Environmental Impact of Microbial Interaction with Deep Oceanic Crust
Funded by the Norwegian Research Council through the FRINATEK program (2019-2023)
The EnterDeep project aims to provide a unique view into the deep biosphere by investigating how microbial activity affects oceanic basalt newly formed in an oceanic volcano.
The primary objective of EnterDeep is to quantify the environmental impact of microbial activity in newly formed oceanic basalt. To achieve this, we will use a novel approach to obtain sample material by drilling through a surface-exposed oceanic volcano, thereby circumventing previous obstacles and for the first time, retrieve newly formed subsurface basalt with the aim of investigating the deep biosphere. Further, we will advance the state of the art by deploying a truly interdisciplinary approach combining comprehensive genomics with atomic-scale mineral dissolution measurements, biogeochemical rate modeling, advanced identification of biomolecules and integrated geobiological data analysis, to quantitatively test long-standing hypotheses. This approach will allow EnterDeep to uncover an entirely unexplored province of the deep biosphere and help to answer a number of long-debated, first-order questions, including estimations of global impact of microbial activity, the fidelity of ancient biosignatures and the nature, origin and distribution of microbial colonization of the upper oceanic crust.