Deep-Sea News

Apply to Sail: Exploring the Deep Biosphere Off Muroto, Japan

Deadline: 10 June 2016

Biomass of subseafloor microbial life is at least comparable to that in the oceans. The massive buried biosphere plays an important on a global scale, in carbon sequestration, element cycles, and Earth's evolution.

In 2012, International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 337 unveiled the presence of microbial life at almost 2.5 km below the sea floor, but a question of deep biosphere community remained unsolved; what is the vertical extent of the habitable zone on Earth, and by inference, the factors that limit life’s maximum depths?

IODP is now accepting applications for scientific participants on Expedition 370 (T-Limit of the Deep Biosphere off Moroto) aboard the D/V Chikyu, operated by the Center for Deep Earth Exploration (CDEX) within the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

Expedition 370, based on IODP Proposal 865-Full, aims to: (1) study the factors that control biomass, activity and diversity of microbial communities in a subseafloor environment where temperatures increase from ~30°C to ~130°C and which thus likely encompasses the biotic-abiotic transition zone, and (2) determine geochemical, geophysical and hydrogeological characteristics in sediments and the underlying basaltic basement and elucidate if the supply of fluids containing thermogenic and/or geogenic nutrient and energy substrates may support subseafloor microbial communities in the Nankai accretionary complex.

To achieve these scientific objectives, the expedition will retrieve sediment and basalt core samples from a site near ODP Site 1174 (Leg 190 in 2000), located in the landward protothrust zone of the Nankai Trough accretionary prism down to ~1.2 km below seafloor (water depth: 4730 m). After coring operations, a string of multiple temperature sensor-loggers will be installed into the borehole down to the basement to monitor the temperature profile for 1-2 years.

The expedition will take place from 10 September to 10 November 2016, including 3 days of port call, and accompanied by shore-based activities at Kochi Core Center (KCC). The Expedition 370 science party will generate samples and data using shipboard facilities on the Chikyu as well as shore-based facilities at KCC to meet major scientific objectives. To this end, the science party will consist of two groups: one aboard the Chikyu and the other at KCC.

• The team onboard Chikyu will be responsible for sampling, quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) including contamination assessments, time-sensitive (bio-)geochemical and microbiological analyses, and IODP standard measurements.
• The shorebased team will gather at KCC on or around 27 September for additional microbiological and (bio-)geochemical sub-sampling and analyses to achieve major scientific goals in the IODP T-Limit project. This set of analyses will include, but is not limited to, cell count of low-biomass samples, molecular analysis, isotopic analysis, biomarker analysis, etc., which will be implemented concurrently with shipboard activities using anaerobically packed whole round core samples directly sent from the Chikyu.

Opportunities exist for researchers (and graduate students) in the following specialties: microbiology, organic and inorganic geochemistry/biogeochemistry, physical properties, sedimentology, structural geology, paleontology, paleomagnetism, petrology, and hydrogeology.

Additional information about this expedition can be found here and in the summary prospectus on the Expedition 370 webpage.

This call is for both shipboard and shore-based scientists for the Expedition 370 science party. U.S.-affiliated scientists interested in participating in the expedition should apply to sail through the U.S. Science Support Program. The deadline to apply is June 10, 2016.

For questions, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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