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 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.
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.
|Deep Ocean Explorer: Glomar Challenger|
|Total distance penetrated below see floor||325,548 m|
|Total interval cored||170,043 m|
|Total core recovered and stored||97,056 m|
|Overall core recovery||57%|
|Number of core samples recovered||19,119|
|Number of sites investigated||624|
|Deepest penetration into basaltic ocean crust||1,714 m|
|Maximum penetration into basaltic ocean crust||1,350 m|
|Deepest water (Leg 60, Site 461A)||7,044 m|
|Total distance traveled (nautical miles)||375,632|
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:
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.
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 www.iodp.org.
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.
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.
A ten-year program plan called the Initial Science Plan (ISP) guides IODP investigation. Specific scientific themes are 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.