Integrated Ocean Drilling Program

Integrated Ocean Drilling Program

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) is an international marine research drilling program dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth by monitoring and sampling subseafloor environments. Through multiple platforms—a feature unique to IODP— the world’s preeminent scientists explore the deep biosphere and subseafloor; environmental change; Earth processes and effects; and solid earth cycles and geodynamics; principal program themes.

IODP: Investigating Earth, Oceans, and Life

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) brings together hundreds of scientists from dozens of countries and scientific disciplines to conduct cutting-edge investigations of Earth deep below the seafloor. For each drilling project undertaken, IODP employs the best-suited drilling platform available along with complementary drilling tools and technologies. IODP affords scientists the opportunity to:

# recover geological records and rock samples.
# investigate and document ocean and climate change through time.
# explore the presence of primitive life below the seafloor.
# verify remote, near-seafloor observatories.
# gain understanding of how tectonic plates move and recycle themselves into Earth’s deep mantle.

Focus on Earth

IODP scientists pursue new knowledge about Earth’s past to meet today’s global challenges. Two previous scientific ocean drilling programs generated abundant information about Earth’s dynamic nature: tectonic processes, ocean circulation, climate change, continental rifting, and ocean basin formation. Today, scientific ocean drilling continues to provide a powerful tool to study the critical processes related to Earth’s short-term change and long-term variability. IODP expands the scope of ocean drilling investigations, and pushes the limits of technology by providing diversedrilling platforms to meet specific requirements of each planned drilling project.

IODP focuses on ocean basins—rich archives and ideal natural laboratories—to study the interdependence of physical, chemical, and biologicalprocesses. IODP research also centers on those factors that control climate change, the vast circulation of fluids within Earth’s crust,the nature of life on and within Earth, and the dynamics of lithospheric formation and recycling.

IODP was conceived as a 10-year Earth science and research program that started in 2003. Its prescribed drilling activities require weeks,sometimes months of drilling at a single location, a variety of drilling hardware, new engineering strategies to ensure pristine samples,and ventures into harsh and demanding environments. Despite the achievements made during the past 40+ years ofocean drilling activity, IODP continues to pioneer research in “inner space,” investigating expansive, deep subseafloor environments that retain their scientific intrigue well into the 21st century.

Navigating the Route to Discovery

Scientific ocean drilling represents Earth science’s longest running and most successful international collaboration. In 1961 when drilling technology was used to successfully recover the first sample of oceanic crust, scientific drilling took root as a new scientific technique. Aboard the "CUSS 1", a modified U.S. Navy barge and one of the earliest scientific drilling expeditions, American author John Steinbeck, also an amateur oceanographer, documented the historic Project Mohole for LIFE Magazine. Over the next 45 years, scientific ocean drilling revolutionized Earth science, as it continues to do today.

Legacy Programs

The Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP), established in June 1966, operated the "Glomar Challenger" in drilling and coring operations in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, as well as in the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The "Challenger’s" success occurred nearly immediately: Its coring operations enabled DSDP to provide the next intellectual step in verifying the hopothesis of plate tectonics associated with seafloor spreading, by dating basal sediments on transects away from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

The "Challenger" also advanced the technology of deep-ocean drilling. In June 1970, for example, DSDP engineers devised a way to replace worn drill bits and then re-enter boreholes for deeper drilling. This formidable task was mastered in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New York, in 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) of water. The feat required the use of sonar scanning equipment and a large-scale re-entry cone.

Process-oriented Earth studies continued from 1985 until 2003 aboard the "JOIDES Resolution", which replaced the "Glomar Challenger" in January 1985 as DSDP grew into a newly structured program called the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). The "JOIDES Resolution" took its name from the glory of the 200-year-old HMS "Resolution", which explored the Pacific Ocean and Antarctica under the command of the famous Captain James Cook.

The Ocean Drilling Program contributed greatly to increased scientific understanding of Earth history, climate change, plate tectonics, natural resources, and geohazards. ODP discoveries include validation of:
# fluids circulating through the ocean floor;
# the formation of gigantic volcanic plateaus at phenomenal rates unknown today;
# natural methane frozen deep within marine sediments as gas hydrate;
# a microbial community living deep within oceanic crust;
# climate change cycles.

IODP Funding Agencies

National consortia and government funding agencies support IODP science and drilling platform operations.Participation in IODP is proportional to investment in the program.

Lead Agencies

Two Lead Agencies formally established IODP. In April 2003, officials from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which they agreed to form and jointly operate the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Japan’s interest in the post-ODP era was signified when “Ocean Drilling in the 21st Century”(OD21) was established in 1994. OD21 included plans for construction of a state-of-the-art, riser-equipped scientific drilling vessel that could reach Earth’s mantle. A series of international meetings explored how this goal could be integrated with other scientific objectives expressed by scientific communities in the United States, Europe, and the People’s Republic of China. An IODP office at NSF is responsible for administering commingled funds from NSF, MEXT, and other IODP members to support IODP science-operating costs.

Contributing Member

The European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) was established with 12 European countries to maximize the impact of European scientists in IODP. The consortium has since grown into a collaborative group of European nations and Canada that together comprise an IODP funding agency. Working alongside Japan and the United States, ECORD provides the IODP scientific community with access to mission-specific platforms (MSP chosen to fulfill particular scientific objectives. MSPs usually have limited space onboard for labs and scientists and require an onshore science meeting to describe, process, and analyze the sediment samples collected immediately following a drilling expedition.

Associate Members

In April 2004, the People’s Republic of China joined IODP as an Associate Member through sponsorship of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). China’s participation in IODP has given the Chinese marine science community new impetus, and increased opportunity for deep-sea research. Chinese scientists participate in research expeditions and represent China’s interests in the IODP Science Advisory Structure.

The Republic of Korea joined IODP as an Associate Member in June 2006 through the sponsorship of the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM). South Korea’s MOU with the Lead Agencies created the Interim Asian Consortium. KIGAM, the charter member of the new consortium, is expected to draw other Asian countries into its funding agency.

Hundreds of the world’s most prominent Earth and ocean scientists participate in IODP on a voluntary basis. They include researchers and engineers affiliated with the world’s most reputable universities, highly regarded scientific institutions, and government agencies. Participation takes many forms: submission of a drilling proposal; sailing on an expedition; participation in an advisory capacity; attendance at a planning workshop or topical symposium. The program’s central management office, IODP-MI, coordinates an integrated work plan between and among all IODP organizational partners. An Annual Program Plan is written each fiscal year. Included in each year’s plan are objectives and tasks necessary to drilling vessel operation, from science coordination to publications, data management, and outreach. Comprehensive information about IODP is available online at

Uniquely IODP

IODP distinguishes itself from its legacy programs by employing multiple drilling technologies/ platforms and science/drilling operators to acquire sediment and rock samples and to install monitoring instrumentation beneath the seafloor. Through its diverse drilling capacity, IODP is well prepared to investigate critical scientific questions about Earth processes, geodynamics, climate change, and the deep biosphere. Samples and data collected during IODP drilling expeditions are available to scientists and teachers on an open-access basis, once members of the expedition parties have completed their initial studies.

Planning IODP Drilling: Science Advisory Structure

Drilling Proposal Process

Drilling proposals are the energy and lifeblood of IODP. Each originates with science proponents, often scientists who are prominent researchers in geology, geophysics, microbiology, paleontology, or seismology. A drilling proposal, once submitted to IODP, is carefully evaluated by the Science Advisory Structure (SAS), a group of review panels. Only those proposals that SAS judges to be of the greatest value to the science community and that can be successfully realized are scheduled for implementation on one or more of IODP’s drilling platforms.

SAS panels provide advice on drilling proposals to both proponents and IODP management. SAS-approved drilling proposals generally address objectives written into the "Initial Science Plan (ISP)." However, outstanding innovative research ideas are welcome. Drilling proposals are accepted twice a year, in April and October, and can be submitted to IODP electronically via the IODP web portal.

The Science Plan

A ten-year program plan called the "Initial Science Plan (ISP)" guides IODP investigation. Specific scientific themesare emphasized in the "ISP": investigation into the deep biosphere and subseafloor life; climate change; solid Earth cycles;and geodynamics. The ISP authors built on the achievements of IODP’s legacy programs. Their vision articulates a scientific agenda to develop better understanding of:

* the earthquake-generating zone beneath convergent continental margins;
* the complex microbial ecosystem that exists beneath the seafloor;
* the nature of gas hydrates that lie beneath continental margins;
* climate history, extreme climates;
* rapid climate change;
* the role of continental break-up in sedimentary basin formation;
* the formation of volcanic rifted margins and oceanic plateaus through time; and
* drilling to Earth’s mantle to examine and monitor a complete section of oceanic crust.

Tools critical to these goals include a riserequipped drilling vessel, a riserless vessel, additional platforms suited to missionspecific expeditions, enhanced downhole measurement devices, and long-term monitoring instrumentation.

Engineering Proposals

IODP is committed to improving the drilling, sampling, and borehole observatory capabilities of the scientific ocean drilling program. An engineering proposal submission process, initiated in April 2007, facilitates the acquisition of existing or latent technology to be used in future IODP operations.

Science and Drilling Operators

Drilling operations are conducted and managed by three IODP Implementing Organizations (IOs):

* USIO, the United States Implementing Organization, carries out expeditions on a riserless drilling vessel;
* ESO, the ECORD Science Operator, manages missionspecific expeditions on various platforms;
* JPIO, the Japan Implementing Organization, manages operations aboard a riserequipped drilling vessel.

Each drilling expedition is led by a team of co-chief scientists, with an international team of scientists supported by an IO staff scientist. Each IO provides a combination of services: technical, operational, and financial management; logging; laboratory; core repository; data management; and publication. Although each IO is responsible for its own platform operations and performance, its science operations are funded by the Lead Agencies.

Drilling Vessels and Platforms

IODP employs two dedicated drilling vessels, each sponsored by a Lead Agency and managed by the respective IO. Each drilling vessel has a unique history.

"JOIDES Resolution" - Riserless

The U.S.-sponsored drilling vessel was operated throughout the Ocean Drilling Program and the first phase of IODP. In renewing its commitment to scientific ocean drilling, the United States opted to give the vessel a “makeover.” When the vessel sails again for IODP, it will boast improved laboratory space; improved drilling, coring, and sampling capacity; and enhanced health, safety, and environmental protection systems on board.

"Chikyu" - Riser-Equipped

Japan began building a stateof-the-art scientific drilling vessel for research in 2001. Planned to take Japan into a new frontier of Earth and life science exploration, the vessel’s visionary creators sought to build a vessel that could reach the Earth’s mantle and drill into an active seismogenic zone. The resulting drilling vessel, Chikyu—which translates to mean Planet Earth—features high-tech laboratories, a riser drilling system, a dynamic positioning system, a highdensity mud circulation system to prevent borehole collapse during drilling, and much more. Chikyu can berth 150 people, cruise at 12 knots, and drill more than 7,000 meters below the seafloor in water depths that exceed 2,000 meters.


ECORD commissions ships on an expedition-by-expedition basis, depending on specific scientific requirements and the environment in which it willconduct scientific investigations. ECORD contracted the useof three icebreakers for the Arctic Coring Expedition, and retrofitted a diving vessel for use in shallow Tahitian waters, where scientists needed to sample fossil coral reefs to investigate the rise in global sea levels since the last ice age. Mission-specific expeditions require flexibility.

Extending IODP to the Greater Science Community

IODP aims to extend the boundaries of its research community and create a positive and more visible environment from whichto encourage scientists’ participation in scientific ocean drilling. Publications, data management, online tools, and databases are in development to support information- and resource-sharing, and ultimately, to expand the ranks of scientists who engage in ocean drilling investigations.

Publication and Data Management

IODP makes its publications freely available online using easy-to-access and print file formats. IODP is creating a data management system that will integrate core and laboratory data collected by all three IOs, and the two IODP legacy programs. A web-based search system will eventually aggregate post-expedition data and related publications. Requests for data and samples can be made online.

Site Survey Data Bank (SSDB)

A web-based Site Survey Data Bank, enables proponents to access and deposit large amounts of data required to document potential drill sites into a preliminary proposal to be submitted to and reviewed by IODP. New drilling proposals are submitted to IODP through its web portal.

Core Repositories

Three IODP core repositories archive cores based on geographical origin. Scientists may visit any one of the facilities for onsite research or request a loan for teaching purposes or analysis. Archived cores include not only IODP samples, but also those retrieved in the two IODP legacy programs.


External links

* [ Integrated Ocean Drilling Program official website]
* [ Learn more about IODP and the U.S. involvement]
* [ An educational view of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program]
* [ JOI Learning - Education resources and programs associated with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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