Two New Sloan Foundation Grants for Deep Carbon Science

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is supporting two new deep carbon science projects. “Carbon Down Under” and “Carbon Mineral Evolution” will grow the deep carbon science community and its scientific reach, while continuing DCO’s mission into the next decade.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation recently announced two new Officer’s Grants for deep carbon science, supporting important community building and modeling efforts. These new projects will invigorate a community of scientists committed to understanding the evolution of deep carbon through deep time through 2019 and beyond. 

“Carbon Down Under: Galvanizing Australia’s research community for the next decade of deep-time Earth modeling and visualization of deep carbon science” will empower emerging leaders in the Australian research community. The project PI, Sabin Zahirovic, has been part of the DCO Science Network for several years, and is a key collaborator in the modeling and visualization forum. Along with Dietmar Müller and their colleagues at the University of Sydney, Australia, Zahirovic has pioneered the use of GPlates, modeling the tectonic drivers of deep carbon through deep time with publicly-accessible and user-friendly tectonic reconstructions over the last one billion years of Earth history. 

GPlates in action
An example of the GPlates interface. Credit: Sabin Zahirovic

The new grant will fund a two-day workshop in mid-2019 that will showcase DCO advances in research and technology since 2009, and stimulate future deep carbon research and collaboration across the Australian research community. New community data, models and workflows will be constructed and adapted to enable knowledge discovery in a ‘big data’ framework. The workshop will be followed by an optional field trip to key geological sites along the coast south of Sydney.

“Carbon Mineral Evolution: Synthesis and integration of diversity and distribution relationships through space and time” will delve into the diversity and distribution of Earth’s carbon-bearing minerals. Led by Robert Downs of the University of Arizona, USA, this project will apply analytical and visualization methods to open-access data resources in an effort to document Earth’s co-evolving geosphere and biosphere over deep time. Downs will work with DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA) to realize this effort, bringing to bear several years of fruitful collaboration in mineral evolution and ecology. 

This project encompasses four interconnected themes. Downs and colleagues will examine the philosophical questions of applying “biological” words like “evolution” and “species” to Earth’s changing mineralogy. They also will add to the quantity and richness of carbon data in the Mineral Evolution Database, develop a deep-time, interactive, global map of Earth’s carbon-bearing minerals using the GPlates platform, and create new open-access, interactive visualizations of carbon mineral diversity and distribution. 

“One of our exciting goals is to have an interactive database that contains the important properties of carbon minerals as a function of time and location, providing a resource both for us and others to explore,” said Downs.

Both of these newly funded initiatives will complement those already underway as part of DCO’s Synthesis efforts, integrating ten years of research and discovery. You can find out more about DCO Synthesis here

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