Summary

U.S.-supported scientific ocean drilling has a long and illustrious history—from its earliest roles in the confirmation of plate tectonics to more recent contributions in paleoclimate and global sea level reconstructions. As the current phase of scientific ocean drilling draws to a close in 2013, the National Science Foundation (NSF) requested that an ad hoc National Research Council committee review the scientific accomplishments of U.S.-supported scientific ocean drilling over the past four decades. The committee evaluated how the programs (Deep Sea Drilling Project [DSDP], 1968-1983, Ocean Drilling Program [ODP], 1984-2003, and Integrated Ocean Drilling Program [IODP], 2003-2013) have shaped understanding of Earth systems and Earth history and assessed the role of scientific ocean drilling in enabling new fields of inquiry. The committee also assessed the potential for transformative discoveries1 resulting from implementation of the science plan for the next proposed phase of scientific ocean drilling, which is scheduled to run from 2013 to 2023 if funding is approved by NSF.

SCIENTIFIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

The committee found that the U.S.-supported scientific ocean drilling programs (DSDP, ODP, and IODP) have been very successful, contributing significantly to a broad range of scientific accomplishments in a number of Earth science disciplines. In addition, the programs’ technological innovations have strongly influenced these scientific advances. To a large extent, the success of IODP and prior scientific ocean drilling programs has been a result of strong international collaboration. Following the broad themes in the IODP Initial Science Plan (2001), the committee identified three general areas in which there have been significant accomplishments: solid Earth cycles; fluids, flow, and life in the subseafloor; and Earth’s climate history. Several of the scientific achievements that could not have been accomplished without scientific ocean drilling are listed in Box S.1.

Scientific ocean drilling fundamentally advanced the fields of plate tectonics, paleomagnetism, geomagnetism, and geochronology. It has been critical to understanding connections between subseafloor fluid flow, microbial communities, and massive sulfide deposits. Technology pioneered by scientific ocean drilling enabled the recovery of intact gas hydrates, strongly influencing the understanding of gas hydrate distribution for economic and geohazard objectives. DSDP and ODP were integral to the study of continental breakup, in conjunction with onshore and offshore geophysical and geologic exploration and geodynamic modeling. Scientific ocean drilling has contributed to increased understanding of lithospheric formation and structure, and to connecting the occurrence of submarine large igneous provinces with volcanic eruption-related climate change. It also played a central role in deciphering the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global surface temperatures, glacial-interglacial cycles, global sea level change, ocean anoxia events, and the discovery of large climate excursions and abrupt climate change. In addition, scientific ocean drilling lent credence to the meteorite impact hypothesis as a paradigm for global extinction processes, a mainstay of modern Earth science education.

Since their earliest days, scientific ocean drilling programs have actively engaged in educating graduate students

________________

1NSF’s definition of transformative research is: “Transformative research involves ideas, discoveries, or tools that radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering concept or educational practice or leads to the creation of a new paradigm or field of science, engineering, or education. Such research challenges current understanding or provides pathways to new frontiers.” See http://www.nsf.gov/about/transformative_research/definition.jsp; accessed August 2011.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 1
Summary scientific advances. To a large extent, the success of IODP U.S.-supported scientific ocean drilling has a long and and prior scientific ocean drilling programs has been a illustrious history—from its earliest roles in the confirmation result of strong international collaboration. Following of plate tectonics to more recent contributions in paleocli- mate and global sea level reconstructions. As the current the broad themes in the IODP Initial Science Plan (2001), phase of scientific ocean drilling draws to a close in 2013, the committee identified three general areas in which there the National Science Foundation (NSF) requested that an ad have been significant accomplishments: solid Earth cycles; hoc National Research Council committee review the sci- fluids, flow, and life in the subseafloor; and Earth’s climate entific accomplishments of U.S.-supported scientific ocean history. Several of the scientific achievements that could not drilling over the past four decades. The committee evalu- have been accomplished without scientific ocean drilling are ated how the programs (Deep Sea Drilling Project [DSDP], listed in Box S.1. 1968-1983, Ocean Drilling Program [ODP], 1984-2003, and Scientific ocean drilling fundamentally advanced the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program [IODP], 2003-2013) have fields of plate tectonics, paleomagnetism, geomagnetism, shaped understanding of Earth systems and Earth history and and geochronology. It has been critical to understanding con- assessed the role of scientific ocean drilling in enabling new nections between subseafloor fluid flow, microbial commu- fields of inquiry. The committee also assessed the potential nities, and massive sulfide deposits. Technology pioneered for transformative discoveries1 resulting from implementa- by scientific ocean drilling enabled the recovery of intact tion of the science plan for the next proposed phase of sci- gas hydrates, strongly influencing the understanding of gas entific ocean drilling, which is scheduled to run from 2013 hydrate distribution for economic and geohazard objectives. to 2023 if funding is approved by NSF. DSDP and ODP were integral to the study of continental breakup, in conjunction with onshore and offshore geo- physical and geologic exploration and geodynamic model- SCIENTIFIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS ing. Scientific ocean drilling has contributed to increased The committee found that the U.S.-supported scien- understanding of lithospheric formation and structure, and to tific ocean drilling programs (DSDP, ODP, and IODP) connecting the occurrence of submarine large igneous prov- have been very successful, contributing significantly to a inces with volcanic eruption-related climate change. It also broad range of scientific accomplishments in a number played a central role in deciphering the relationship between of Earth science disciplines. In addition, the programs’ atmospheric carbon dioxide and global surface temperatures, technological innovations have strongly influenced these glacial-interglacial cycles, global sea level change, ocean anoxia events, and the discovery of large climate excursions and abrupt climate change. In addition, scientific ocean 1 NSF’s definition of transformative research is: “Transformative research drilling lent credence to the meteorite impact hypothesis as involves ideas, discoveries, or tools that radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering concept or educational a paradigm for global extinction processes, a mainstay of practice or leads to the creation of a new paradigm or field of science, modern Earth science education. engineering, or education. Such research challenges current understand- Since their earliest days, scientific ocean drilling pro- ing or provides pathways to new frontiers.” See http://www.nsf.gov/about/ grams have actively engaged in educating graduate students transformative_research/definition.jsp; accessed August 2011. 1

OCR for page 1
2 SCIENTIFIC OCEAN DRILLING RECOMMENDATION: Formal evaluation of educa- Box S.1 tion, outreach, and capacity-building activities should Scientific Accomplishments That be implemented to demonstrate the broader impacts of Could Not Have Been Achieved Without scientific ocean drilling. Scientific Ocean Drilling ASSESSMENT OF THE 2013-2023 SCIENCE Solid Earth Cycles PLAN • erification of the seafloor spreading hypothesis V and plate tectonic theory The committee also assessed the potential for future • evelopment of an accurate geological time D transformative scientific discoveries envisioned in Illumi- scale for the past 150 myr nating Earth’s Past, Present, and Future: The International • onfirmation that the structure of oceanic litho- C Ocean Discovery Program Science Plan for 2013-2023, sphere is related to spreading rate which was released in June 2011 by Integrated Ocean Drill- • xploration of the emplacement history of E ing Program Management International. The science plan is submarine large igneous provinces divided into four research themes: climate and ocean change, • ontribution to a new paradigm for continental C biosphere frontiers, Earth connections (deep Earth pro- breakup due to studies of rifted margins cesses), and Earth in motion (direct time series observations • efinition of subduction zone inputs and confir- D mation of subduction erosion on human scales). There are 14 scientific challenges within these four themes, which the committee evaluated indi- Fluids, Flow, and Life in the Subseafloor vidually for potential for transformative discovery, synergy • n situ investigation of fluid flow processes, per- I between science plan challenges and themes, and linkages meability, and porosity in ocean sediments and to NSF-supported and other research programs. Each of the basement rocks four themes within the science plan identifies compelling • haracterization of the sediment- and rock- C challenges with potential for transformative science that hosted subseafloor microbial biosphere can only be addressed by scientific ocean drilling. Some • tudy of subseafloor water-rock interactions and S challenges within these themes appear to have greater the formation of seafloor massive sulfide depos- potential for transformative science than others. its in active hydrothermal systems The committee was particularly positive about the • xamination of the distribution and dynamics of E gas hydrates in ocean sediments potential for transformative discoveries resulting from subseafloor biosphere exploration and for continuing paleo- Earth’s Climate History climate investigations to provide constraints on projected • econstruction of global climate history for the R climate change. It also noted the need for data in under- past 65 myr, based on ocean sediments represented regions such as high latitudes and for deeper • evelopment and refinement of the Astronomical D sampling into intact ocean crust. The themes and challenges Geomagnetic Polarity Timescale identified in the science plan were well-justified and timely, • ocumentation of the pervasive nature of orbital D although there was a lack of guidance as to which challenges forcing on global climate variability were most important. • ecognition of past geological analogs (for R example, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maxi- RECOMMENDATION: The scientific ocean drilling mum) for Earth’s response to increases in atmo- community should establish a mechanism to prioritize spheric carbon dioxide • iscover y of the history of polar ice sheet initia- D the challenges outlined in the science plan in a manner tion, growth and variability, and their influence on that complements the existing peer-review process. fluctuations in global sea level The scientific ocean drilling programs have a history of making excellent use of legacy samples and data that have helped to quickly advance new areas of research. Using leg- in the Earth sciences. During ODP, informal activities aimed acy data and samples to their maximum capabilities will at undergraduates, K-12, and community outreach were continue to increase the scientific value of the scientific initiated. More structured and extensive programs during ocean drilling programs. Expanded use of legacy materi- IODP included a vigorous education initiative aimed at K-12, als could help, for example, with prioritization of drilling undergraduate, graduate, and informal science educators. objectives in the next phase of scientific ocean drilling. The education, outreach, and capacity-building programs are There are several natural areas of synergy between the of significant value, but evaluations of each of them would challenges and themes, and more detailed examination of enable a better understanding of the impacts of these activi- potential integration would be valuable in lending strength ties on different groups and would demonstrate the broader to the overall program. Integration of scientific ocean drilling impacts of scientific ocean drilling.

OCR for page 1
3 SUMMARY objectives is currently done in an ad hoc fashion during the scientific ocean drilling programs to continue to advance a expedition planning process. technological agenda. This is an area where prior programs have demonstrated great strength. RECOMMENDATION: From the earliest stages of proposal development and evaluation, possibilities for RECOMMENDATION: Pathways for innovations in increasing program efficiency through integration of technology should be encouraged. In addition, setting multiple objectives into single expeditions should be aside some resources specifically to promote technologi- considered by proponents and panels. cal research and development could increase the potential for transformative science. Transformative discoveries are critically dependent on technological breakthroughs, and it is essential for future

OCR for page 1