Workshop to develop deep-life continental scientific drilling projects
Abstract. The International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) has long espoused studies of deep subsurface life, and has targeted fundamental questions regarding subsurface life, including the following: "(1) What is the extent and diversity of deep microbial life and what are the factors limiting it? (2) What are the types of metabolism/carbon/energy sources and the rates of subsurface activity? (3) How is deep microbial life adapted to subsurface conditions? (4) How do subsurface microbial communities affect energy resources? And (5) how does the deep biosphere interact with the geosphere and atmosphere?" (Horsfield et al., 2014) Many ICDP-sponsored drilling projects have included a deep-life component; however, to date, not one project has been driven by deep-life goals, in part because geomicrobiologists have been slow to initiate deep biosphere-driven ICDP projects. Therefore, the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) recently partnered with the ICDP to sponsor a workshop with the specific aim of gathering potential proponents for deep-life-driven ICDP projects and ideas for candidate drilling sites. Twenty-two participants from nine countries proposed projects and sites that included compressional and extensional tectonic environments, evaporites, hydrocarbon-rich shales, flood basalts, Precambrian shield rocks, subglacial and subpermafrost environments, active volcano–tectonic systems, megafan deltas, and serpentinizing ultramafic environments. The criteria and requirements for successful ICDP applications were presented. Deep-life-specific technical requirements were discussed and it was concluded that, while these procedures require adequate planning, they are entirely compatible with the sampling needs of other disciplines. As a result of this workshop, one drilling workshop proposal on the Basin and Range Physiographic Province (BRPP) has been submitted to the ICDP, and several other drilling project proponents plan to submit proposals for ICDP-sponsored drilling workshops in 2016.