PROJECT

Biology Meets Subduction

On 11 February 2017, 25 researchers from six nations met in San Jose, Costa Rica for a 12-day sampling expedition across the Costa Rica volcanic arc. Members of the four Deep Carbon Observatory Science Communities are conducting a scientific investigation at Costa Rican volcanic sites through the lenses of biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. This multidisciplinary view is affording researchers from different fields the unique opportunity to work side by side, sharing their insights, and asking questions to achieve a broader picture of the role of carbon in this active volcanic arc.

The sampling expedition “Biology Meets Subduction: A Collaborative and Multidisciplinary Deep Carbon Field Initiative” is designed to develop novel connections between microbiology, volcanic systems, and the cycling of living and dead (biotic and abiotic) carbon as Earth’s plates move and subduct past each other. The goal is to determine how carbon is involved in each of these processes. The knowledge gained will shed light on carbon movement between Earth’s surface and interior and the biological and chemical changes that occur en route. This is a unique opportunity for scientists to share perspectives and knowledge, bringing to bear exciting and novel scientific outcomes.

Why Costa Rica?

The team selected Costa Rica as a study site because several other teams have investigated its active volcanoes and subduction zones, providing important contextual data for further exploration. Offshore, the area has been investigated as part of the International Ocean Discovery Program. Onshore, some of the current project’s investigators have already documented a number of the existing conditions where sampling took place.

Biology meets subduction map
Map of the Costa Rica convergent margin showing the location of active volcanoes, previously investigated hot springs (with associated temperatures) and ODP/IODP archival cores.
Credit: Josh Wood/DCO Engagement Team

Carbon is stored in ocean sediments, as well as in Earth’s mantle and crust. Each of these “storage areas” serves as a carbon reservoir. Carbon flux is the term for carbon movement between reservoirs.

Many questions exist about the influence of biological processes on carbon flux. This investigation will help scientists better predict how carbon moves in and out of Earth on a global basis and how that movement is related to biological processes.

Because this project is exploratory, it will improve what we know about how carbon moves, but also is offering vast opportunities for surprising new discoveries. Another unique aspect is that the lead investigators are early career scientists (within seven years of being awarded a PhD), who have aligned themselves with a strong collection of external with collaborators, many of whom are leaders in their field. What this team learns will inform the field of deep carbon science for years to come.

Research Plan

The team visited 25 field sites over the course of 12 days: Poás, Turrialba, and Arenal volcanoes and springs along the Nicoya and Osa peninsulas. Costa Rican scientists will play integral roles in the logistic and scientific success of the field campaign, with Carlos Ramirez from the University of Costa Rica leading the charge. The local team also includes Gino Gonzalez from the University of Costa Rica, and J. Maarten de Moor, Maria Martinez, Monserrat Cascante, and Ricardo Sanchez from the Observatorio Vulcanológico Y Sismológico de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica (OVSICORIO-UNA)). Together, the local and international team of investigators conducted different sampling protocols at each of the locations, as described below.

Onsite sampling

Principal Investigator Peter Barry (University of Oxford, UK) and collaborator Patrick Beaudry (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) collected fluid and gas samples in the forearc and arc to distinguish biogenic, thermogenic, and abiotic carbon sources.  

Donato Giovanelli (Earth-Life Science Institute, Japan and Rutgers University, USA) and Karen Lloyd (University of Tennessee, USA) led a team of collaborators that includes Lloyd’s graduate student Katie Fullerton, as well as collaborator Heather Miller (Michigan State University, USA). They combined in situ measurements of biologically relevant geochemistry and metabolic activity with ex situ biochemical and molecular tools to investigate the functional and taxonomic diversity of the microbial community within sediments and fluids in the volcanic arc and forearc.

Daniel Hummer (Southern Illinois University, USA) and J. Marteen de Moor (Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica), Angelo Battaglia (Università degli Studi di Palermo, Italy), Giulio Bini (University of Florence, Italy), and Kayla Iocovino (Arizona State University, USA) measured the complete chemical composition of gases from actively degassing volcanoes using a combination of direct measurement and in situ sampling. Taryn Lopez (University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA) spearheaded this part of the sampling plan and was unable to join the team in the field, but will remain heavily involved in the project moving forward. 

Hummer and de Moor, with collaborators Esteban Gazel and Aristides Alfaro (Virginia Tech, USA), sampled volcanic tephras (solid matter, such as ash, dust, and cinders, that is ejected into the air by an erupting volcano) from Turrialba, Poás, and Arenal volcanoes, which contain abundant olivine phenocrysts with melt and fluid inclusions. 

Collaborator Stephen Turner (Washington University in St. Louis, USA) used sophisticated analytical methods to track fluxes from the slab to the mantle wedge, helping to delineate volatile sources and the proportion of deeply recycled carbon. Kayla Iocovino is working to create a box model describing carbon flux at this convergent margin.

Katie Pratt (University of Rhode Island, USA) documented the expedition, blogging from the field and photographing and filming the team in action. Videographers Marcus Lehmann, Brian Cimaglia, Russ Hollingsworth, and Tom Owens, also joined the expedition and are creating short films about this novel field investigation. 
Additional collaborators not participating in the field, but involved in data and sample analysis, include Mustafa Yucel, Matt Schrenk, Shuhei Ono, Rosario Esposito, David Hilton, Christopher House, Amanda Martino, Elena Manini, Constantino Vitriani, Tomohiro Mochizuki, Mayukpo Nakagawa, and Francesco Regoli. 
Since the sampling expedition is now complete, investigators are sharing samples and conducting additional analyses in many laboratories around the globe. The team expects to report out their results in spring 2018.  Check back here as the results unfold.

Additional collaborators not participating in the field, but involved in data and sample analysis, include Mustafa Yucel, Matt Schrenk, Shuhei Ono, Rosario Esposito, David Hilton, Christopher House, Amanda Martino, Elena Manini, Constantino Vitriani, Tomohiro Mochizuki, Mayukpo Nakagawa, and Francesco Regoli.

Since the sampling expedition is now complete, investigators are sharing samples and conducting additional analyses in many laboratories around the globe. The team expects to report out their results in spring 2018. Check back here as the results unfold.

Karen and Donato in the field

 

Expedition Scientists

  • Peter Barry, University of Oxford
    Peter Barry University of Oxford, UK
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    Peter Barry, University of Oxford
    Peter Barry
    University of Oxford, UK
  • Dr. Karen Lloyd
    Karen Lloyd University of Tennessee, USA
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    Dr. Karen Lloyd
    Karen Lloyd
    University of Tennessee, USA

    Dr. Karen Lloyd is an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Tennessee, USA. A marine microbiologist, Lloyd’s research focuses on transformations of organic matter and C1 compounds in the deep marine subsurface. She uses single cell genomics to determine carbon and energy sources for the vast uncharacterized majority of marine microorganisms in hydrothermal vents, cold methane seeps, deep oceanic sediments, and coastal estuaries and bays. Lloyd has participated in six oceanographic cruises, and served as scientific leader for six coastal field expeditions. Honored as a 2015 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in Ocean Sciences, Lloyd is actively involved in DCO’s field investigation “Biology meets Subduction,” helping to lead many early career scientists in a multi-disciplinary sampling expedition.

  • Donato Giovannelli, Earth-Life Science Institute, Japan
    Donato Giovannelli Earth-Life Science Institute, Japan
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    Donato Giovannelli, Earth-Life Science Institute, Japan
    Donato Giovannelli
    Earth-Life Science Institute, Japan

    Dr. Donato Giovannelli is a microbial ecologist working on the microbiology of extreme environments. He currently holds an appointment as a joint EON Research Fellow at the Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo and Rutgers University, USA He is also  a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, USA, and an Adjunct Researcher at the National Research Council of Italy. He received a B.Sc. in Marine Biology (2005) and M.Sc. in Marine Ecology (2007) from the Polytechnic University of Marche, Italy. His current research focuses on two major linked themes: 1) the metabolic and taxonomic diversity of prokaryotes in different geothermally influenced marine ecosystems; and 2) the emergence and evolution of early metabolism. Giovannelli is a member of DCO’s Deep Life community, a leader DCO’s synthesis projects Biology Meets Subuctionand Earth in Five Reactions, and was a recipient of DCO’s emerging leader award in 2015.

  • Daniel Hummer, University of Southern Illinois
    Daniel Hummer University of Southern Illinois, USA
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    Daniel Hummer, University of Southern Illinois
    Daniel Hummer
    University of Southern Illinois, USA
  • Taryn Lopez
    Taryn Lopez University of Alaska, USA
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    Taryn Lopez
    Taryn Lopez
    University of Alaska, USA
  • J. Maarten de Moor, Universidad Nacional
    J. Maarten de Moor Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica
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    J. Maarten de Moor, Universidad Nacional
    J. Maarten de Moor
    Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica
  • Dr. Katie Pratt
    Katie Pratt University of Rhode Island, USA
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    Dr. Katie Pratt
    Katie Pratt
    University of Rhode Island, USA

    Director of Communications
    +1 (401) 536-8813 (Mobile)
    katiepratt2010 (Skype)

    Dr. Katie Pratt is a molecular biologist who uses her scientific understanding to help translate DCO science for broader audiences. She is responsible for a variety of communications and community building efforts for DCO, including writing and editing web content and a monthly newsletter, developing internal and external communication strategies, including media relations, managing DCO’s social media presence, and engaging with the DCO scientific community, helping to build a solid and strong scientific network. She is the Managing Editor for the DCO website. 

Research Team

Updates

Round Two Sampling

Nine scientists from the original scientific party returned to Costa Rica to conduct additional sampling, mainly in new sites from the previous sampling expedition. The group is comprised of Peter Barry, Carlos Ramirez, Patrick Beaudry, Donato Giovannelli, Karen Lloyd, Kate Fullerton, Matt Schrenk, J. Maarten de Moor, and Stephen Turner.  They plan to spend 16 days in Costa Rica, adding to the richness of data already collected. Follow along on their journey on Twitter #subductCR.  

Writing Begins

The Biology Meets Subduction Team took advantage of their mutual attendance at AGU's Fall Meeting in New Orleans. After AGU, the Team extended their stay for another week to begin the process of assessing their results and writing papers. Just like their project, they took a non-traditional approach and shared a large AirBNB house, which allowed them to work for many more hours each day and accomplish a great deal over the week spent together. The team put forward a plan to write 13 papers from their expedition and submit three proposals to make further research possible.

Award-winning Film

A DCO-produced film about the field work conducted during the 12-day sampling program in Costa Rica was premiered at the 2017 Goldschmidt Film Festival in Paris, France. The film won first prize from among 92 submissions. The film will make its American premier in the fall 2017, after which it will be available for viewing and sharing by the DCO Science Network.  Stay tuned.

25 Sites Sampled

Over a two-week span in February 2017, 20 early career investigators sampled 25 different volcanic and hot spring sites in the Costa Rican volcanic arc.

Further Reading

de Moor JM, Kern C, Avard G, Muller C, Aiuppa A, Saballos A, Ibarra M, LaFemina P, Protti M, Fischer TP (2017) A New Sulfur and Carbon Degassing Inventory for the Southern Central American Volcanic Arc: The Importance of Accurate Time‐Series Data Sets and Possible Tectonic Processes Responsible for Temporal Variations in Arc‐Scale Volatile Emissions. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems doi:10.1002/2017GC007141 

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