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Research Activities 2011


Integrated Ocean Drilling Program



The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) is the world’s largest geoscience research program, with access to drilling facilities worth $US1 billion, and annual running costs of about $US210 million. It is at the frontier of scientific challenges and opportunities, because ocean drilling is the best method of directly sampling the two-thirds of our world that is covered by the world’s oceans. IODP aims to solve global scientific problems by taking continuous core of rocks and sediments at a great variety of sites in the world’s oceans, from as deep as several kilometres below the sea bed. Its broad aim is to explore how the Earth has worked in the past and how it is working now. It uses a variety of platforms, and provides ‘ground truthing’ of scientific theories that are based largely on remote sensing techniques.

IODP's key research areas are

  • Deep biosphere and ocean floor.
  • Environmental changes, processes and effects.
  • Solid earth cycles and geodynamics.

Australia and New Zealand are partners (; in the ANZIC consortium within IODP, which involves both geoscientists and microbiologists. We are making important contributions to IODP’s scientific endeavours, and a number of major coring expeditions in our region and elsewhere have improved and will improve our understanding of global scientific questions. IODP is a scientific crucible for bringing our scientists in contact with research teams from around the world, and post-cruise research activities often extend far beyond IODP activities.

Membership of IODP helps us maintain our leadership in Southern Hemisphere marine research. For geographic, climatic, oceanographic and plate tectonic reasons, our region is vital to addressing various global science problems. Accordingly, the Australasian region has seen a great deal of ocean drilling since 1968, when the first program was established.

Australian scientists gain in various ways from IODP: by being on international IODP panels, through shipboard and post-cruise participation in cutting edge science, by building partnerships with overseas scientists, by being research proponents and co-chief scientists who can steer programs and scientific emphasis, and by early access to key samples and data. Post-doctoral and doctoral students have an opportunity of training in areas of geoscience and microbiology that could not be obtained in any other way.

The Australian IODP budget, administered at RSES, is $2.2 million, of which $US1.4 million goes to the US National Science Foundation as a membership fee. The Australian IODP Office (AIO) is headed by ANZIC Program Scientist, Professor Neville Exon. Ms Sarah Howgego, the Program Administrator, was replaced late in the year by Ms Catherine Beasley.

Dr Neville Exon
Program Scientist, Australian IODP Office