Origins of life on Earth, and how geophysical reactions may have played a critical role in getting the biological ball rolling. Geological history and Life on Earth. Isle La Motte geological history.
Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to understand Earth’s variable and uncertain climate. Yet in spite of carbon’s importance, scientists remain largely ignorant of the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of many of Earth’s carbon-bearing systems. The Deep Carbon Observatory is a global research program to transform our understanding of carbon in Earth. At its heart, DCO is a community of scientists, from biologists to physicists, geoscientists to chemists, and many others whose work crosses these disciplinary lines, forging a new, integrative field of deep carbon science. To complement this groundbreaking research, the DCO’s infrastructure includes public engagement and education, online and offline community support, innovative data management, and novel instrumentation.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow
In 2007, Robert Hazen, a Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory (Washington, DC, USA) gave a talk at the Century Club in New York. He spoke about the origins of life on Earth, and how geophysical reactions may have played a critical role in getting the biological ball rolling. Jesse Ausubel, a faculty member at Rockefeller University and Project Officer at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, was in the audience. Inspired, he sought out Hazen’s book, Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origins. Three months later, he sent Hazen an email.

After two years of careful planning, collaboration, and brainstorming, Hazen and colleagues officially launched DCO in August 2009, with its Secretariat based at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC, USA. Hazen and Ausubel, along with input from over 100 scientists invited to participate in the Deep Carbon Cycle Workshop in 2008, expanded their original idea. No longer were they focused solely on the origin of life on Earth. Instead, it had become clear that to further human understanding of Earth and our place here, carbon, that critical element, had to take center stage.