Winners of the 2019 DCO Emerging Leader Award. From left to right: Sergey Lobanov, Cara Magnabosco, Shaunna Morrison, and Ding Pan. Read more...
Letter from the Director
DCO continues to report discoveries across the entire breadth of deep carbon science. In a paper published in Science, DCO members Daniel Frost, Catherine McCammon, and colleagues provide evidence that a “carbon pump” and “diamond factory” would operate in a deep magma ocean during Earth’s early history. This carbon pump might have been important for moving CO2 from the atmosphere into the mantle, explaining Earth’s carbon-rich interior and influencing the composition of its atmosphere.
In another contribution from DCO’s Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community, Ding Pan and his graduate student Nore Stolte conducted ab initio molecular dynamics simulations of aqueous fluids at pressure and temperature conditions similar to those in Earth’s upper mantle and determined that carbonic acid is an important carbon carrier in the deep carbon cycle.
Anaïs Cario, Gina Oliver, and Karyn Rogers describe the Pressurized Underwater Sampler Handler (PUSH50), a DCO instrumentation initiative designed to maintain in situ pressure while sampling and cultivating subsurface microorganisms. By avoiding decompression entirely, these and other researchers hope to refine our understanding of deep life and its contributions to global biogeochemical cycles.
In other research on deep life, Avishek Dutta, Pinaki Sar, Himadri Bose, Douglas Bartlett, and colleagues explored archaeal communities in the deep terrestrial subsurface underneath the Deccan Traps, India and the genomic basis of pressure tolerance of a microbial community within the Deccan traps.
DCO members Gustavo Ramírez, Beth Orcutt, and colleagues investigated the ecology of subseafloor crustal biofilms by conducting experiments at subseafloor observatories in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. They determined that biofilm community structure is driven by temperature rather than mineralogy, and that rare planktonic lineages colonize the crustal biofilms.
DCO scientists Kate Laxton, Emma Liu, and colleagues deployed novel technologies to sample lava and measure carbon dioxide emissions during a recent field expedition to Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania, the world’s only natrocarbonitite volcano, which is renowned for its low viscosity, carbon-rich lava.
As part of DCO’s plans to launch the next decade of deep carbon science, we are facilitating sessions on deep carbon science at conferences in 2020. The JpGU-AGU Joint Meeting 2020 session proposal deadline is 11 October 2019. The Goldschmidt 2020 session and workshop proposal deadline is 18 October 2019. The nomination deadline for 2020 Geochemistry Fellows of the Geochemical Society and European Association of Geochemistry is 31 October 2019. Please continue organizing deep carbon science sessions at conferences and nominating your DCO colleagues for awards in 2020 and beyond.
Congratulations to Sergey Lobanov, Cara Magnabosco, Shaunna Morrison, and Ding Pan for receiving the 2019 DCO Emerging Leader Awards. Fittingly, the DCO Emerging Leader Awards will be presented at Deep Carbon 2019: Launching the Next Generation of Deep Carbon Science.
Craig Schiffries, DCO Director
Carnegie Institution for Science, Geophysical Laboratory
Washington DC, USA
The Early Magma Ocean Turned Earth into a ‘Diamond Factory’
Many questions remain about Earth’s formation around 4.6 billion years ago. Why does Earth store so much carbon in the mantle, but not other elements, like hydrogen and nitrogen? How did the first oxidized compounds necessary for life, like carbon dioxide and water, leak from Earth’s interior to accumulate at the surface? Now a new study may explain both these mysteries. DCO scientists Daniel Frost, Catherine McCammon (both at University of Bayreuth, Germany), and colleagues replicated the “magma ocean” stage of Earth’s evolution that occurred when a giant impact blasted off enough rock to create the Moon and melted the rocky planet. They discovered that under high-pressure and temperature conditions deep in the molten magma ocean, iron likely displayed some surprising chemical behavior. Its unusual activity may have helped to oxidize the surface and create a “carbon pump” that moved carbon dioxide into the mantle where it formed diamonds. This behavior may be one reason why Earth supports life, while its neighbor Venus, which never experienced a magma ocean phase, suffocates inside a thick, carbon dioxide rich atmosphere. The novel findings are published in a new paper in Science. Read more...
Subseafloor Biofilms Grow with the Flow
The crust beneath the seafloor is a vast but remote habitat, peppered with poorly studied microbes in its deep, dark crevices. Scientists have tapped into subsurface aquifers to study the organisms living in the fluids, but determining what kinds of microbes cling to the rocks is a much more challenging endeavor. Ocean drilling expeditions bring up rock cores full of microbes, but these samples tend to be contaminated with drilling fluids. To sample the biofilms living within the rocks, researchers decided to go fishing for them, using different rock types as bait. In a new paper in Frontiers in Microbiology, Deep Life Community Members Gustavo Ramírez (University of Rhode Island, USA), Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, USA), and colleagues analyzed the biofilms that grew on rocks placed in the path of subsurface water flow. They discovered that the attached communities were sourced from rare free-swimming microbes in the same environment, and that temperature played a large role in determining which microbes colonized the rocks. Read more...
Microbes in Deccan Traps Go to Extremes
About 65 million years ago, massive volcanic eruptions spread lava over an estimated 1.5 million square kilometers in India creating the Deccan Traps. In the millions of years since, the Traps have eroded into impressive layered rock formations and microbes have colonized their fissures and fluids. Only recently have scientists been able to access these microbes through scientific drilling expeditions and figure out how they survive within these deep, nutrient-limited rocks. In two new publications, DCO Deep Life Community members Avishek Dutta, Pinaki Sar, Himadri Bose (all at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India), Douglas Bartlett (University of California San Diego, USA), and colleagues further illuminate these deep communities. The researchers explored the archaea living within the Deccan Traps basalt and the underlying 2.5 billion-year-old granite basement layer. They also investigated how these “extremophiles,” which are microbes that survive in seemingly inhospitable environments, survive the heat and intense pressure of the Deccan Traps. Despite the challenging conditions, microbes persist in this environment and actively contribute to deep biogeochemical cycles. Read more...
Carbon Dioxide in Deep Waters: Sparkling Water or Acid?
When studying the deep carbon cycle, scientists can’t afford to discount the actions of water, which is an important vehicle moving carbon between the surface and subsurface. But what form does carbon dioxide take when dissolved in water? At the surface, this mixture is just sparkling water, but recent research has shown that these compounds behave very differently under the high temperatures and pressures found in the mantle. A new paper by DCO Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community member Ding Pan (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, China) and his graduate student Nore Stolte, suggests that carbon dioxide turns into carbonic acid under upper mantle conditions. The researchers used complex computer simulations to predict how the molecules would behave under a range of elevated pressures and temperatures. If large amounts of carbonic acid exist in watery mantle fluids, that could impact the pH of the upper mantle and how fluids dissolve minerals in deep Earth. The researchers report their findings in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. Read more...
The PUSH for High-Pressure Microbiology
Microbes in the deep biosphere exist at pressures that would crush most surface organisms. At one kilometer beneath the ocean’s surface, for example, a person would experience about 100 times the pressure at sea level, which is equivalent to a cow standing on every square inch of the body. And even deeper into the ocean, and the underlying seafloor sediments, and ocean crust, the pressure only continues to grow. These seemingly extreme pressures are part of everyday life for deep microbes. To obtain a complete picture of what’s going on in the subsurface, scientists need to study microbes under these native pressure conditions. In a new paper in Frontiers in Earth Science, DCO Deep Life Community members Anaïs Cario, Gina Oliver, and Karyn Rogers (all at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA) discuss the challenges of sampling and culturing microbes under constant high pressure, and also highlight recent technological advances. They describe the Pressurized Underwater Sampler Handler (PUSH50), supported by the DCO, which is designed to maintain in situ pressure during sampling and throughout the transfer and culturing process in the lab. By applying this technology to conduct experiments that avoid decompression entirely, the researchers hope to refine our understanding of deep life and its contributions to global biogeochemical cycles. Read more...
Field Report: Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano, Tanzania
In 2007, Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in Tanzania erupted explosively, creating a deep crater. Previously, the crater had been filled to overflowing with lava and scientists could walk up and collect a sample with a spoon. A year after the eruption, lava again began to bubble up at the base of the 100-meter-deep crater, but it appeared far out of the reach of scientists. Rather than waiting for the crater to refill, Reservoirs and Fluxes Community members Kate Laxton (University College London, UK), Emma Liu (University of Cambridge, UK), and colleagues undertook an ingenious and highly successful sampling trip involving rock climbing equipment, cocktail shakers, and hamster balls. They spent eight days and nine nights atop the volcano’s windy summit in late July and early August, working with researchers at the Geological Survey of Tanzania and Dar es Salaam University. By analyzing the composition of the first lava samples collected since the volcano’s eruption, they hope to learn about any recent changes to its underground plumbing system. The researchers also took up-to-date measurements of carbon dioxide emissions to inform more accurate climate models. Read more...
VIDEO: Chemistry pioneer sets her sights on rare earth oxides
Alexandra Navrotsky of DCO's Extreme Physics and Community has developed a levitation technique for measuring thermodynamic properties under extreme conditions. According to Navrotsky, "Thermodynamic properties and melting relations of oxides at high temperature are essential for modeling phase equilibria in the Earth’s deep interior. Because of their role as geochemical and isotopic tracers, the rare earths are especially important." Watch now...
Contribute to Deep Carbon Science on Wikipedia for a Chance to Win $500
In an effort to improve deep carbon science content on Wikipedia, the DCO Engagement Team is offering $500 honoraria to scientists from the DCO Science Network who contribute substantially to the platform by 30 November 2019. We are doing so because Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website in the world, and often the first point of entry for learning. This offers a tremendous opportunity to ensure that DCO’s findings are accurately covered on Wikipedia. Read more...
2019 DCO Emerging Leader Award Recipients Selected
The Deep Carbon Observatory is delighted to announce the 2019 recipients of its Emerging Leader Award: Sergey Lobanov (GFZ Potsdam, Germany), Cara Magnabosco (ETH Zürich, Switzerland), Shaunna Morrison (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA) and Ding Pan (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, China). These DCO awards honor early career researchers for their distinguished performance and unique potential as leaders of the deep carbon science community. The awards have been bestowed on two to four outstanding early career scientists each year since 2015. Read more...
Fifth International Training School on Convective and Volcanic Clouds: Detection, Monitoring, and Modeling, Nicolosi, Italy, 2-10 October 2019
The purpose of the school is to train students in techniques for the detection, monitoring, and modeling of convective and volcanic clouds, state-of-the-art instruments and satellite missions, and the type of studies needed for supporting policymakers, early warning systems, and aviation safety.
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.
Capital Science Evening Lecture featuring Karen Lloyd, Washington, DC, USA, 23 October 2019
Join us for a special edition of the Capital Science Evening Lecture at Carnegie Science P Street, featuring DCO Executive Committee member Karen Lloyd (University of Tennessee, USA) talking about the slow, energy-efficient, and mysterious life deep within Earth’s crust.
The Story Collider, Special DCO Edition, Washington, DC, USA, 24 October 2019
The Story Collider will host a very special edition of its live show for the Deep Carbon Observatory in conjunction with Deep Carbon 2019: Launching the Next Decade of Deep Carbon Science. Five DCO scientists will take the stage to tell their science stories.
2019 AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA, 9-13 December 2019
As the American Geophysical Union marks its centennial in 2019, the Fall Meeting returns to San Francisco, the home of the Fall Meeting for more than 40 years. View DCO sessions of interest here.
JpGU - AGU Joint Meeting 2020, Makuhari Messe, Chiba, Japan, 24-28 May 2020
This joint program of the Japan Geoscience Union and the American Geophysical Union will explore the theme "For a Borderless World of Geoscience". Session proposal deadline: 11 October 2019
Goldschmidt 2020, Honolulu, HI, USA, 21-26 June 2019
Goldschmidt is the foremost annual, international conference on geochemistry and related subjects, organized by the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry. Session proposal deadline: 15 October 2019
Gordon Research Seminar: Carbon at the Intersection of the Biosphere and Geosphere, Bates College, ME, USA, 27-28 June 2020
The Gordon Research Seminar on Deep Carbon Science is a unique forum for graduate students, post-docs, and other scientists with comparable levels of experience and education to present and exchange new data and cutting-edge ideas. Application deadline: 27 March 2020
Gordon Research Conference: Exploring Fluxes, Forms, and Origins of Deep Carbon in Earth and Other Terrestrial Planets, Bates College, ME, USA, 28 June - 3 July 2020
This meeting will highlight the importance of deep carbon science for understanding the various reservoirs of carbon in our solar system - from cores to atmospheres on Earth and other planets, and from diamonds to microbial cells. Application deadline: 31 May 2020
Honors and Awards
Sergey Lobanov, Extreme Physics and Chemistry
GFZ Potsdam, Germany
DCO Emerging Leader Award
Cara Magnabosco, Deep Energy, Deep Life
ETH Zürich, Switzerland
DCO Emerging Leader Award
Shaunna Morrison, Extreme Physics and Chemistry, Deep Life
Carnegie Institution for Science, USA
DCO Emerging Leader Award
Ding Pan, Extreme Physics and Chemistry
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, China
DCO Emerging Leader Award
Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program
The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program is now accepting applications for the 2020 review cycle. The Department of Mineral Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History invites fellowship applications for graduate student, postdoctoral, and senior fellows. Active areas of research include geochemistry, petrology, experimental petrology, volcanology, mineralogy, biomineralogy, environmental mineralogy, meteorite studies, solar system formation, and planetary formation and evolution. The department houses the National Meteorite Collection, the National Rock and Ore Collection, the National Gem and Mineral Collection, and the Global Volcanism Program. Application deadline: 1 November 2019
Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellowships
The Geophysical Laboratory, Washington DC, USA, invites applications for Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellowships. Current research at the Geophysical Laboratory falls primarily within three overlapping thematic areas: Earth and Planetary Science, Astrobiology and the Origin of Life, and the Chemistry and Physics of Materials at Extreme Conditions. Synergies among these thematic areas, as well as links to many closely related research pursuits at Carnegie’s co-located Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, provide Carnegie Fellows with exceptional opportunities for collaboration. Application deadline: 1 December 2019
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.
View more employment opportunities on the DCO website.
Volcanology Data Researcher - Smithsonian Institution, USA
This position is with the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program, located in the Department of Mineral Sciences, at the National Museum of Natural History. The successful applicant will gather and synthesize specialized technical data, prepare text, figures, maps, charts, diagrams and tables for the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, and write the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network. Application deadline: 2 October 2019
Tenure-track Faculty, Hydrogeology - The Pennsylvania State University, USA
The Department of Geosciences at The Pennsylvania State University, in University Park, PA invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position in the field of Hydrogeology, to be filled at the rank of Assistant or Associate Professor, depending upon the successful candidate's qualifications and experience. Application deadline: 10 October 2019
Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences - Washington University in St Louis, USA
The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis invites applications for a tenure-track or tenured faculty position at the assistant, associate, or full professor rank, commensurate with experience, in the field of planetary science. The candidate is expected to perform research in the broad area of planetary surfaces and processes, have or seek active involvement in planetary science missions, and eventually assume leadership of the NASA Planetary Data System Geosciences Node at Washington University. Application deadline: 31 October 2019
Postdoctoral Researcher in Ocean Biogeochemistry - Boston College, USA
The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Boston College is seeking a postdoctoral researcher in ocean biogeochemistry. The successful candidate will conduct research combining numerical model simulations and sensor data from autonomous platforms to understand connections between the biological carbon pump and the marine carbon cycle. Application deadline: 1 November 2019
Assistant Professor (tenure-track) - Earth Data Science, University of British Columbia, Canada
The Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia invites applicants for a full-time, tenure-track assistant professor position in the area of Earth Data Science. We seek applicants whose research addresses fundamental or applied questions in one or more of the Earth, ocean, or atmospheric sciences, using novel data-driven computational techniques such as machine learning and inversion methods to advance knowledge of the Earth system and/or solve geoscience problems of societal relevance. Application deadline: 18 November 2019
Harry Hess Fellows Program - Princeton University, USA
The Department of Geosciences at Princeton University announces competition for the 2020-2021 Harry Hess Fellows Program. This honorific postdoctoral fellowship program provides opportunities for outstanding geoscientists to work in the field of their choice. Application deadline: 15 December 2019
Tenure-Track Assistant Professor Position in Solid Earth Processes in the Lithosphere - Florida State University, USA
The Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the Florida State University seeks a Solid Earth Geologist with preference for a metamorphic petrologist for a tenure-track assistant professor position. The ideal candidate will employ “process” oriented research that provides insight into the transfer of heat and mass in the lithosphere by integrating natural observations, analytical methods, and complementary numerical modeling. Application deadline: 2 January 2019
Multiple Postdoctoral Opportunities in Subduction Zone Science - University of Washington, USA
These positions are fully funded for up to two years, and candidates interested in all aspects of subduction zone geophysics and geology are encouraged to apply. Research topics of special immediate interest include (1) geodynamic modeling of the subduction process (including mantle convection and plate boundary processes), (2) rock physics and geophysical imaging of plate boundary fault zones, (3) structure and stress conditions in the shallow megathrust, and (4) seismology and seismic structure of Cascadia from the volcanic arc to offshore. Open until filled.
IODP Curator International Ocean Discovery Program - Texas A&M University, USA
The Research Specialist III, under general direction, is responsible for promoting the use of the IODP core collections and to conserve the core collection for future use per the IODP Sample, Data, and Obligations policy. We need an individual who subscribes to and supports our commitment. Open until filled.
Geochemistry Postdoctoral Fellow - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA
Berkeley Lab’s Earth and Environmental Sciences area has an opening for a Postdoctoral Fellow to join their Geochemistry Department, to work on a project that involves developing new data-based models and theories of reactive multicomponent Earth-subsurface systems. The research project will involve machine learning and statistical analysis of synthetic data sets generated using the state-of-the art molecular simulations. Open until filled.
DCO in the News
13 September 2019 In Review: Symphony in C
By Heather Smith for Sierra
Robert M. Hazen's new book is a mash note to life's building block—carbon...
10 September 2019 Scientists look for relatives of alien-like rock-eating microbes found in study of Canadian mine
Earlier this year, a team of researchers reported that they had explored what is considered to be the oldest known water in a reservoir nearly 2,500 meters under the surface, in a mine located 550 kilometers northwest of Toronto...
9 September 2019 Bizarre creatures found in mine living off fool’s gold could unpick how life began
By Vincent Wood for The Independent
Sulfur-breathing creatures that feed on fool’s gold in caves have been found thousands of feet below the earth’s surface - a discovery which scientists say has the potential to unlock the secrets of how life began on earth and how it might survive on other planets...
9 September 2019 EQC-funded heavy-duty drones benefit scientists
Heavy-duty drones and monitoring equipment developed with EQC funding by a Wellington research team is starting to have an impact far beyond New Zealand shores in tough volcanic conditions around the Pacific...
8 September 2019 Life-forms found deep in world’s oldest groundwater
By Loukia Papadopoulos for Interesting Engineering
The single-celled organisms don’t need oxygen or sunlight because they breathe sulfur compounds...
7 September 2019 Strange life forms found deep in a mine point to vast 'underground Galapagos'
By Corey S. Powell for NBC News
The rock-eating, sulfur-breathing microbes have scientists wondering what other strange creatures dwell deep below Earth's surface...
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.
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.
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.
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