Scientific Program Themes

The Biogeosphere above and below our feet:
Towards a better understanding of sustainability
in the environment,
now and in the future

Part 1: Natural Settings

The biogeosphere encompasses many of Earth’s spheres, including the lithosphere, pedosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, and atmosphere. Understanding how these spheres function and interact with each other helps us better understand the Earth as a complex, integrated system that has evolved over geologic time and will continue to do so in the future. This theme invites contributions that identify and characterize interactions across all the spheres within the context of biogeochemical cycling. 

Theme areas include:
Atmosphere, dust, and gases
Soils and sediments
Freshwater, groundwater, and rivers
Coastlines and beaches
Glaciers, ice sheets, and permafrost
Subsurface and subseafloor
Cave, karst, and fractured rock
Petroleum reservoirs
Marine waters and subduction zones

Part 2: Impacts from Anthropogenic Activities

Through the extraction and processing of energy and mineral resources, humans have impacted the Earth since their earliest existence. By perturbing natural environments, whole ecosystems are becoming uninhabitable or destroyed over time, and the resultant waste lingers as contaminants and pollutants in the surface and subsurface biospheres. To address and remediate the consequences of anthropogenic activities, we need to design and implement sustainable environmental practices that account for the nature, scale, and pace of local to global biogeosphere changes. This theme invites contributions that identify how anthropogenic activities impact biogeochemical cycling across the Earth’s spheres, as well as strategies for remediation. 

Theme areas include:
Energy and mineral resources
Mining (terrestrial and seafloor)
Hydraulic fracturing, gas storage, and gas recovery
Gas sequestration 
Biodegradation of inorganic and organic pollutants
Pathogens and pathogen transport
Waste disposal (from landfills to nuclear waste)
Climate change

Part 3: Astrobiology and Earth Analog Settings

The potential for life to exist in space has stimulated research in the investigation of natural settings on Earth as proxies of similar environments on other planets. Understanding the biogeochemical characteristics and function of the biogeosphere plays is an important aspect in these studies. This is because the presence of microorganisms and associated biogeochemical cycling on Earth create direct and indirect biosignatures that can be used to predict the potential existence of past and present life beyond the Earth, through the recognition of these biosignatures. Such settings (e.g., the deep biosphere, the cryosphere, volcanic, subseafloor, karst and other caves, and hyperarid environments) provide critical information about biogeosphere interactions to better inform targeted exploration of other planets.
Theme areas include:
Deep subsurface
Origin and evolution of life
Icy environments
Extreme environments

Part 4: Emerging Tools & Areas of Scientific Inquiry

The development of emerging tools and approaches that integrate field and laboratory systems is essential to understanding the biogeosphere. These methods are especially important for characterizing aspects of the biogeosphere, such as microbial diversity and processes, metabolic activities and networks, and microbe-mineral interactions. Examples of techniques include (but are not limited to) cultivation-based and independent molecular studies (notably ‘omics technologies), isotope geochemistry, ecology and evolutionary dynamics methods, microscopy and spectroscopy, microelectrode applications, and field measurements, as well as computational approaches that range from data management to modeling and machine learning.  

Theme areas include:
Microbial diversity and ecology
Metabolic activities and networks
Microbial geochemistry and geomicrobiology
Microbe-mineral interactions
Microbial fate and transport
Modeling microbial activity, productivity, and biomass
Modeling and computational approaches

Group photo from the 21st International Symposium on Environmental Biogeochemistry in Wuhan, China, 2013.

2023 ISEB & ISSM

About us

The International Society for Environmental Biogeochemistry and the International Society for Subsurface Microbiology teamed up in 2005 for their first joint symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This 2023 gathering of both societies will be the  2nd joint symposium, but separately will be the 25th symposium for ISEB and the 11th symposium for ISSM.