East Carolina University

To develop the Deep Carbon Observatory's Deep Life Directorate

  • Amount $1,499,989
  • City Greenville, NC
  • Investigator Matthew Schrenk
  • Year 2011
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Deep Carbon Observatory

Established in June 2009, the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) aims to address two fundamental issues: the origins, abundance, and distribution of hydrocarbons (including so-called fossil fuels) and the origins of life, for which carbon is the key element. The DCO has organized itself into four "directorates", each tasked with executing a different element of the DCO's ambitious research agenda. In October 2010, the Foundation supported the launch of the DCO's first directorate, on deep life. Funds from this two-year grant will provide support for the continuation and expansion of this directorate's research agenda. The overarching theme of the Deep Life Directorate is understanding microbial transformations in rock-hosted deep subsurface habitats. Over the next two years, researchers organized by the directorate plan to survey the extent and diversity of subsurface microbial communities, catalogue microbial activities relative to their environmental context, and identify relationships between deep subsurface microbial processes and carbon fluxes. Several innovative approaches are planned. For example, Deep Life researchers will lower incubation chambers filled with pre-characterized mineral substrates into boreholes and fracture systems and then observe and measure what ensues. In surface labs, researchers will examine cells that tolerate temperatures above 100 degrees centigrade and pressures approaching 20,000 atmospheres.

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