Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to understand Earth’s variable and uncertain climate. Yet in spite of carbon’s importance, scientists remain largely ignorant of the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of many of Earth’s carbon-bearing systems. The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) is a global research program to transform our understanding of carbon in Earth. At its heart, DCO is a community of scientists, from biologists to physicists, geoscientists to chemists, and many others whose work crosses these disciplinary lines, forging a new, integrative field of deep carbon science. To complement this groundbreaking research, the DCO’s infrastructure includes public engagement and education, online and offline community support, innovative data management, and novel instrumentation.
DCO science is divided into four communities. The Extreme Physics and Chemistry Community is concerned primarily with the most fundamental questions regarding how carbon interacts with other elements under the high temperature and pressure conditions of deep Earth. Scientists in the Reservoirs and Fluxes Community are asking how much carbon cycles into and out of Earth, for example, during volcanic events, and analyzing diamonds and other carbon-containing minerals to document how much carbon is stored deep underground. The Deep Energy Community focuses on the ways carbon compounds, such as hydrocarbons, are created, stored, and interact with Earth’s deep interior, and how organic molecules may have provided the raw materials for early life. And the Deep Life Community is on a quest to document the extreme limits and global extent of subsurface life in our planet. Cross-community research is commonplace, encouraged, and fostered within a flexible research framework.For more information see https://deepcarbon.net/about/about-dco