The Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) is a $47.6M National Science Foundation-funded Science and Technology Center started in 2010 with the mission to explore life beneath the seafloor and make transformative discoveries that advance science, benefit society, and inspire people of all ages and origins.
C-DEBI research focuses on the discovery of the microbial life below the ocean floor in rocks and sediments (the deep biosphere) that make up 70% of our planet’s surface. Specifically, we are interested in determining what organisms exist where, how long they’ve been there, how they might be related to other organisms found in continental areas or in the overlying ocean, and how subseafloor microbes help coordinate critical global biogeochemical cycles that keep our planet habitable.
Our research includes field sites across the world’s oceans from the low-nutrient South Pacific Gyre, the young Juan de Fuca Ridge Flank (off of Washington State), the sedimented North Pond in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, to the hydrothermally-active Dorado Outcrop at the East Pacific Rise (west of Costa Rica) as well as hydrothermal vents, seamounts, and many other subseafloor habitats.
C-DEBI uses specialized technologies to collect and analyze samples from the deep biosphere including sensors, samplers, and platforms, deep-sea submersibles, scientific drilling research ships, and ROVs (remotely operated vehicles). In addition, we carry out experimental and theoretical work in laboratories around the country to better constrain and model the subseafloor habitat.
C-DEBI research projects have resulted in over 100 peer-reviewed research publications in high-profile journals including Science, Nature and ISME (International Society for Microbial Ecology) Journal with a third of first authorships by graduate students and postdoctorals. This emphasizes the success we have had in our priority to train the next generation of deep subsurface biosphere researchers.