Background and History of the Subsurface Biosphere Initiative

Related Links

Executive Summary of the Subsurface Biosphere Initiative

February 2005 article in OSU This Week

Download a poster about the Subsurface Biosphere Initiative (pdf format).

In 2004, OSU developed a new Strategic Plan to guide the University's direction for the 21st Century. One plan component was a call to fund six interdisciplinary research initiatives. The goal was to help the University become a leader in emerging interdisciplinary fields by supporting targeted faculty hires, equipment purchases, scholarships and other new program needs. OSU held an internal competition and teams of faculty submitted proposals for the initiatives. The winning proposals were selected in January 2005 and will each receive $300,000 annually for five years.

The Subsurface Biosphere Initiative was among the winning proposals. It was written by faculty from four different colleges and will help position the University as a leader in research and teaching about life below the Earth's surface. Below is a list of the initiative's main goals and planned actions.


  • Establish at OSU a center of excellence in subsurface biosphere education and research.
  • Foster the development of externally funded research centers and programs and large interdisciplinary research grants.
  • Support a top-tier multidisciplinary graduate education program relevant to the subsurface biosphere.
  • Support undergraduate and graduate research experiences that promote student diversity.

Planned Actions

  • Provide funding that will enable the hiring of several junior, tenure-track faculty in key research areas that cross traditional boundaries between OSU Colleges. The new faculty will help teach important courses and fill gaps in OSU's expertise in subsurface biosphere research.
  • Fund a mix of seed research, travel, and faculty time that will help develop and renew large, extramurally funded projects, centers, and programs.
  • Enhance communication and build community among OSU faculty and students in different colleges but shared interests in the subsurface biosphere.
    • Develop a website with information such as a subsurface biosphere faculty directory and lists of research news, courses, and events.
    • Develop an email distribution list that will allow postings of announcements for seminars, courses, funding competitions, positions, and research opportunities.
    • Sponsor relevant seminars by OSU faculty and from around the United States.
  • Help recruit top tier graduate students and support activities of the NSF-funded graduate fellowship program called the OSU-PSU Earth Subsurface Biosphere IGERT program.
  • Provide undergraduate and graduate research opportunities for women and minority students. For example, provide paid undergraduate internships and work with programs such as Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) and Women and Minorities in Engineering (WME).