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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Celebrations of 50 years of Scientific Ocean Drilling

Published: 25 November 2018
UK-IODP/Magellan+ Workshop

Autumn 2018 has been a season of intense activity and celebration to recognise the huge achievements of scientific ocean drilling, arguably the most successful, enduring, international scientific collaboration. Since the first cruise of the Deep Sea Drilling Project in 1968, through the Ocean Drilling Program (1983-2003), and the on-going International Ocean Discovery Program (2003 to 2023) Southampton and the UK scientists have played important roles in participating in, and increasingly, leading scientific ocean drilling. Pooled resources through international collaboration have given scientists access to state-of-the-art drilling ships and platforms that are beyond financial resources of individual nations. Ocean drilling has been instrumental in proving plate tectonics, establishing the science of palaeoceanography and climate change, understanding the stability of ice sheets and quantifying the rates of sea-level rise, and the causes of devastating tsunamigenic earthquakes.

Southampton scientists have recently convened a number of international events to honour this remarkable programme that has been pivotal in the career development of many researchers in the School of Ocean & Earth Science.  Following a Southampton-centric event in mid-September, the UK-IODP community hosted an ECORD Magellan+ early career training workshop at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton that was attended by more than 40 colleagues from across the UK and Europe. Post-docs and PhD students, guided by Southampton, European and US scientists, honed their skills in developing compelling proposals to harness the expertise and facilities of IODP.  Many from this meeting then decamped to London for the UK-IODP “Celebrating 50 years of International Collaboration in Scientific Ocean Drilling” meeting at the Natural History Museum convened by Damon Teagle, Rosalind Coggon, Richard Herrington (NHM), and Carrie Lear (Cardiff). This meeting was opened by Professor Alex Halliday FRS, recently appointed as Director of the Earth Institute at the Columbia University of New York. Professor Maureen Raymo, also of Columbia, gave the 2018 UK-IODP Distinguished Lecture.  Other key note lectures included Gavin Foster and Lisa McNeill from Southampton as well as ex-SOES colleagues Heiko Pälike (MARUM-Bremen) and Rebecca Bell (Imperial).  Ros Coggon, a new Royal Society University Research Fellow at Southampton provided the after dinner speech emphasising “What Scientific Ocean Drilling has done for you” – reflecting on her own career. The unique research and career building opportunities afforded by engagement in scientific ocean drilling have been further emphasized in a recent Editorial in Nature Geoscience, after a number of Nature editors addended the NHM event.

More recently Damon Teagle and colleagues Andy McCaig (Leeds), Gretchen Früh-Green (ETH-Zürich) and Peter Kelemen (LDEO-Columbia but Southampton Diamond Jubilee Professor) hosted an international Discussion Meeting at the Royal Society focussed on “Serpentine in the Earth System”. This meeting reflected on the strange chemical, mechanical and biological reactions that occur when rocks from Earth’s upper mantle interact with surface waters resulting in the generation of high pH (>11), strongly reducing fluids that yield abiotic hydrogen, methane, formate and longer-chain hydrocarbons. These processes may be implicated in the origin of life on Earth and other bodies in our solar system, but also open up new opportunities for energy generation and carbon capture and storage.


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Early career researchers from across the UK and Europe celebrate presenting their research drilling proposals at the UK-IODP/Magellan+ workshop at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton.
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The “Great British Bake Off” has even impacted ocean drilling. A birthday cake to celebrate 50 years of international collaboration in Scientific Ocean Drilling and the UK-IODP international meeting at the Natural History Museum (Cake Bakers: Sian Evans & Melissa Gray, Imperial College, London)
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