C-DEBI Newsletter – September 4, 2018
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Publications & Press

Radiolytic H2 Production in Martian Environments - NEW!
Mary E. Dzaugis, Arthur J. Spivack, Steven L. D’Hondt*
*C-DEBI Contribution 388

Hydrogen, produced by water radiolysis, has been suggested to support microbial communities on Mars. We quantitatively assess the potential magnitude of radiolytic H2 production in wet martian environments (the ancient surface and the present subsurface) based on the radionuclide compositions of (1) eight proposed Mars 2020 landing sites, and (2) three sites that individually yield the highest or lowest calculated radiolytic H2 production rates on Mars. For the proposed landing sites, calculated H2 production rates vary by a factor of ∼1.6, while the three comparison sites differ by a factor of ∼6. Rates in wet martian sediment and microfractured rock are comparable with rates in terrestrial environments that harbor low concentrations of microbial life (e.g., subseafloor basalt). Calculated H2 production rates for low-porosity (<35%), fine-grained martian sediment (0.12–1.2 nM/year) are mostly higher than rates for South Pacific subseafloor basalt (∼0.02–0.6 nM/year). Production rates in martian high-porosity sediment (>35%) and microfractured (1 μm) hard rock (0.03 to <0.71 nM/year) are generally similar to rates in South Pacific basalt, while yields for larger martian fractures (1 and 10 cm) are one to two orders of magnitude lower (<0.01 nM/year). If minerals or brine that amplify radiolytic H2 production rates are present, H2 yields exceed the calculated rates.

Environmental Microbiology
Variation in electrode redox potential selects for different microorganisms under cathodic current flow from electrodes in marine sediments - NEW!
Bonita R. Lam, Annette R. Rowe*, Kenneth H. Nealson*
*C-DEBI Contribution 433

Extracellular electron transport (EET) is a microbial process that allows microorganisms to transport electrons to and from insoluble substrates outside of the cell. Although progress has been made in understanding how microbes transfer electrons to insoluble substrates, the process of receiving electrons has largely remained unexplored. We investigated redox potentials favourable for donating electrons to dissolved and insoluble components in Catalina Harbor marine sediment by combining electrochemical techniques with geochemistry and molecular methods. Working electrodes buried in sediment microcosms were poised at seven redox potentials between −300 and −750 mV versus Ag/AgCl using a three‐electrode system. In electrode biofilms recovered after 2‐month incubations, overall community diversity increased with more negative redox potentials. Abundances of known EET‐capable groups (e.g., Alteromonadales and Desulfuromonadales) varied with redox potential. Motility and chemotaxis genes were found in greater abundance in electrode communities, suggesting a possible selective advantage of these pathways for colonization and utilization of the electrode. Our enrichments demonstrated the validity of this approach in capturing groups known, as well as novel groups (e.g., Campylobacterales) that perform EET. The diverse nature of the enriched cathode communities suggest that insoluble substrate oxidation may be a critical, although poorly described microbial metabolic process in marine sediment.

Environmental Microbiology
Elemental sulfur reduction in the deep-sea vent thermophile, Thermovibrio ammonificans - NEW!
Benjamin I. Jelen, Donato Giovannelli*, Paul G. Falkowski, Costantino Vetriani*
*C-DEBI Contribution 434

The reduction of elemental sulfur is an important energy‐conserving pathway in prokaryotes inhabiting geothermal environments, where sulfur respiration contributes to sulfur biogeochemical cycling. Despite this, the pathways through which elemental sulfur is reduced to hydrogen sulfide remain unclear in most microorganisms. We integrated growth experiments using Thermovibrio ammonificans, a deep‐sea vent thermophile that conserves energy from the oxidation of hydrogen and reduction of both nitrate and elemental sulfur, with comparative transcriptomic and proteomic approaches, coupled with scanning electron microscopy. Our results revealed that two members of the FAD‐dependent pyridine nucleotide disulfide reductase family, similar to sulfide‐quinone reductase and to NADH‐dependent sulfur reductase (NSR), respectively, are over‐expressed during sulfur respiration. Scanning electron micrographs and sulfur sequestration experiments indicated that direct access of T. ammonificans to sulfur particles strongly promoted growth. The sulfur metabolism of T. ammonificans appears to require abiotic transition from bulk elemental sulfur to polysulfide to nanoparticulate sulfur at an acidic pH, coupled to biological hydrogen oxidation. A coupled biotic‐abiotic mechanism for sulfur respiration is put forward, mediated by an NSR‐like protein as the terminal reductase.

Have an upcoming manuscript about the deep subseafloor biosphere and want to increase your press coverage? NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs is looking to coordinate press releases between your home institution and the NSF to coincide with the date of publication. If your publication is accepted, but not yet online with a DOI, contact us for more information.

Science Friday: A Deep Ocean Dive Is Training NASA For Space - NEW!
NASA is exploring a deep-sea volcano off the coast of Hawaii as a test run for human and robotic missions to Mars and beyond. The mission, dubbed SUBSEA, or Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog, will examine microbial life on the Lō`ihi seamount. The mission has two objectives. The first is to learn about the operational and communication challenges of a real space mission through a deep ocean dive. A team of operations specialists and scientists at the University of Rhode Island’s Inner Space Center will serve as ‘mission control,’ while scientists on the Nautilus ship operating a deep ocean robot will stand in for astronauts orbiting Mars, controlling a surface rover. The second goal of the SUBSEA mission is to learn more about the geology and chemistry that support life in the deep ocean, as a glimpse of what alien life might require in places like the oceans of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. In this segment, NASA geobiologist and SUBSEA principal investigator Darlene Lim, oceanographer Julie Huber and volcanologist Shannon Kobs-Nawotniak join Ira to explain this hunt for weird life in the oceans—and what it could teach us about the search for life in space.


Education & Outreach

C-DEBI: Latest Professional Development Webinar now online! - NEW!
Missed the last Professional Development Webinar on “Work-life Balance is Essential and also it can’t Possibly Exist" with Drew Steen (Assistant Professor of Environmental Geology, University of Tennessee)? Watch it on YouTube.

Bigelow: Are We Alone? What Microbes Can Tell Us About Possible Life on Other Planets - NEW!
The field of astrobiology includes the search for life elsewhere in our universe. To learn how to look for life on other planets, we must first examine the limits of life as we know it here on Earth. In this Café Sci, C-DEBI Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Jackie Goordial describes the microorganisms that inhabit some of the most extreme environments on Earth, and discusses how these environments may be similar to other planetary bodies in our solar system and beyond.

ICDP: Training Course on Continental Scientific Drilling
The deadline for applications is September 14, 2018.

C-DEBI: USC students: apply now for the 2018-2019 Genomics and Geobiology Undergraduate Research Experience
We will continue to review applications until all positions are filled.

IODP: How to bring the new JOIDES Resolution Traveling Exhibit to your community


Meetings & Activities

NSTC: Public Comment Period Now Open for Science and Technology for America’s Oceans: A Decadal Vision
Public comment period for the document is open now until August 27, 2018.

C-DEBI: Networked Speaker Series #19, September 20, 12:30pm PDT - NEW!
Join us online for our second Networked Speaker Series seminar of of the 2018 season, featuring Dr. Nagissa Mahmoudi (McGill University) on “Uncovering microbial species-specific effects on organic matter transformation in marine sediments.” Missed the last seminar with Dr. Alma Parada (Stanford University) on “Evaluating the diversity and distribution of novel microbes across physical and geochemical gradients in deep-sea sediments”? Watch it on YouTube.

Goldschmidt 2018: Thursday plenary with Fumio Inagaki - NEW!
Deep biosphere researcher Fumio Inagaki (JAMSTEC) on “Exploring Deep Microbial Life In The Planetary Interior: What Are The Limits of Habitability?”

DOSI: Survey on Deep Sea Data Storage - NEW!
Where do you deposit your data externally to your own lab so that you and others can access it? Numerous databases (OBIS, NCBI, EMODnet) that house marine data are available, some are built for specific projects, organisations, regions or data types, whereas others accept a wide range of data from across the globe. The development of the new international agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) that will be implemented under UNCLOS will start in September. In order to support these negotiations, the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) is interested in understanding the current usage of open access databases. We hope that you can help us by spending a few moments answering the following ten questions on data storage and usage that focuses on the usage of external online databases (data repositories). We expect this will take about five minutes.

C-DEBI: Rolling call for Community Workshop support

C-DEBI: Group Page

C-DEBI: Subseafloor Cultures Database


Proposal Calls

NSF: EAR Postdoctoral Fellowships (EAR-PF) - NEW!
The Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) awards Postdoctoral Fellowships to recent recipients of doctoral degrees to conduct an integrated program of independent research and professional development.  Fellowship proposals must address scientific questions within the scope of EAR disciplinary programs and must align with the overall theme for the postdoctoral program. The program supports researchers for a period of up to two years with fellowships that can be taken to the institution of their choice (including institutions abroad). The program is intended to recognize beginning investigators of significant potential, and provide them with research experience, mentorship, and training that will establish them in leadership positions in the Earth Sciences community. Because the fellowships are offered only to postdoctoral scientists early in their career, doctoral advisors are encouraged to discuss the availability of EAR postdoctoral fellowships with their graduate students early in their doctoral programs. Fellowships are awards to individuals, not institutions, and are administered by the Fellows. Full proposal deadline: September 19, 2018.

NSF: Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Pathways into Geoscience (IUSE: GEOPATHS) - NEW!
IUSE: GEOPATHS invites proposals that specifically address the current needs and opportunities related to undergraduate education within the geosciences community. The primary goal of the IUSE: GEOPATHS funding opportunity is to increase the number of undergraduate students interested in pursuing undergraduate degrees and/or post-graduate degrees in geoscience through the design and testing of novel approaches for engaging students in authentic, career-relevant experiences in geoscience. In order to broaden participation in the geosciences, engaging undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented groups or from non-geoscience degree programs is a priority. The IUSE: GEOPATHS solicitation features two funding tTracks: (1) Engaging students in the geosciences through extra-curricular experiences and training activities (GEOPATHS-EXTRA), and (2) Improving pathways into the geosciences through institutional collaborations and transfer (GEOPATHS-IMPACT). Letter of Intent deadline:  September 21, 2018.

NSF: International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) - NEW!
The International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program supports international research and research-related activities for U.S. science and engineering students. The IRES program contributes to development of a diverse, globally-engaged  workforce with world-class skills. IRES focuses on active research participation by undergraduate or graduate students in high quality international research, education and professional development experiences in NSF-funded research areas.  The overarching, long-term goal of the IRES program is to enhance U.S. leadership in research and education and to strengthen economic competitiveness through training the next generation of research leaders. This solicitation features three mechanisms; proposers are required to select one of the following tracks to submit their proposal.

  • Track I: IRES Sites (IS) focuses on the development of world-class research skills in international cohort experiences. Full proposal deadline September 11, 2018.
  • Track II: Advanced Studies Institutes (ASI) is dedicated to targeted, intensive learning and training opportunities that leverage international knowledge at the frontiers of research. Full proposal deadline September 18, 2018.
  • Track III: New Concepts in International Graduate Experience (IGE) calls for U.S. institutional partnerships and coalitions to develop and evaluate innovative models for high-impact, large-scale international research and professional development experiences for graduate students, as individuals or groups. Full proposal deadline September 25, 2018.

NSF: Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)
Application deadlines: October 22-26, 2018.

NSF: Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) - Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP)
GRIP applications are due December 4, 2018.

C-DEBI: Rolling call for Research Exchange proposals

DCO: Deep Life Cultivation Internship Program

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).

NSF: Arctic Sciences Program Solicitation
Proposals accepted anytime.

NSF: Division of Environmental Biology (core programs) (DEB) - NEW!
The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) Core Track supports research and training on evolutionary and ecological processes acting at the level of populations, species, communities, and ecosystems. DEB encourages research that elucidates fundamental principles that identify and explain the unity and diversity of life and its interactions with the environment over space and time. Research may incorporate field, laboratory, or collection-based approaches; observational or manipulative studies; synthesis activities; phylogenetic discovery projects; or theoretical approaches involving analytical, statistical, or computational modeling. Research addressing ecology and ecosystem science in the marine biome should be directed to the Biological Oceanography Program in the Division of Ocean Sciences; research addressing evolution and systematics in the marine biome should be directed to the Evolutionary Processes or Systematics and Biodiversity Science programs in DEB. All DEB programs also encourage proposals that leverage NSF-supported data networks, databases, centers, and other forms of scientific infrastructure, including but not limited to the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Environmental Data Initiative (EDI), and Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio). Rules of Life Track proposals that integrate across the scales in biological sciences are solicited to support research that spans from the population, species, community and ecosystem scales normally funded by DEB, to organismal, cellular and molecular scales typically funded by other divisions in the Biological Sciences. This track provides new opportunities to advance our understanding of the Rules of Life by new mechanisms for review and funding of proposals that would not ordinarily fit well within one division in the Biological Sciences Directorate. Proposals Accepted Anytime.

NSF: Non-Academic Research Internships for Graduate Students (INTERN) Supplemental Funding Opportunity - NEW!
The PI of an active NSF award may request supplemental funding for one or more graduate students to gain knowledge, skills and experiences that will augment their preparation for a successful long-term career through an internship in a non-academic setting, including the following: For-profit industry laboratories or industry research and development groups; Start-up businesses, such as (but not limited to) those funded through the NSF’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program; Government agencies (all levels) and National Laboratories; Policy think-tanks; and Non-profit organizations. PIs are encouraged to discuss with the cognizant NSF program director activities that are synergistic with the project scope. It is expected that the graduate student and the PI on the NSF grant will work together to identify innovative experiences that add the most educational value for the graduate student on activities that are not already available at the student’s academic institution. Further, it is expected that the internship will be on-site at the host organization and will be research-focused in a STEM field or in STEM education research. The total amount of funding requested must not exceed $55,000 per student per six-month period. NSF plans to fund up to approximately 200 supplements in fiscal years FY 2019 and FY 2020, depending on the availability of funds. Supplemental funding requests may be submitted at any time but no later than May 1, 2019 (for available FY 2019 funds) and May 1, 2020 (for available FY 2020 funds).

NSF: Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS): Funding to Broaden Participation in the Biological Sciences

NSF: Research Experience for Teachers (RET): Funding Opportunity in the Biological Sciences

NSF: Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP)



U Waterloo (Canada): Assistant/Associate Professor Position in Geomicrobiology
Application deadline: October 1, 2018.

Rice: Wiess and Pan Post-Doctoral Research Fellowships
The applications are due on November 1, 2018.

BIOS: Postdoctoral Scholarship in Oceanography

U South Florida: Two Tenure-Track Faculty Positions in Chemical and Geological Oceanography

U Southern Mississippi: Three Positions (Postdoctoral Researcher, Graduate Student, Research Technician) in Marine Microbial Ecology

UTK: Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Center for Environmental Biotechnology

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology: Ph.D. and Postdoc position available

Don’t forget to email me with any items you'd like to share in future newsletters! We will also broadcast this information on our social media outlets, Twitter and Facebook. 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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