The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded a grant to MBL Distinguished Scientist Mitchell Sogin to integrate and synthesize the activities of the Deep Life Community, an international team of more than 250 scientists studying the microbes that live deep underground. The Deep Life Community is part of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Deep Carbon Observatory initiative.
Since 2010, the Deep Life Community has pushed the boundaries of the known biosphere on Earth, studying the most deeply buried microbial and fungal life ever accessed by sub-seafloor drilling as well as deeply buried microbial communities on land, accessed by hydraulic fracturing. The Community has published more than 213 manuscripts related to determining:
- the processes that define the diversity and distribution of Deep Life as it relates to the carbon cycle,
- the environmental limits of Deep Life, and
- the interactions between Deep Life and carbon cycling on Earth.
In this grant period, the Deep Life Community will support four major sea-going and continental field expeditions; increase the number of samples in the Census of Deep Life database and continue data synthesis and visualization projects; expand the Deep Life research community through fellowships; and generate publications for continued exploration of Deep Life and for enlightening the public about microbes deep underground.
The Deep Life Community is co-chaired by Sogin and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs of University of Bremen, Germany. Sogin and Hinrichs are exploring the establishment of an International Center for Deep Life Investigation in partnership with Shanghai JiaoTong University, Shanghai, China.
Caption: Geochemical and microbiological indications for methanogenic communities in ~2 km deep subseafloor coal beds. Photo courtesy of Mitchell Sogin.