich for Deutschlandfunk (radio and web)
Die Lebenswelt in den Porenräumen tief vergrabener Meeressedimente und Basalte ist bisher wenig erforscht. Forscher vermuten, dass dort die Temperaturen zu hoch sind, als dass Mikroorganismen dort leben könnte...
12 September 2016: Gibt es noch Leben bei 130 Grad Celsius?
By Von Wolfgang Kempkens for De Ingeniuer
Ein internationales Forscherteam sucht tief unter dem Meeresgrund nach Leben. Sie wollen genau wissen, bei welcher Temperatur selbst die zähesten Mikroorganismen keine Chance mehr haben...
12 September 2016: Visions of Life on Mars in Earth’s Depths
By Kenneth Chang for The New York Times
A mile down in an unused mine tunnel, scientists guided by helmet lamps trudged through darkness and the muck of a flooded, uneven floor...
12 September 2016: Boren naar de grens van het leven
By Pieter Van Dooren for De Standaard
Tot hoe diep onder de grond en onder de zee vind je nog leven? En hoe kan het daar in leven blijven? Het grootste onderzoeksschip ter wereld moet het uitzoeken...
9 September 2016: The Heat Is On: Search Begins for 'Alien' Life Beneath Earth
By Charles Q. Choi for Live Science
By exploring the limits of life deep beneath the seafloor, an upcoming international research mission will seek to discover what scorching levels of heat may be too extreme for life on Earth — and maybe alien life on distant worlds...
8 September 2016: Expedición buscará los límites de la vida en el subsuelo marino
By Julio César Rivas for EFE
Una expedición internacional empezará a explorar a mediados de septiembre las profundidades del océano Pacífico para intentar descubrir por primera vez si existe vida en el subsuelo marino a temperaturas de 130 grados centígrados...
8 September 2016: Some like it hot: scientists drill off Japan for sizzling life
By Alister Doyle for Reuters
Scientists will start drilling off Japan this month to seek the hottest place where life can survive in a hellish uncharted realm deep below the seabed...
7 September 2016: Deep-sea drilling expedition to look for life's limits in scalding environments
By Paul Voosen for Science
Somewhere in the sediments and rocks beneath the ocean floor, it gets too hot for living things. But how far down? Even after drilling kilometers into the ocean floor, scientists have found that microbes persist...
6 September 2016: Earth’s Collision With Another Planet Probably Started Life
By George Dvorsky for Gizmodo
Researchers from Rice University say that around 4.4 billion years ago, a Mercury-like planet smashed into Earth, seeding our primordial planet with life-giving carbon...
6 September 2016: Scientists Discover New Genus of Bacteria Unique to Fracking Sites
By John Raphael for Nature World News
A new study from the Ohio State University revealed a never-before-seen genus of bacteria believed to be unique in shale oil and gas wells made by hydraulic fracturing...
5 September 2016: Planet smash-up 'brought carbon to Earth'
Much of Earth's life-giving carbon could have been delivered in a planetary collision about 4.4 billion years ago, a theory suggests...
5 September 2016: New genus of bacteria found living inside hydraulic fracturing wells
Researchers analyzing the genomes of microorganisms living in shale oil and gas wells have found evidence of sustainable ecosystems taking hold there - populated in part by a never-before-seen genus of bacteria they have dubbed "Frackibacter..."
5 September 2016: Study: Earth's carbon points to planetary smashup
Research by Rice University Earth scientists suggests that virtually all of Earth's life-giving carbon could have come from a collision about 4.4 billion years ago between Earth and an embryonic planet similar to Mercury...
4 September 2016: Underground: How Deep Can Life Survive?
BBC's The Forum
A radio broadcast featuring Barbara Sherwood-Lollar (University of Toronto, Canada) and Gaetan Borgonie (Extreme Life Isyensya in Gentbrugge, Belgium).
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.