Report on the 2015 DCO Deep Life Community Workshop, Lisbon

The meeting brought together 58 Community members from around the world, representing the fields of microbiology, geology, biogeochemistry, molecular biology, molecular ecology, and geochemistry.

The DCO Deep Life Community convened at the Pestana Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, from 6-10 May 2015. 58 Community members from around the world attended, representing the fields of microbiology, geology, biogeochemistry, molecular biology, molecular ecology, and geochemistry.

A major goal of the meeting was to share progress on the various projects that have been supported as a part of the Deep Life Community. The meeting included oral and poster presentations by investigators who received DNA sequencing support through the Census of Deep Life, by teams that worked on projects supported through the Rock-Hosted Community projects, and from the newly-funded Deep Life Community projects. In addition, the Deep Life Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) used the meeting to obtain input from the Community before compiling their next Community proposal.

The meeting featured a number of presentations describing the microbiology of serpentinized settings from around the world, including those in Portugal, California, Newfoundland, New Caledonia, and the Atlantis Massif. These systems represent slabs of the seafloor thrust up onto continents (except in the case of the Atlantis Massif) and host unique microbial communities because of the reduced gases produced within. Researchers reporting on these sites travelled to the meeting from Japan, Portugal, France, and the US.

Three presentations highlighted upcoming expeditions with significant microbiology tasks. Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, USA) talked about this summer’s planned coring of the Atlantis Massif, and illustrated her talk with stunning images of this seafloor rise. Malin Bomberg (VTT Technical Research Centre, Finland) spoke about plans to core a deep hole this summer in the fractured granites of the Fennoscandian Shield, and Verena Heuer (Marum, Germany) described a proposal to drill in the Nankai Trough, offshore Japan, to examine thermally-defined limits to life.

Danielle Gruen (MIT, USA) presented her recent work examining clumped isotopes of methane from a number of sources, many of which were relevant to microbiologists studying the deep subsurface. Gruen’s findings will help tease out the origin of methane, which may be the product of microbial metabolism in different subsurface habitats. Gruen and David Wang (both working with Shuhei Ono at MIT) were among the several students at the meeting whose contributions made the workshop a huge success.

Breakout sessions allowed the Community to discuss key topics related to the future of DCO’s Deep Life efforts. The Deep Life SSC decided several discussion topics in advance, but additional topics were added on the first day of the meeting. The meeting activities received additional attention online, with several attendees sharing their thoughts on the #DeepLife15 Twitter hashtag.


Thanks to Rick Colwell (Oregon State University, USA) for providing workshop details, and Roslynn Sylvan for the group photograph. 

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