From the Deep, a monthly newsletter from DCO
February 2019
Deep Carbon Observatory
simulations of deep carbon
Simulations suggest that at the high pressures and temperatures that would have occurred when early Earth had a magma ocean, carbon forms complex compounds with iron, silicon, and oxygen. The carbon compounds that formed within the magma billions of years ago likely determined how much carbon ended up on the surface compared to the core, and what forms carbon assumes deep in the mantle. Credit: Natalia Solomatova. Read more...

Letter from the Director

This month’s highlights include several exciting new publications. Lars Wörmer, Bernhard Viehweger, Martin Könneke, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, Marshall Bowles, Tatsuhiko Hoshino, Yuki Morono, Fumio Inagaki, and colleagues reported that the biomass of bacterial endospores (tough, seed-like, and dormant) may rival that of slow-growing cells in marine sediments, highlighting an often-overlooked part of the deep biosphere.
Stephanie Carr, Ramunas Stepanauskas, Beth Orcutt, Sean Jungbluth, and colleagues have described a group of microbes that make their home in hydrothermal fluids, called Hydrothermarchaeota. “Studying these unique microbes can give us insights into both the history of Earth and the potential strategies of life on other planets,” said Carr. 
Natalia Solomatova, Razvan Caracas, and Craig Manning used first-principles molecular dynamics to infer that polymerized oxo-carbon species were a significant reservoir for carbon in a terrestrial magma ocean. Their work has implications for diamond formation and carbon transport into Earth’s core.
DCO will have a large presence at the 29th Goldschmidt Conference in Barcelona, Spain from 18-23 August 2019, and we encourage you to submit abstracts to deep carbon science sessions.
As a reminder, please continue to nominate deserving DCO colleagues for awards conferred by scientific societies. The nomination deadline for AGU awards and fellows is 15 March 2019. We also encourage you to propose deep carbon science sessions at the 2019 AGU Fall meeting.
Looking to the future, a growing portfolio of research grants will continue to support deep carbon science beyond the culmination of the DCO decadal program at the end of this year. Karyn Rogers was awarded a $9 million grant from NASA’s Astrobiology Program to support research on Earth First Origins. Other DCO collaborators in this project include Peter Fox, Susan Lang, Douglas LaRowe, Tom McCollom, Andrew Steele, and Bruce Watson.


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

News Features

In Earth’s Magma Ocean, Carbon Chemistry Got Complicated
In the first 100 million years after the formation of the solar system, another planetary body collided with the early Earth, blasting them both into a huge disk of hot gases and melted rock. Earth and the Moon condensed from this disk into two balls of molten magma. Though Earth has long since cooled, the chemistry of that early magma ocean left its mark on the planet. The carbon compounds that formed within the magma billions of years ago likely determined how much carbon ended up on the surface compared to the core, and what forms carbon assumes deep in the mantle. In a new paper in Nature Communications, DCO researchers use a computer simulation method called ab initio molecular dynamics to predict how carbon atoms would interact with other components of the magma ocean. Modeling by Natalia Solomatova, Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community members Razvan Caracas (both at CNRS, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France), and Craig Manning (Chair of the DCO Executive Committee and the Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community; University of California Los Angeles, USA) showed that carbon has a tendency to bond with iron, which may have carried much of the carbon into the metal-rich core. Carbon atoms also formed complex clusters and chains, especially at higher pressures, which potentially seeded the growth of diamonds in the deep mantle. Read more...

Endospores Rival Growing Cells in Ocean Sediments
A diverse group of bacteria called Firmicutes, which can be found in human infections, fermented foods, and a variety of natural environments, have a bacterial superpower. When facing tough times, they transform into tough, seed-like endospores and go dormant until conditions improve, sometimes for millions of years. Endospores don’t need nutrients and are resistant to UV radiation, hot and cold temperatures, and dehydration. They are so tough, they’re even resistant to the methods commonly used to count and identify cells. As a result, scientists often have overlooked bacterial endospores when cataloguing bacterial life in the subsurface. Once DCO scientists started looking however, they found endospores in ocean sediments all over the world. In a new paper in Science Advances, researchers report that the number of endospores in ocean sediments is similar to the number of slow-growing “vegetative” cells, and they become more dominant with depth. The project involved numerous Deep Life Community members, including Lars Wörmer, Bernhard Viehweger, Martin Könneke, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs (all at MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen, Germany), Marshall Bowles (Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, USA), and Tatsuhiko Hoshino, Yuki Morono, and Fumio Inagaki (all at Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Japan). Read more...

Introducing Hydrothermarchaeota: a group of microbes living in hydrothermal fluids
It’s tough for microbes to make a living in the cold, dark sediments beneath the seafloor. Hydrothermal vents, however, are an oasis for subseafloor life. A variety of organisms thrive on the hot, chemical-rich fluids that percolate through these environments. DCO Deep Life Community members Stephanie Carr (formerly of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, now at Hartwick College, USA) Ramunas Stepanauskas, Beth Orcutt, (both at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, USA), and Sean Jungbluth (DOE Joint Genome Institute, USA), and colleagues have described a group of microbes that make their home in hydrothermal fluids, called Hydrothermarchaeota. The researchers report their discovery in a new paper in The ISME Journal. Read more...

Earth First Origins Project Seeks To Replicate the Cradle of Life
The evolution of Earth and the emergence of life during its first half-billion years are inextricably linked, with a series of planetwide transformations underpinning the environmental stepping stones to life, including formation of the ocean, evolution of the atmosphere, and the growth of crust and continents. But how, and in what order, were the ingredients for life on Earth manufactured and assembled? NASA’s Astrobiology Program has awarded a $9 million grant to tackle the question through the Earth First Origins project, led by Karyn Rogers (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA). The five-year project seeks to uncover the conditions on early Earth that gave rise to life by identifying, replicating, and exploring how prebiotic molecules and chemical pathways could have formed under realistic early Earth conditions. The initiative includes fellow DCO researchers Peter Fox, Bruce Watson (both at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA), Tom McCollom (University of Colorado Boulder, USA), Susan Lang (University of South Carolina, USA), Douglas LaRowe (University of Southern California, USA), and Andrew Steele (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA). Read more...

Deep Energy Community Convenes in France for Final Meeting
Deep Energy community Chair Isabelle Daniel (Université Lyon1, France) and co-chair Edward Young (University of California, Los Angeles, USA) brought together 37 members of the community in the snow-covered town of La Clusaz in the French Alps from 28-31 January 2019. Read more... 

Deep Carbon Observatory Webinar Wednesdays Continue
2019 began with a new DCO Webinar Wednesday series highlighting several of DCO’s ongoing synthesis projects. Hosted by DCO’s Engagement Team and Synthesis Group 2019, these webinars involve audiences in discussion about the challenges overcome by these projects to advance science. Tune in at 4pm ET on 6 March 2019 for the third in the series and join EarthByte developer Sabin Zahirovic (University of Sydney, Australia), who will share progress in modeling deep carbon flux over deep time, showcase exciting new visualizations of Earth in action, and weigh in on what might be next for visualizing Earth’s processes. The series will continue later in the month, with Dimitri Sverjensky and Mark Ghiorso demonstrating how the newly-integrated MELTS and DEW models are providing insights into Earth's deep carbon cycle. Read more...

Goldschmidt 2019: Sessions of Special Interest to DCO
The 29th Goldschmidt Conference will take place at the Center Convencions Internacional Barcelona, Spain, from 18-23 August 2019. The full program of the meeting is available here. Please contact the DCO Engagement Team to add additional items to this page. Abstract submission deadline: 29 March 2019

Upcoming Events

DCO Webinar Wednesdays: Expanding our vision of space and time: EarthByte, 4pm ET, 6 March 2019
In this webinar, EarthByte developer Sabin Zahirovic will share progress in modeling deep carbon flux over deep time, showcase exciting new visualizations of Earth in action, and weigh in on what might be next for visualizing Earth’s processes. 

DCO Webinar Wednesdays: Translating knowledge into understanding: MELTS and DEW, 2pm ET, 20 March 2019
Modeling experts Mark Ghiorso and Dimitri Sverjensky are working to create a virtual laboratory. Join the webinar to discuss how this integration is transforming what we know about the deep carbon cycle and how you might be able to use these models in your own research. 

Industry-Rice Earth Science Symposia 2019: Minerals and energy: Science, economics and policy, Rice University, USA, 21-22 March 2019
The purpose of this symposium is to break down the barriers between scientists, policy makers, industry leaders, and business entrepreneurs to collectively generate a deeper understanding of our planet’s natural resources. 

European Geosciences Union General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, 7-12 April 2019
The EGU General Assembly 2019 will bring together geoscientists from all over the world to one meeting covering all disciplines of the Earth, planetary, and space sciences. 

Geobiology 2019, Owens Valley, Caltech, Wrigley Marine Institute, California, USA, 10 June - 14 July 2019
Now entering its 16th year, the International Geobiology Course is an intense, multidisciplinary summer course exploring the coevolution of Earth and its biosphere, with an emphasis on how microbial processes affect the environment and leave imprints on the rock record. 

CIDER 2019 Summer Program: Volcanoes, University of California, Berkeley, USA, 17 June-12 July 2019
The CIDER (Cooperative Institute for Dynamic Earth Research) 2019 summer program focuses on volcano science. CIDER's collaborative and interdisciplinary nature provides an ideal venue to expose students and postdocs to the rich developments in volcano science, to help synthesize ongoing work in volcanic systems, and to help develop new research teams and research directions. 

ICDP Training Course on Downhole Measurements, Kuopio/Outokumpu, Finland, 24-28 June 2019
This training course will encompass the different technical and scientific aspects of downhole measurements and their analysis in scientific drilling, including borehole logging under various conditions and scientific demands, seismic borehole measurements, downhole hydraulic tests, fluid logging & sampling, and fibre optical methods. 

AbSciCon 2019, Bellevue, WA, USA, 24-28 June 2019
AbSciCon 2019 is the next in a series of conferences organized by the astrobiology community. The theme for AbSciCon 2019 is “Understanding and Enabling the Search for Life on Worlds Near and Far.” Abstract submission deadline: 6 March 2019

Goldschmidt 2019, Barcelona, Spain, 18-23 August 2019
Goldschmidt is the foremost annual, international conference on geochemistry and related subjects, organized by the European Association of Geochemistry and the Geochemical Society. Abstract submission deadline: 29 March 2019

YES Congress 2019, Berlin, Germany, 9-13 September 2019
The YES (Young Earth Scientists) Network is an international association of young and early career Earth scientists. The Congress focuses on climate, environmental, and geoscience challenges facing today’s society, as well as career and academic pathway challenges faced by early career geoscientists. 

2019 GSA Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ, USA, 22-25 September 2019 
The annual meeting of the Geological Society of America will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, and includes opportunities for local field experiences.

Fourth Microbial Single Cell Genomics Workshop, Boothbay Harbor, ME, USA, 22-26 September 2019
This workshop will explore microbial single cell genomics and related areas, such as bioinformatics, single cell RNA-sequencing of multicellular organisms, single cell physiology, probing, and imaging. Application deadline: 31 March 2019

Deep Carbon 2019: Launching the next decade of deep carbon science, Washington, DC, USA, 24-26 October 2019
Deep Carbon 2019 will highlight DCO’s many scientific advances, representing the culmination of ten years of deep carbon research, exploration, and discovery. 

2019 AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA, 9-13 December 2019 
As AGU marks its Centennial in 2019, the Fall Meeting returns to San Francisco, the home of the Fall Meeting for more than 40 years. Session, Town Hall, and Workshop submission deadline: 17 April 2019

Honors and Awards

Nikolay Sobolev, DCO Executive Committee
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, Novosibirsk, Russia
Friedrich Becke Medal (Austrian Mineralogical Society)

Award Nomination Deadlines

The American Geophysical Union Fellows, Awards, Medals, and Prizes
For nearly eighty years, AGU has recognized individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of the Earth and space sciences, to the service of the community, and public outreach. Please take this opportunity to recognize a colleague, mentor, peer, or student for their achievements and contributions to the Earth and space sciences. Nomination deadline: 15 March 2019

AGU Honors for Students and Early Career Scientists
Nominate a student or early career professional for a Union Honor and recognize their contributions in Earth and space science. Nomination deadline: 15 March 2019

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. 

New Publications

View more papers in the DCO publications browser.

Carboxydotrophy potential of uncultivated Hydrothermarchaeota from the subseafloor crustal biosphere
Stephanie A. Carr, Sean P. Jungbluth, Emiley A. Eloe-Fadrosh, Ramunas Stepanauskas, Tanja Woyke, Michael S. Rappé, and Beth N. Orcutt  
The ISME Journal doi:10.1038/s41396-019-0352-9

Microbial dormancy in the marine subsurface: Global endospore abundance and response to burial 
Lars Wörmer, Tatsuhiko Hoshino, Marshall W. Bowles, Bernhard Viehweger, Rishi R. Adhikari, Nan Xiao, Go-ichiro Uramoto, Martin Könneke, Cassandre S. Lazar, Yuki Morono, Fumio Inagaki, and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs
Science Advances doi:10.1126/sciadv.aav1024

Carbon sequestration during core formation implied by complex carbon polymerization
Natalia V. Solomatova, Razvan Caracas, and Craig E. Manning 
Nature Communications doi:10.1038/s41467-019-08742-9

Employment Opportunities

View more employment opportunities on the DCO website.

Assistant Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA
The Josephine Bay Paul Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory invites applications for a faculty position at the Assistant Scientist level in the area of evolutionary and functional genomics. The successful candidate will apply experimental and computational approaches to research areas including but not limited to: microbiome interactions, functional studies of host-associated marine microbial communities, evolutionary and ecological changes in marine systems, or genomic and transcriptomic studies of marine organisms. Application deadline: 1 March 2019

Data Scientist - Rice University, USA
The Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences at Rice University seeks an experienced and innovative Data Scientist to build a new Data Science for the Earth initiative and enhance activities in the department’s Visualization Laboratory. The candidate will be willing to cross disciplines and support the software and hardware needs of research in geophysics, climate science, remote sensing, and geochemistry provided domain knowledge from students and faculty. Application deadline: 2 March 2019

Assistant/Associate Professor of Environmental Microbiology - Montana State University, USA
The Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Montana State University invites applications for an Assistant/Associate Professor tenure-track faculty position in the field of environmental microbiology. We seek to attract an exceptional individual to establish a nationally recognized, externally funded research program aimed at understanding the dynamic interactions between microbial life and the environment, to teach both undergraduate and graduate students through development of innovative courses, and to participate in professional/service activities. Application deadline: 15 March 2019

Associate Professor of Mineralogy/Petrology - University of Oxford, UK
We seek to appoint an Associate Professor of Mineralogy/Petrology from 1 September 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. The successful candidate will work at the Department of Earth Sciences and will hold a Tutorial Fellowship at University College. We welcome applications from scientists working in all aspects of earth sciences including petrology and mineralogy. Application deadline: 22 March 2019

Liddicoat Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Mineralogy, Materials Science and Gemology at GIA, USA
GIA (Gemological Institute of America) invites qualified candidates to apply for the Richard T. Liddicoat Postdoctoral Research Fellowships at its Carlsbad, California, and New York City locations. The one- to two-year fellowships encourage early career scientists to pursue full-time academic research in mineralogy, geology, physics, materials science, and other fields related to gemology – the study of diamonds, colored gemstones, pearls, and their treatment. Application deadline: 30 April 2019

DCO in the News

26 February 2019 New NASA consortium to study how life began
By Paul Scott Anderson for EarthSky
How did life originate on Earth and, possibly, other worlds in space? A new NASA consortium has the goal of probing one of nature’s most perplexing mysteries...

22 February 2019 What do we know about life inside deep Earth?
By Nitin Sreedhar for Mint Lounge
If someone had to whip up a recipe for Earth in a big cosmic bowl, the most crucial ingredient in it would be carbon...

15 February 2019 Earth first origins project seeks to replicate the cradle of life
The evolution of planet Earth and the emergence of life during its first half-billion years are inextricably linked, with a series of planetwide transformations—formation of the ocean, evolution of the atmosphere, and the growth of crust and continents—underpinning the environmental stepping stones to life...

14 February 2019 Unusual deep sea microbes shed light on evolution of early life on Earth
By Sandipan Talukdar for News Click
Single celled life called ‘archaea’ are known to be one of the earliest life forms to have evolved on the Earth...

7 February 2019 Unusual microbes hold clues to early life
Science Daily
A new study has revealed how a group of deep-sea microbes provides clues to the evolution of life on Earth...

Learn more about DCO's Scientific Communities


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.

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.

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.

Thanks for reading! Send us items for future newsletters by emailing Katie Pratt of the DCO Engagement Team. 

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