Knowledge of the deep subsurface biosphere is limited due to difficulties in recovering materials. Deep drilling projects provide access to the subsurface; however, contamination introduced during drilling poses a major obstacle in obtaining clean samples. To monitor contamination during the 2005 International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP)-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) deep drilling of the Chesapeake Bay impact structure, four methods were utilized. Fluorescent microspheres were used to mimic the ability of contaminant cells to enter samples through fractures in the core material during retrieval. Drilling mud was infused with a chemical tracer (Halon 1211) in order to monitor penetration of mud into cores. Pore water from samples was examined using excitation-emission matrix (EEM) fl uorescence spectroscopy to characterize dissolved organic carbon (DOC) present at various depths. DOC signatures at depth were compared to signatures from drilling mud in order to identify potential contamination. Finally, microbial contaminants present in drilling mud were identified through 16S ribosomal deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) clone libraries and compared to species cultured from core samples. Together, these methods allowed us to categorize the recovered core samples according to the likelihood of contamination. Twenty-two of the 47 subcores that were retrieved were free of contamination by all the methods used and were subsequently used for microbiological culture and culture-independent analysis. Our approach provides a comprehensive assessment of both particulate and dissolved contaminants that could be applied to any environment with low biomass. ?? 2009 The Geological Society of America.