GeoPRISMS and 2012-2023 Scientific Ocean Drilling Strategies

John Jaeger and Liz Screaton (University of Florida)

Figure 1. Sunrise viewed through the drilling derrick of the D/V JOIDES Resolution during Expedition 340, Lesser Antilles Volcanism and Landslides.

Figure 1. Sunrise viewed through the drilling derrick of the D/V JOIDES Resolution during Expedition 340, Lesser Antilles Volcanism and Landslides.

Scientific ocean drilling provides vital access to the marine subsurface and is crucial for achieving GeoPRISMS objectives. In turn, GeoPRISMS science comprises key components of the 2013-2023 International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) science plan. As IODP embarks on this ambitious plan starting in 2013, the GeoPRISMS community needs to engage in the new program and propose exciting and compelling drilling proposals to address the scientific challenges.

GeoPRISMS Science and U.S. Priorities in 2013-2023 IODP

There is strong synergy between GeoPRISMS and IODP science objectives, which cover a wide suite of continental margin processes. GeoPRISMS researchers have been an integral part of the planning process for 2013-2023 Scientific Ocean Drilling Program. Most recently, the U.S. community was tasked with identifying priorities within the future program through an online survey and with 73 representatives who assembled for the Building U.S. Strategies for 2013-2023 Scientific Ocean Drilling workshop on April 30 to May 2, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. Of the 433 survey respondents, 105 identified themselves as involved in GeoPRISMS.

The IODP science plan is organized around four research challenges: Climate and Ocean Change; Biosphere Frontiers; Earth Connections; and Earth in Motion. Within each challenge, input from the community guided prioritization, which is summarized below for GeoPRISMS-focused questions. Understanding natural hazards, including subduction zone earthquakes and tsunami, was identified as a top priority within the Earth in Motion challenge. Recent large earthquakes and tsunami have highlighted the need for better understanding of submarine geohazards, and current offshore and onshore studies have produced mature hypotheses. IODP is positioned to provide offshore leadership, as scientific drilling is the only means to access deep archives of past events or active fault zones in critical offshore regions. This is also a topic of considerable interest to society at large. Earthquake research has comprised an important part of the current phase of scientific ocean drilling, particularly through the Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment (NanTroSEIZE). Deep drilling and observatory work are key parts of NanTroSEIZE, but many objectives also can be addressed through shallower coring, sampling, and logging while drilling. Future expeditions to other subduction zones, or adding single sites to drilling plans, can provide a more global view of earthquake processes and insights into different slip mechanisms. The link between IODP and GeoPRISMS is particularly strong in the GeoPRISMS primary sites offshore the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and New Zealand.

Within the Earth Connections challenge, subduction zone initiation, volatile cycling, and the generation of continental crust were identified as high priorities. Material from Earth’s surface is recycled into Earth’s interior at subduction zones. Subduction of oceanic lithosphere also results in the release of volatiles, melting in the mantle, and some of the world’s most hazardous volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunami. Determining how subduction initiates, volatiles are recycled, and oceanic island arcs are constructed are key to understanding the evolution of the solid Earth system and, in particular, how the building blocks of continental crust are formed. Whereas drilling with the JOIDES Resolution can contribute significantly to studies of subduction initiation and volatile recycling, drilling by Chikyu is required to test directly the generation of continental crust by drilling deep into arc middle crust. Expeditions using the JOIDES Resolution to target the forearc oceanic crust can constrain how mantle melting evolves during subduction initiation.
Interdisciplinary science has always been a hallmark of the scientific ocean drilling programs, and strong interconnections among scientific themes were apparent in the survey results that are highly relevant to GeoPRISMS Subduction Cycles and Deformation (SCD) and Rift Initiation and Evolution (RIE) science. At the workshop, participants expanded on these relationships in cross-theme breakout groups that explored serpentinization, carbon storage in gas hydrates, and the linkages between eruptions and volatiles, mountain-building and global climate, tectonics and sea level, and subseafloor fluid flow and seawater–crust exchanges and the biosphere.

Structure of the New Program

The new ocean drilling program is geared to be flexible in the scope of science that can be done, from single sites to multi-leg expeditions, in order to encompass the diverse interests of our community. As in the previous program, there are three platforms available to the GeoPRISMS community. However, to streamline operations within the new program, each platform (JOIDES Resolution, Chikyu, and Mission Specific Platforms) will be operated independently by its respective country or consortium. A cross-platform panel, called the IODP Forum will provide a venue for all entities in the new program to exchange ideas and evaluate the scientific progress of the program. See here for details about the architecture of the new IODP.

What does this new management structure mean for GeoPRISMS scientists interested in using one of these platforms for their science? For the U.S. community, there will be little change in the way they participate. Proposals for all platforms will still be submitted through a new Support Office to the internationally-staffed advisory structure for review by the Proposal Evaluation Panel. U.S. scientists will continue to have access to Chikyu and MSP through berth-sharing agreements and will be heavily involved in the new IODP advisory structure. As in the past, samples and data will also be available to all community scientists.
One important difference in the new program is that governing boards for each platform will develop their own operations schedule based upon proposals received from the Proposal Evaluation Panel. For the JOIDES Resolution, the governing board will include representation of all partners contributing to JOIDES Resolution operations, members of the international science community (who will make the scientific decisions), and the vessel science operator. The composition and mission of the governing boards for the Chikyu and MSPs are similar to the JOIDES Resolution model.

Optimizing operational efficiencies by integrating multiple science objectives into expeditions or series of expeditions is a new paradigm for the scientific ocean drilling community. For the JOIDES Resolution, this also means developing more efficient ship tracks that minimize transits and maximize science output in relation to time and cost. This strategy requires consideration of the geographic distribution of highly-ranked drilling proposals and several years advance notice to the scientific community about the expected operating regions of the JOIDES Resolution.

For the Chikyu, an international planning workshop “CHIKYU+10” will be held in April 2013 to engage the community in a discussion of potential future scientific missions using the ship within the context of the new science plan and the post-2013 framework for scientific ocean drilling platform utilization and international collaboration. Workshop outcomes will be considered by JAMSTEC in long-range planning for Chikyu operations.

The JOIDES Resolution is scheduled to end the current IODP program in the western Pacific Ocean. It is the intent of the US program to have the ship remain in the western and southwestern Pacific and Indian Ocean region through FY2016. Beyond that, the JOIDES Resolution shiptrack will be driven by proposal pressure, with a target of reaching all ocean basins within the decadal program.

How can GeoPRISMS scientists participate in the new IODP program? Many avenues are open: propose drilling targets; organize or participate in workshops that help guide geographic of topical areas of interest; apply to sail on expeditions; volunteer to serve on panels and governing boards. For those considering submitting a drilling proposal, all levels of science are welcomed. The review process has been streamlined to result in a shorter evaluation period for proposals in the system. In many ways, proposal pressure will drive the ship and help provide guidance for future shiptracks. The community is strongly encouraged to submit drilling proposals to provide for a breadth of high-priority drilling targets in all ocean regions. To maximize operational efficiencies, the JR will entertain a diverse range of drilling proposals, from the standard multi-week expeditions devoted to focused research initiatives to single sites that can be occupied along ship transits.

Initial submission may be preproposals, which are short (<2700 words) and do not require detailed site-specific documentation.

Following the proposal evaluation panel meeting, feedback will be provided as to whether a full proposal is encouraged, a workshop is recommended, or the preproposal is found unsuitable. If a full proposal is recommended, sufficient site characterization data will be needed at the time of, or close to, submission. For the new paradigm of optimizing operational efficiencies to work, a diverse portfolio of drilling projects is needed, which GeoPRISMS is ideally suited to help provide. For more information on how to submit a proposal, see here. If you have a compelling scientific target that can be addressed with scientific ocean drilling, submit a preproposal or full proposal. The next deadline is March 1, 2013!

 Reference information
GeoPRISMS and 2012-2023 Scientific Ocean Drilling Strategies, Jaeger J., Screaton L.
GeoPRISMS Newsletter, Issue No. 29, Fall 2012. Retrieved from