The Deep Carbon Observatory (known as DCO) is a privately funded, multi-million dollar, multi-staged project, intended to characterize Earth’s deep subsurface biosphere in order to determine current and future impacts on everything from oil to diamonds.
The DCO was initiated in 2007 by Jesse Ausubel, a faculty member at Rockefeller University and Project Officer at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, in collaboration with Robert Hazen, senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory.
In response to the Sloan Foundation’s initial interests, Hazen prepared a two-year exploratory proposal to determine the feasibility of researching the terrestrial carbon cycle, submitting the proposal “The Deep Carbon Cycle: A Proposal for Interdisciplinary Study” in 2007 to the Sloan Foundation for approval.
Sloan approved the proposal and further funded an effort to establish a broad based workshop or series of workshops, with more than 100 scientists from a dozen countries participating. The result of this and subsequent workshops formed the basis for coordinated studies of deep carbon reservoirs and fluxes, deep microbial life, abiotic organic synthesis, as well as issues related to energy, climate and environment.