C-DEBI Newsletter – August 17, 2015
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Phase Two

I have exciting news to report. C-DEBI has just been renewed by the National Science Foundation for another five years! Phase One started in 2010 with the exploration of the deep subseafloor biosphere, especially at three sites — the South Pacific Gyre, the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank, and ‘North Pond’ in the North Atlantic. In Phase Two our research, education, and outreach activities will combine further field exploration with laboratory experiments and modeling. Thank you all for your continued interest in and support of this Center. And keep checking our website and reading our newsletter about ways to get or stay involved with C-DEBI.

Jan Amend


Frontiers in Microbiology
Abundant Atribacteria in deep marine sediment from the Adélie Basin, Antarctica
Stephanie A. Carr*,  Beth N. Orcutt*, Kevin W. Mandernack and John R. Spear*
*C-DEBI Contribution 275

Bacteria belonging to the newly classified candidate phylum “Atribacteria” (formerly referred to as "OP9" and “JS1”) are common in anoxic methane-rich sediments. However, the metabolic functions and biogeochemical role of these microorganisms in the subsurface remains unrealized due to the lack of pure culture representatives. In this study of deep sediment from Antarctica's Adélie Basin, collected during Expedition 318 of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), Atribacteria-related sequences of the 16S rRNA gene were abundant (up to 51% of the sequences) and steadily increased in relative abundance with depth throughout the methane-rich zones. To better understand the metabolic potential of Atribacteria within this environment, and to compare with phylogenetically distinct Atribacteria from non-deep-sea environments, individual cells were sorted for single cell genomics from sediment collected from 97.41 meters below the seafloor from IODP Hole U1357C. As observed for non-marine Atribacteria, a partial single cell genome suggests a heterotrophic metabolism, with Atribacteria potentially producing fermentation products such as acetate, ethanol and CO2. These products may in turn support methanogens within the sediment microbial community and explain the frequent occurrence of Atribacteria in anoxic methane-rich sediments. This first report of a single cell genome from deep sediment broadens the known diversity within the Atribacteria phylum and highlights the potential role of Atribacteria in carbon cycling in deep sediment.

International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 357 Scientific Prospectus
Atlantis Massif Serpentinization and Life: Microbiological, alteration, and tectono-magmatic processes in young mafic and ultramafic seafloor
Gretchen L. Früh-Green, Co-Chief Scientist; Beth N. Orcutt, Co-Chief Scientist; Sophie Green, ESO Expedition Project Manager

International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 357 will be implemented as a Mission Specific Platform (MSP) expedition that will address two exciting discoveries in mid-ocean-ridge research: off-axis, serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal activity exemplified by the Lost City hydrothermal field (LCHF) and the significance of tectono-magmatic processes in forming and exposing heterogeneous mafic and variably serpentinized ultramafic lithosphere that are key components of slow- and ultraslow-spreading ridges. Serpentinization is a fundamental process that controls rheology and geophysical properties of the oceanic lithosphere and has major consequences for heat flux, geochemical cycles, and microbial activity in a wide variety of environments. However, we currently have no constraints on the nature and distribution of microbial communities in ultramafic subsurface environments. Our planned drilling focuses on (1) exploring the extent and activity of the subsurface biosphere in young ultramafic and mafic seafloor; (2) quantifying the role of serpentinization in driving hydrothermal systems, in sustaining microbiological communities, and in the sequestration of carbon in ultramafic rocks; (3) assessing how abiotic and biotic processes change with aging of the lithosphere and with variations in rock type; and (4) characterizing tectono-magmatic processes that lead to lithospheric heterogeneities and the evolution of hydrothermal activity associated with detachment faulting. This expedition will be the first IODP expedition to utilize seafloor drill technology (MeBo and BGS Seafloor Rockdrill 2) to core a series of shallow (50–80 m) holes across Atlantis Massif—an oceanic core complex (30°N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge), where detachment faulting exposes mafic and ultramafic lithologies on the seafloor. We aim to recover in situ sequences of sediments, hydrothermal deposits/veins, and basement rocks that comprise a broad zone of detachment faulting across (1) a spreading-parallel (east–west) profile along the southern wall and at varying distances from the LCHF and (2) a ridge-parallel (north–south) profile into the center of the massif, where the dominant rock type changes from ultramafic to mafic. Drilling the east–west profile will allow us to evaluate how microbial communities evolve with variations in hydrothermal activity and with age of emplacement on the seafloor. We aim to compare microbial activity and diversity in areas of diffuse, H2-rich fluid flow and carbonate precipitation with communities in areas away from the active hydrothermal system and with variable substrates and crustal ages. By quantifying the extent and evolution of carbonate precipitation we will evaluate the potential for natural CO2 sequestration in serpentinizing peridotites. Drilling the north–south profile will allow us to evaluate the nature of the deep biosphere in varying lithologies and to assess the role of the differing rheologies of gabbros and serpentinized ultramafic rocks in localizing detachment faults. This expedition will also include engineering developments to sample bottom waters before and after drilling and to monitor methane, dissolved oxygen, redox, conductivity, temperature, and depth while drilling. In addition, seafloor operations will include deploying borehole plugs and swellable packers to seal the holes at high-priority sites after drilling to provide opportunities for future hydrogeological and microbiological experiments.

Education & Outreach
Collaborative development of C-DEBI resources for community colleges (Peter Tuddenham, Tina Bishop (The College of Exploration), Lynn Whitley (University of Southern California), Pat Harcourt)
To address the educational objectives of C-DEBI the College of Exploration was funded by C-DEBI’s Education and Outreach Grant Program in 2014 to convene a collaborative team to guide the production of online toolkits of educational materials and resources that community college instructors could use to teach about C-DEBI research and the deep biosphere. The project team consisted of 8 to 10 collaborators, including community college instructors, C-DEBI scientists, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, technology experts, and science education specialists. The project drew from the 2013 C-DEBI online workshop “Microbes down below! Exploring life beneath the ocean floor” offered by the College of Exploration, which was specifically designed for community college instructors (see below). The online toolkits kits were designed to be aligned with specific community college course subjects and include materials and information that instructors can use to make connections between the topics in their curriculum and C-DEBI research, practices, or technology. The aim of this project was to reach a nationwide audience of community college instructors, and through them, hundreds to thousands of community college students, by making C-DEBI resources available free on line. These toolkits are presented at for use by all.

Institute for Broadening Participation (IBP): Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in GEO REU (MS PHD’S–GEO REU) Professional Development Program
Application deadline: September 14, 2015.

The Rolex Scholarships
Application deadline: December 15, 2015.

Proposal Calls
NSF: Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)
The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and in STEM education. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM and STEM education. NSF especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, persons with disabilities, and veterans to apply. NSF also encourages undergraduate seniors to apply. Application deadline (Geosciences; Life Sciences): October 26, 2015.

IODP: Apply to Sail on Expedition 365 NanTroSEIZE Shallow Megasplay Long-Term Borehole Monitoring System 
The deadline to apply is August 31, 2015. Register for the August 24th webinar.

NSF: Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM)
Full proposal deadline: September 22, 2015.

National Academies: Research Associateships for Graduate, Postdoctoral and Senior Researchers
There are four annual review cycles and the next closes November 01, 2015.

NSF: Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships (EAR-PF)
Full proposal deadline: January 12, 2016

NSF: Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry Program Solicitation
Proposals accepted anytime.

IODP-USSSP: Proposals for Pre-Drilling Activities and Workshops
The U.S. Science Support Program (USSSP) accepts proposals on a rolling basis for pre-drilling activities and semi-annually for workshops, related to the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP).

Curtin University, Perth: PhD scholarships
Several PhD scholarships are available for national and international students (including fee waivers for exceptional scholars) at the Western Australia Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre (WA-OIGC), Curtin University, Perth. International Recognised Research in current priority areas: Application of biomarkers (organic geochemistry), compound-specific isotope analysis, palaeogenomics, & geomicrobiology to: 
  • Assisting the full realisation of Australia's future natural resources (e.g. petroleum, natural gas, minerals).
  • Studying microbial communities & activities in modern & ancient environments, including the deep biosphere.
  • Establishing new biochemical pathways in extant organisms.
  • Participation in Integrated Ocean Drilling Projects (IODP) & petroleum source rock characterisation projects.
  • Study of global anoxic events & mass extinctions of life.
  • Development of novel tools used in organic & isotope geochemistry & in palaeogenomics/geomicrobiology.
  • The study of climatic trends both past & present.
  • Issues concerning environmental sustainability (e.g. water, sediments, soil).
  • Ecology of modern lakes & monitoring of coastal environments.
Please send Expression of interest, CV and names of three referees to: Professor Kliti Grice, and A/Professor Marco Coolen,

Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne (EPFL) / Environmental Microbiology Laboratory (EML): Postdoctoral researcher position to investigate the microbial community in deep sulfidic boreholes in Finland
Start date: October 01, 2015.

University of California San Diego / Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO): Associate or Full Professor (or Acting) - Earth and Planetary Sciences
Review date: September 15, 2015.

University of California San Diego / Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO): Associate or Full Professor (or Acting) - Polar Science
Review date: September 15, 2015.

IODP/Texas A&M: Assistant Research Scientist – Expedition Project Manager/Staff Scientist – Borehole Geophysics
We will begin reviewing applications on September 15, 2015, but will continue to accept applications until candidates are selected for interviews.

Rice University: Faculty Postition in Earth and Planetary Science
All required application materials submitted by September 15, 2015 are ensured full consideration.

Rice University: Wiess Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Earth and Planetary Science
The application deadline is November 1, 2015.

Montana State University: PhD Position, Astrobiology
The Priscu Research Group is seeking a motivated Ph.D. Student to work on a recently funded NASA Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research (PSTAR) grant.

Don’t forget to email me with any items you'd like to share in future newsletters! You are what makes our deep biosphere community!
Matthew Janicak
Data Manager
Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI)
University of Southern California
3616 Trousdale Pkwy, AHF 209, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0371
Phone: 708-691-9563, Fax: 213-740-2437

Exploring life beneath the seafloor and making transformative discoveries that advance science, benefit society, and inspire people of all ages and origins.

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