The Nature study provides a crucial base of comparison between the seafloor and subseafloor microbes, both completely unknown until just recently.
The decade-long undertaking will further bridge the earth and life sciences, a key goal in the emerging field of geobiology, described by Edwards as the co-evolution of Earth and life.
The deep biosphere is uniquely suited for a geobiological approach, Edwards said, since a proper understanding requires genomics, analysis of microbe-rock chemical interactions and a timescale in the millions of years.
Edwards joined USC two years ago as part of its cluster hire of scientists with multidisciplinary interests related to geobiology. With its concentration of faculty in the field, Southern California and USC in particular are regarded as hubs for the geobiology research community.
USC recently hosted the 5th Annual Geobiology Symposium, co-organized by USC post-doctoral student Beth Orcutt, the second author of the Nature paper.
In addition, the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies runs a summer geobiology course on Catalina Island that brings together top students and faculty.
Edwards believes that most people just dont realize how much life thrives in the watery depths.
If we can really nail down whats going on, then there are significant implications, she said. It is my hope that people turn their heads and notice that theres life down there.
|Contact: Terah DeJong|
University of Southern California