Meeting Report: DCO Executive Committee Meeting and Field Trips, Oman, January 2015

The Deep Carbon Observatory Executive Committee met in Muscat, Oman, from 30-31 January 2015.

The Deep Carbon Observatory Executive Committee (EC) met in Muscat, Oman, 30-31 January 2015. Attendees focused on DCO’s progress; assessing its first five years as summarized in the DCO Midterm Scientific Report and planning for the end of Sloan Foundation support in 2019. DCO’s existing field studies portfolio and opportunities for additional relevant field studies were major topics of discussion.

The Oman Drilling Project  is the flagship project in a 2014 DCO field studies proposal, and the DCO EC held its winter meeting in Oman to strengthen regional support and planning for the project. Its principal investigator, Peter Kelemen (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, USA), led an optional three days of field trips prior to the meeting that allowed available EC members and local guests and university researchers to visit key field locations in the Samail ophiolite. Additional meetings with Omani and Qatari government officials before and after the EC Meeting were geared to generate additional funding support and to prepare for local permitting requirements.

During its meeting, the Executive Committee devoted significant attention to DCO scientific drilling opportunities, both continental and oceanic. Uli Harms (GFZ Potsdam) presented overarching goals of the International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP) and discussed specific ongoing ICDP projects. Peter Kelemen also presented details of the Oman Drilling Project, which was approved by the ICDP to be drilled in winter 2015/16 or winter 2016/17. With 43 PIs from 8 countries currently involved, the project will provide insight into the subsurface biosphere, mechanisms of active alteration of mantle peridotite, hydrothermal alteration of oceanic crust, oceanic crustal accretion, modes of focused melt transport in sub-ridge mantle, and more.

Hailiang Dong (Miami University of Ohio, USA) presented another potential ICDP drilling project of DCO interest via teleconference. Dong discussed his vision of a so-called “Deep Underground Laboratory,” which will exploit an existing network of boreholes and mines in the Songliao Basin in China as a platform for various multi-disciplinary research objectives. In addition, Matt Schrenk (Michigan State University, USA) reported on a recent DCO Deep Life Community meeting aimed at developing a new research plan in collaboration with ICDP. With microbiology taking the lead, he and his colleagues hope that they can craft an important series of experiments to address many important questions in biogeochemistry.

The EC also discussed International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) opportunities for DCO science. Following this theme, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs (University of Bremen, Germany) joined the meeting via teleconference to brief the Committee on the status of his IODP proposal to utilize the Japanese drillship Chikyu to study subseafloor microbial communities situated in temperatures ranges that cover the putative temperature limit of microbial life in anoxic sedimentary systems. 

The DCO field opportunity topic was further explored with Bernard Marty (IPGP, France) sharing news of his recent work in Hawaii (USA) and his planned return to Afar (Ethiopia). Fieldwork in these regions focuses on large scale degassing, and Marty’s presentation launched a spirited dialog among those assembled as to the importance of non-volcanic degassing of carbon dioxide. Marty’s excellent photos from his fieldwork inspired lively discussion regarding the acquisition, curation, and display of photos and film from DCO field expeditions.

Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA), Jesse Ausubel (Sloan Foundation/Rockefeller University, USA), and Sara Hickox (University of Rhode Island, USA) led additional discussion of DCO synthesis activities, highlighting the need to begin concrete planning for 2019 immediately. Russell Hemley (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA) added to this topic, focusing his attention on the DCO bibliography as a means to foster the development and recognition of deep carbon science as a burgeoning new scientific field.

The meeting also included a round-table discussion of what DCO needs at its mid-point to accomplish its decadal scientific mission. While concrete ideas were brought to the table, the key aspect of the discussion revolved around ways of bringing together scientists from different DCO communities (Extreme Physics and Chemistry, Reservoirs and Fluxes, Deep Energy, and Deep Life). The committee also discussed tangible ways to address DCO’s successes in 2019, a directive necessitating a careful and objective re-assessment of the decadal goals.

The committee also discussed the upcoming Second DCO International Science Meeting, which will take place at the end of March 2015 at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany. Craig Manning (UCLA, USA), as head of the meeting program committee, and the meeting’s local host Don Dingwell (Ludwig-Maximillians University, Germany) provided an overview of the meetings structure and agenda.

Overall, the meeting represented an important moment of retrospection and assessment, but ended on a note of anticipation for the next five years of deep carbon science.  


All images by Katie Pratt and Bernard Marty. Many more photos from the meeting are available here

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