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OUR MISSION is to explore life beneath the seafloor and make transformative discoveries that advance science, benefit society, and inspire people of all ages and origins.

WHY a deep subseafloor biosphere STC? In a provocative 1992 essay, Thomas Gold postulated the existence of a "deep, hot biosphere", supported by geological energy sources. Whitman et al., [1998] expanded this concept, collating available data on aquatic, soil, and subseafloor microbes, and concluded that the majority of biomass on Earth may be harbored below the surface of the Earth. The ramifications of a massive buried biosphere of "intraterrestrial microbes" are significant, leading to paradigm shifts in our thinking in the biosciences and geosciences [Edwards et al. 2005, Jorgensen & D'Hondt 2006]. Owing to the vast size of the subseafloor reservoir in the global Earth system, most intraterrestrial microbes reside below the bottom of the OCEANS, in sediments and rock. The potential for the oceanic deep biosphere to influence global biogeochemical processes scales with the size of the subseafloor as a habitat.

WHY now? Despite the potentially profound implications for the existence of a deep biosphere, existing data are skewed toward accessibility and do not permit significant refinement of the global census of subseafloor biomass [Whitman et al. 1998]. Little information exists about the identity of these microbial communities or the abiotic and biotic processes within this biosphere—information that is critical to link intraterrestrial microbes with global processes and to understand the significance of subseafloor biomes in the development and evolution of life. These shortcomings, in their essence, reduce to a lack of prior integration and coordination within this new field; C-DEBI allows transformative advancement through collaboration, coordination, and support, enabled by recent opportunities.

We are at a crossroad in our quest to resolve the major questions in deep subseafloor biosphere research. Three new US-led IODP projects for deep subseafloor biosphere research have been drilled during C-DEBI, headed by our executive committee members and involving many of our science participants. These projects developed independently, with specific sites and scientific objectives. C-DEBI is seizing a unique opportunity to bundle these diverse projects, to accomplish an integrated, global scientific mission.

Our first major science objective is to coordinate, integrate, support, and extend the science associated with these three projects, establishing a new model for conducting internationally coordinated collaborative research in the deep subseafloor biosphere. C-DEBI will establish the technological, collaborative, and distributed infrastructure that is needed to effectively plan, execute, and maximize returns for deep subseafloor biosphere research—now and into the future.

Our second major science objective is to foster and educate an interdisciplinary community of researchers in deep subseafloor biosphere research, with a focus on students and junior researchers. C-DEBI will nurture new projects, through collaboration and networking between new deep subseafloor biosphere enthusiasts and researchers with experience in the logistical and technological "how's" for mounting and executing an IODP project—thereby ensuring precision use of scarce resources and well-informed project development for answering critical global science questions.

Our education and diversity objectives are to educate, inform, and translate knowledge of the deep subseafloor biosphere via a coordinated program across primary, secondary, and higher education programs, and for C-DEBI scientific participants to learn how to be more effective in communicating scientific and technical results to a broader audience.


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