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Priorities Proposed for Scientific Ocean Drilling Amid Uncertainty over US Commitment

MAR 18, 2024
Proponents argue US ocean drilling research will collapse without a dedicated drilling ship.
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Science Policy Reporter, FYI American Institute of Physics
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The JOIDES Resolution departing Hawaii, at the beginning of an expedition in 2009.

(Integrated Ocean Drilling Program)

The National Academies published a report last week identifying priority research areas for ocean drilling in light of the fact the National Science Foundation plans to end support for the aging drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution later this year due to its high operating costs.

“With the absence of a dedicated drilling vessel supported by the United States, the capacity for future scientific ocean drilling for the United States and its present international partners will likely be reduced to approximately 10% of its current capacity,” the report warns.

Scientific ocean drilling has historically increased understanding of climate change, plate tectonics, and led to the discovery of many microbes in ocean sediment, rocks, and fluids. Priority areas for future research identified in the report include “ground truthing climate change,” “evaluating past marine ecosystem responses to climate and ocean change,” “monitoring and assessing geohazards,” “exploring the subsea biosphere,” and “characterizing the tectonic evolution of the ocean basins.”

This news brief originally appeared in FYI’s newsletter for the week of March 18.

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