September 2017 Newsletter

From the Deep, a monthly newsletter from DCO
September 2017
Deep Carbon Observatory
Third DCO ECS Workshop Etna

The Third DCO Early Career Scientist Workshop took place on the flanks of Mt. Etna volcano
in Sicily, Italy, from 28 August – 2 September 2017. The workshop brought together more than
60 early career scientists from 16 countries and 46 different institutions
for a week of talks, poster sessions, and field trips. 

Letter from the Director

The Deep Carbon Observatory is ending the summer on a high note. Mt. Etna volcano in Sicily, Italy provided a stunning natural laboratory for 60 scientists from 46 institutions in 16 countries who participated in the Third DCO Early Career Scientist Workshop.  
Meanwhile, the Oman Drilling Project conducted two months of core logging aboard the Drilling Vessel Chikyu. Phase 1 core logging is now complete and applications for participating in Phase 2 of the Oman Drilling Project are due on 15 October 2017. 
DCO Deep Energy Community members Thu Le, Alberto Striolo (both of University College London, UK) and David Cole (Ohio State University, USA) proposed a novel mechanism for abiotic methane formation. They demonstrate that the effects of confinement in nanopore-controlled chemical reactions can shift thermodynamic equilibrium towards methane production. This mechanism could explain methane observed in some submarine hydrothermal vent systems.
Congratulations to Sergey Lobanov (State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA) for winning a Helmholtz Young Investigator Group Leaders award, which will provide €1.8 million in 2018-2023 for him to establish a new group at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences (Postdam, Germany). Sergey is also the lead author of a recent paper on tetrahedrally bonded calcium carbonate that exists at lower mantle pressures.
The memory of Katrina Edwards is honored by a special issue of Frontiers in Microbiology on “Recent Advances Geomicrobiology of the Ocean Crust,” which contains contributions from numerous DCO scientists.
Looking to the future, we encourage you to nominate candidates for the DCO Emerging Leader Awards by 29 September 2017 as we begin fall on a similarly high note as we have ended summer.

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

News Features

See your work featured on the DCO website and in the newsletter by contacting Katie Pratt of the DCO Engagement Team. 

Special Issue of Frontiers in Microbiology: Recent Advances in Geomicrobiology of the Ocean Crust
A new special issue of Frontiers in Microbiology entitled Recent Advances in Geomicrobiology of the Ocean Crust features papers from numerous DCO scientists. The special issue includes papers published in the past two years that focus on the diversity and metabolism of microbes living beneath the seafloor, and how the interactions between water, rock, and microbes in the ocean crust contribute to global biogeochemical cycles. Deep Life Community members Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, USA) and Jason Sylvan (Texas A&M University, USA), along with Cara Santelli (University of Minnesota, USA) co-edited the special issue. The issue is dedicated to the memory of Katrina J. Edwards (1968–2014), a pioneering geomicrobiologist who initiated early investigations into microbes that live beneath the seafloor. Read more...

Researchers Discover the ‘Diamond of Carbonate’
At the surface, pure carbon takes the form of graphite, a soft mineral composed of sheets in which every carbon atom is joined to a triangle of three others. Deep within Earth’s mantle, however, extreme temperatures and pressures convert graphite into diamond, a denser mineral where each carbon atom is joined to four other carbon atoms, forming a tetrahedral bonding geometry. Once thought unique, new research suggests that other carbon compounds may also make a similar phase shift under pressure. A new study provides strong evidence that carbon in calcium carbonate assumes a diamond-like bonding pattern in the lower mantle, as well. Sergey Lobanov (State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA, formerly at the Carnegie Institution for Science, USA where he conducted this research), a member of the DCO Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community, and fellow DCO members Alex Goncharov (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), Naira Martirosyan (Sobolev Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, Russia), and Konstantin Litasov (Sobolev Institute of Geology and Mineralogy and Novosibirsk State University, Russia) explored the phase transition from triangular (CO3) to tetrahedral (CO4) calcium carbonate. They heated and squeezed calcium carbonate in the lab and used advanced analytic techniques to identify a chemical signature indicating that the bonding between carbon and oxygen atoms had changed and the phase shift had occurred. The researchers report their findings in a new paper in the journal Physical Review B. Read more...

What Hawaii Can Tell Us About Mantle Carbon: An Interview with Peter Barry
In a recent article in Nature Geoscience, DCO Reservoirs and Fluxes Community members Kyle Anderson and Michael Poland, both of the U.S. Geological Survey, described the results of a new way to estimate the amount of carbon deep in Earth’s mantle. They combined measurements of carbon dioxide emitted from Kīlauea, Hawaii’s most active volcano, with indirect measurements of how much magma flows into the volcano. Through modeling, they calculate that the carbon content of the mantle beneath Hawaii is about 40% higher than previous estimates. If verified, these findings could have important implications for the global carbon budget, the size of deep carbon fluxes, and historical reconstructions of Earth’s climate. Peter Barry, a noble gas geochemist at the University of Oxford, wrote a News and Views commentary to accompany the paper in Nature Geoscience. Barry is a member of DCO’s Deep Energy Community and the Reservoirs and Fluxes Community who has been active in organizing Early Career Scientist workshops and was the lead principal investigator on the Biology Meets Subduction expedition in February 2017. He talked with DCO science writer Patricia Waldron over Skype about the new paper and its significance for deep carbon research. Read more...

Mind the Gaps: Tiny Pores Encourage Methane Formation
One of the big questions in deep carbon research, which helped inspire DCO’s founding and has been championed by the Deep Energy Community, is whether underground methane forms due to the activities of subsurface microbes (biotic) or from physical and chemical reactions between fluids and minerals (abiotic). One possible source of abiotic methane is serpentinizing systems, such as hydrothermal vents. At these sites, fluids circulate within the cracks of certain mantle rocks to produce hydrogen, which can then react with carbon dioxide to form methane. While serpentinizing systems appear to be rich in abiotic methane, benchtop experiments and thermodynamic calculations have not always supported the idea that this reaction is feasible. In a new paper in the journal Scientific Reports, Deep Energy Community Members Thu Le, Alberto Striolo (both at University College London, UK), and David Cole (The Ohio State University, USA), investigate the impact of tiny pores in rocks on the generation of abiotic methane in the subsurface. Read more...

EarthByte Models Mantle Plumes Through Space and Time
According to DCO member Sabin Zahirovic (EarthByte, University of Sydney, Australia), Earth’s interior is essentially a giant, spherical lava lamp. The intense heat at the core drives plumes of mantle material up to the cooler surface where it solidifies as part of tectonic plates. Over geologic timescales, the edges of those plates eventually sink back into the mantle in a process called subduction, which contributes to convection. The churning of Earth’s interior controls the movement of the plates at the surface, which in turn regulates the balance of carbon between the atmosphere and the subsurface, moderating climate. Ultimately, it is these swirling, lava lamp-like processes that make our planet habitable. The DCO has partnered with EarthByte to support paleogeography, climate, and deep carbon research using its plate tectonic models. Modeling offers a way to extract more information from new data sets and to integrate existing Earth science data sets collected over decades. “With the DCO, we’re studying the deep carbon cycle in the deep Earth and through deep geological time,” said Zahirovic. “Now that we have this great data from the DCO community, we can start to put the pieces of the puzzle together to make sense of these Earth systems through time.” Read more...

Third Early Career Scientist Workshop Brings International Group to Mt. Etna, Italy
The Third DCO Early Career Scientist Workshop took place on the flanks of Mt. Etna volcano in Sicily, Italy, from 28 August – 2 September 2017. The workshop brought together more than 60 early career scientists from 16 countries and 46 different institutions for a week of talks, poster sessions, and field trips. Scientists gathered at the Hotel Biancaneve in the town of Nicolosi, from which participants could watch Etna’s activity at all hours of the day. For some participants, spending time on an active volcano was a completely new experience, but for others, it was business as usual. The variety in the disciplines and the backgrounds of the participants is one of the strengths of the DCO Early Career Scientist workshops, with microbiologists learning from volcanologists, geochemists from geodynamicists, and all combinations in between. Read more...

Oman Drilling Project Completes Phase 1 Core Logging on D/V Chikyu
On 15 September 2017, scientific Drilling Vessel Chikyu arrived at Hachinohe Port, Japan and members of the Oman Drilling Project core logging team disembarked with cases of precious samples. The shipboard Science Party of 67, including six Omani trainees, logged 1500 m of core while onboard over the last two months. This was the first time that hard rock cores were analyzed using the Chikyu labs. Most of the core logging took place while Chikyu was in port in Shimizu, near Tokyo, however, the team ended their time onboard with a two-week transit to Hachinohe, in northern Honshu. Read more...

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: 2017 DCO Emerging Leader Awards
The Deep Carbon Observatory invites all members of the DCO community to submit nominations for the 2017 DCO Emerging Leader Awards. These awards, bestowed annually, honor DCO early career scientists for distinguished performance and unique potential as leaders of the deep carbon science community. Award recipients will receive a certificate and a slab of carbonated Oman ophiolite in a beautiful display box, and will be highlighted on the DCO website. Nomination deadline: this Friday, 29 September 2017. Read more...

Invitation to Contribute to Carbon Degassing Special Theme Issue
A new special theme in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, also known as "G-Cubed,” will explore advances in the field of deep carbon degassing. Edited by DCO’s Tobias Fischer (University of New Mexico, USA), Alessandro Aiuppa (Università degli studi di Palermo, Italy), and Marie Edmonds (University of Cambridge, UK), the theme is part of the Reservoirs and Fluxes Community’s synthesis activities, and is designed to showcase new results from the DECADE (Deep Earth Carbon Degassing) initiative. All members of the DCO Science Community are invited to submit articles. The submission period will run through 2018. Read more...

Introducing the New DCO Wikipedia Visiting Scholar: Andrew Newell
The DCO Engagement Team is pleased to introduce Andrew Newell, a geophysicist at North Carolina State University, USA, as the new DCO Wikipedia Visiting Scholar. Newell has long edited Wikipedia pages as a hobby and now brings his expertise to the DCO community to help improve the coverage of deep carbon science on Wikipedia. As a DCO Wikipedia Visiting Scholar, Newell will create and improve Wikipedia pages relevant to DCO research and offer his expertise to interested DCO Wikipedians. Read more...

Upcoming Events

DCO Webinar Wednesday: Sample Registration Made Easy, 2pm EDT, 11 October 2017
Join Kerstin Lehnert of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, USA as she shares the process of sample registration. 

PhD School, Como, Italy, 15-20 October 2017
The aim of the school is to present state-of-the-art research on the forms, paths, and processes of carbon in Earth to address the long-term fate of carbon on the planet. 

Third International Training School on Convective and Volcanic Clouds Detection, Monitoring, and Modeling, Tarquinia, Italy, 18-25 October 2017
The purpose of this school is to train students in techniques for detecting, monitoring, and modeling convective and volcanic clouds. 

2017 GSA Annual Meeting, Seattle, Washington, USA 22-25 October 2017
The annual meeting of the Geological Society of America will take place in Seattle, Washington, and includes opportunities for local field experiences.

DCO Webinar Wednesday: A Blueprint for Creating a Box Model, 2pm EDT, 15 November 2017
Join modeling and visualization expert Louise Kellogg of the University of California Davis, USA who will provide a virtual "construction manual" for how to create a box model. 

AGU Fall Meeting, New Orleans, 11-15 December 2017 
AGU’s Fall Meeting is the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world. View DCO sessions of special interest. 

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. 

Goldschmidt 2018, Boston, USA 12-17 August 2018
Goldschmidt, the foremost annual, international conference on geochemistry and related subjects, will be held in Boston in 2018. Session submission deadline: 1 November 2017

Honors and Awards

Sergey Lobanov, Extreme Physics and Chemistry
State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA
Helmholtz Young Investigator Group Leaders Award

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. 

NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships
The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) awards Postdoctoral Fellowships to recent recipients of doctoral degrees to carry out an integrated program of independent research and professional development. Fellowship proposals must address scientific questions within the scope of EAR disciplines and must align with the overall theme for the postdoctoral program. The program supports researchers for a period of up to two years with fellowships that can be taken to the institution of their choice (including institutions abroad). The program is intended to recognize beginning investigators of significant potential, and provide them with research experience, mentorship, and training that will establish them in leadership positions in the Earth Sciences community. Deadline October 25, 2017.

New Publications

View more papers in the DCO publications browser.

Editorial: Recent advances in geomicrobiology of the ocean crust
Beth N. Orcutt, Jason B. Sylvan, and Cara M. Santelli
Frontiers in Microbiology doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.01368
View special issue.

Abundant carbon in the mantle beneath Hawaii
Kyle R. Anderson and Michael P. Poland
Nature Geoscience doi:10.1038/ngeo3007

Deep mantle: Enriched carbon source detected
Peter H. Barry
Nature Geoscience doi:10.1038/ngeo3001

Confinement effects on carbon dioxide methanation: A novel mechanism for abiotic methane formation
Thu Le, Alberto Striolo, C. Heath Turner, and David R. Cole
Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-017-09445-1

Raman spectroscopy and x-ray diffraction of sp3 CaCO3 at lower mantle pressures
Sergey S. Lobanov, Xiao Dong, Naira S. Martirosyan, Artem I. Samtsevich, Vladan Stevanovic, Pavel N. Gavryushkin, Konstantin D. Litasov, Eran Greenberg, Vitali B. Prakapenka, Artem R. Oganov, and Alexander F. Goncharov
Physical Review B 10.1103/PhysRevB.96.104101

Employment Opportunities

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.

Lecturer in Earth Surface Processes at the University of St Andrews, UK
The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at St. Andrews University invites applications for a lectureship-level appointment from individuals who utilize applied, field-based or theoretical approaches to address fundamental questions about the processes that control Earth’s surface environments. We particularly welcome applicants who would expand our core research and teaching strengths in geology, palaeoclimate, geochemistry, and economic geology into a modern environmental context. This could be in fields including (but not limited to) hydrogeology, environmental remediation, environmental mineralogy, remote sensing, GIS and environmental systems (e.g. hydrological, atmosphere, and ocean) modeling or global environmental change. Application deadline: 30 September 2017

Postdoctoral Scholar, Microbial Transcriptional Activity in Subseafloor Sediment, University of Munich, Germany
The Orsi Lab at the University of Munich (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München) is searching for a postdoctoral scholar within the framework of a newly funded project on microbial transcriptional activity in subseafloor sediment. The position involves the extraction and analysis of DNA and RNA from a high number of samples in order to constrain shared and unique biochemical subsistence strategies of subseafloor life. Desired skills in the ideal candidate are experience working with DNA and RNA from low biomass samples, and experience with bioinformatic analysis of large datasets of next generation sequencing data. The city of Munich is located less than one hour from the Alps and hosts a vibrant and intellectually stimulating academic environment that includes major geoscience centers such as the Munich GeoCenter, Munich GeoBio Center, and Origins of Life Munich Initiative. 

Professorship in Geochemistry, University of Munich, Germany
This Professorship of Geochemistry at the University of Munich (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München) should strengthen the Faculty of Geosciences in research and teaching in the area of Mineralogy, Petrology, and Geochemistry. This position is aimed at enhancing interdisciplinary cooperation in geochemical dynamics of lithospheric processes (e.g. magmatic and volcanic systems) on the basis of geochemical experiments and/or field observations. We expect a willingness to explore synergies with experimental volcanology, with the research and teaching unit in mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry, as well as with the Munich Geocenter. The Faculty of Geosciences invites applications for a Professorship (W2) (6 years/tenure track) of Geochemistry commencing on October 1, 2018.

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, DC, USA
The Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution for Science seeks a highly qualified and motivated postdoctoral research scientist to develop a better understanding of the geochemical evolution of the Earth’s mantle and crust using geodynamical and geochemical modeling. The postdoc will work primarily with DTM researchers Peter van Keken and Erik Hauri. This project is funded for two years by NSF CSEDI with the primary goal to improve understanding of the geochemical consequences of geodynamical models of planetary-scale mantle convection, in an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment. The ideal candidate will have a strong background in geodynamical modeling, geochemical modeling, or both. Experience in Python and shell scripting on linux computers is essential; experience with C++, Fortran, and/or parallel computing is a plus. The successful candidate will become part of an active solid Earth geophysics and geochemistry group that has ten staff scientists and several postdocs that study the structure, composition, and dynamics of the Earth and solar system. Application deadline: 1 November 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 (DTM) 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. Astronomy and planetary science at DTM focuses on the origin and evolution of stars and planets. We are seeking theorists and observers working in the fields of star and planet formation, extrasolar planet detection and characterization, planetary astronomy, and astrochemistry. DTM staff scientists Alan Boss and John Chambers head the theoretical effort to understand the formation of stellar and planetary systems. Paul Butler is a leader in the spectroscopic search for extrasolar planets. Alycia Weinberger observes circumstellar disks, including nearby debris and protoplanetary disks. Scott Sheppard studies small, primordial bodies in our Solar System. Astronomy fellows are eligible to apply for time at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, including the twin 6.5-m Magellan telescopes. Scientific computing resources available to the campus include the Carnegie Memex cluster in addition to local computing resources. Application deadline: 1 December 2017

2018 Carnegie Fellowships for the Geophysical Laboratory
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.

DCO in the News

Read more DCO News here

7 September 2017: A brief history of origin theories
By Mary Beth Griggs for Popular Science
From spontaneous materializing to a "warm little pond..."

7 September 2017: A new finding raises an old question: Where and when did life begin?
By Kat McGowan for Popular Science
Geologists are analyzing ancient clues to tell our origin story...

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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