Ocean Discovery Lecturer Series


For over 20 years, the Ocean Discovery Lecturer Series (formerly the Distinguished Lecturer Series) has brought the remarkable scientific results and discoveries of the International Ocean Discovery Program and its predecessor programs to academic research institutions, museums, and aquaria. Since 1991, over 800 presentations to diverse audiences have been made through the Lecture Series.


For the 2017-18 academic year, an exciting lineup of distinguished lecturers is available to speak at your institution. The topics of their lectures range widely, and include geohazards, methane hydrates, climate change, magnetostratigraphy, and more.

The Ocean Discovery Lecturers for the 2017-2018 academic year are:

The JFAST Expedition: Getting Inside a Giant Fault


The 2011 Tohoku, Japan earthquake (Mw9.0) produced huge slip (30 to 50 meters) on the shallow portion of the fault close to the toe of the megathrust. The large displacement on this portion of the subduction zone was unexpected by seismologists and caused the devastating tsunami that took over 23,000 lives and inflicted massive damage along the northeast coast of Honshu. The JFAST project endeavored to understand the physical mechanisms of large slip during earthquakes. By drilling into the fault just over a year after the earthquake, we learned that this fault was unusually weak. Even though the fault slipped about 50 m at this spot, temperature measurements indicate that it dissipated little energy. The data show that faults may be very weak when they slip in earthquakes. Faults may have a few strong spots govern the energy available for earthquakes while most of the fault poses little resistance to motion.


Emily Brodsky is an earthquake physicist who experienced the power of ocean drilling for the first time the JFAST expedition (IODP Exp. 343) that drilled into the fault that generated the M9.0 2011 Tohoku earthquake.




  • September 25, 2017 – University of Montana, Missoula, MT
  • September 26, 2017 – ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT
  • November 29, 2017 – William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA
  • November 30, 2017 – James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

From Research to Discovery – The History and Future of Marine Gas Hydrate Research


Gas hydrates were first identified in laboratory studies in the early 1800’s and were only theorized to occur in nature for the first time in the 1960’s. Numerous studies over the last 25 years have confirmed the existence of gas hydrate in sedimentary basins in terrestrial permafrost and deep marine environments throughout the world. It is also well established that marine scientific drilling conducted under the leadership of the International Discovery Program and its predecessors including the International Ocean Discovery Program, Ocean Drilling Program, and the Deep Sea Drilling Project have made great strides in our understanding of the geologic controls on the formation, occurrence, and stability of marine gas hydrates. Marine scientific drilling has also contributed to the development of drilling and measurement technologies needed to advance our understanding of gas hydrates. The use of special drilling systems and technologies, such as pressure core systems, downhole measurement tools, borehole instrumentation, and advanced downhole logging technologies have contributed the data needed to characterize the in-situ nature of gas hydrates. Our knowledge related to the role that gas hydrates may play as an agent of climate change, or as a geologic hazard, and as a potential energy resource has steadily grown. However, gas hydrates represent both a scientific and technical challenge and more remains to be learned about their characteristics and occurrence in nature.


Dr. Collett sailed as the Downhole Logging Scientist on ODP Legs 164 and 204 gas hydrate research expeditions on the Blake Ridge and the Cascadia Margin. He was also a co-chief scientist on the Cascadia Margin Gas Hydrate IODP Expedition 311.


  • August 31, 2017 – University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO
  • September 8, 2017 – California State University, Bakersfield, CA
  • September 11, 2017 – Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA
  • September 13, 2017 – University of Maryland, Solomons, MD
  • September 15, 2017 – Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
  • September 21, 2017 – Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI
  • January 16, 2018 – University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
  • January 18, 2018 – Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, TX
  • January 25, 2018 – University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN


Can continental margin sediments be globally correlated during large amplitude, glacio-eustatic fluctuations?


The growth and decay of ice sheets during the past 780,000 years has driven global sea-level changes. These high amplitude (~120 m) glacio-eustatic fluctuations have greatly shaped the morphology of continental margins through erosion, transport and deposition of sediments. The Ocean Drilling Program drilled in both Northern and Southern Hemisphere silicilastic passive margins for testing models based on seismic stratigraphic correlations. These models propose that margin wide unconformities are formed during sea-level low stands and that there is a predictable arrangement of facies that can be related to sea-level changes. Geochemical data and lithofacies obtained from these Ocean Drilling expeditions have allowed constraining the ages and paleoenvironments of deposition and comparing seismically defined stratigraphic sequences between margins. These results revealed that local sediment supply has a huge effect in sediment preservation making correlations across margins difficult. This study is a synthesis of the results obtained from the continental shelf and upper slope offshore New Jersey, Western Mid-Atlantic Margin and Canterbury Basin, offshore of the Southern Island, New Zealand.


Dr. Cecilia McHugh is a marine geologist who uses sediments and acoustic images to understand continental margin sedimentation in response to global changes in sea level. Most recently, she has promoted the field of submarine paleoseismology to study earthquakes and tsunamis. She has participated in five Ocean Drilling Expeditions.



  • October 13, 2017 – Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
  • November 13, 2017 – Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO
  • February 14, 2018 – University of Wisconsin, River Falls, WI
  • March 13, 2018 – Penn State University, State College, PA
  • April 26, 2018 – Williams College, Williamstown, MA
  • May 3, 2018 – Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA


The early history of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana subduction system as revealed by diving and drilling


The non-accretionary Izu-Bonin-Mariana (IBM) fore-arc has an ophiolitic crust with depleted peridotites overlain by gabbroic rocks, dolerites, basalts and boninites. This sequence is interpreted to have formed in the immediate aftermath of subduction initiation in the western Pacific at about 52 Ma. This event was part of a major plate reorganization that had significant impact on global tectonics, and perhaps on global climate. Because subaerial exposure in the IBM fore-arc is limited, much of what we know is based on underwater field work conducted using the Shinkai 6500 deep diving submersible and, more recently, the JOIDES Resolution during IODP Expedition 352. I will briefly discuss the remarkable operations of these vessels, and then present the results of the collective research of the scientific teams from these expeditions. The main focus will be on results from Expedition 352, which drilled an intact reference section through boninites and basalts in Bonin fore-arc. I will discuss the geology, geochronology, petrology, and geochemistry of the drilled volcanic rocks, and the implications of our research for why subduction started in the IBM system, how this oceanic island arc developed, and its relationship to global tectonics.




Dr. Reagan has studied volcanism associated with the initiation and early evolution of subduction in the western Pacific for more than 35 years, most recently as a co-chief scientist on IODP Expedition 352.



  • November 17, 2017 – University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK
  • January 25, 2018 – New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM
  • February 5, 2018 – University of Nevada – Reno, Reno, NV
  • February 8, 2018 – Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
  • March 23, 2018 – University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
  • March 29, 2018 – University of New Hampshire, NH
  • March 30, 2018 – Towson University, Towson, MS
  • April 9, 2018 – Utah State University, Logan, UT
  • April 11, 2018 – Weber State University, Ogden UT


Chasing ice through space and time – Reconstructing polar ice sheets through the Cenozoic using the marine sediment record


Large ice sheets at both poles may be the namesakes for the present-day climate state—the icehouse—however our understanding of when these massive accumulations of ice first appeared is far from complete. The continental crust beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is ancient, and processes of glacial weathering contribute distinct and easily recognizable isotopic fingerprints from these sources to the ocean. Dr. Scher has used radiogenic isotopes in sedimentary record from the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica to figure out the timing of major glacial weathering pulses. He will present evidence that precursor glaciations preceded the widespread development of ice-sheets on Antarctica. He will also present new results from the North Atlantic (Expedition 342, Newfoundland drifts) that indicate an episode of glacial weathering on Greenland in the earliest Oligocene. The paradox implied by these results—that there was continental ice in the northern hemisphere when CO2 levels were above the bipolar glaciation threshold—may be resolved in the future with a better understanding of past CO2 levels and paleo-elevation in the Northern Hemisphere.


Dr. Scher is an associate professor in the School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment at the University of South Carolina. He received his Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from the University of Florida and was an IMAS postdoctoral scholar at UC Santa Cruz. Howie participated as a shipboard scientist on two IODP Expeditions (Expeditions 320 and 342).



  • September 19, 2017 – Iowa State University, Ames, IA
  • September 28, 2017 – Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL
  • October 25, 2017 – The City University of New York, New York City, NY
  • October 27, 2017 – Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
  • November 20, 2017 – Yale, New Haven, CT
  • January 11, 2018, The Schiele Museum of Natural History, Gastonia, NC
  • February 16, 2018 – University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
  • March 8, 2018 – University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
  • March 20, 2018 – University of St. Thomas, Saint Paul, MN
  • April 16, 2018 – Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI


Geomagnetic insights and magneto-stratigraphic opportunities provided through IODP drilling: New results from the Southern Alaska Margin IODP Exp 341


IODP drilling of marine sediments provides the unique opportunity to sample otherwise inaccessible archives, offering insights to Earth history unobtainable through other means. Paleomagnetism, the study of Earth’s magnetic field recorded in geological materials, is often used to date these drilled records employing an approach known as magnetic stratigraphy. Polarity reversals, polarity excursions, intensity variations, and directional changes can all be recorded in marine sediments, providing a variety of stratigraphic approaches for dating geological materials. These paleo-geomagnetic records also constrain our understanding of geodynamo processes that drive Earth’s magnetic field and provide direct insights into the paleo-magnetosphere that shields Earth from cosmic rays. Because sediment paleomagnetic records preserve a smoothed version of the geomagnetic field and because the largest extreme events like polarity reversals only occurred in the more distant past, ocean drilling is required to step past these difficulties and obtain critical observations of the paleo-geomagnetic field, such as high-resolution time series of directions, intensities and field instabilities (e.g., reversals, excursions). Additionally, the geomagnetic field is not globally uniform. Therefore, our understanding of geomagnetic change is limited by a lack of observations from regions of the globe where high quality records have not been drilled. The northeast Pacific is one such region, as it lacks quality paleomagnetic records and has been difficult to date using traditional Quaternary marine sediment methods. As a result, detailed magnetic stratigraphies would greatly benefit the region. A concerted effort on sediments collected during Expedition 341(Southern Alaska Margin Tectonics, Climate and Sedimentation) is allowing a series of long, high-resolution paleomagnetic records to be developed through a wide range of field states (e.g., higher and lower intensities than present, reversals, excursions) that are facilitating an improved understanding of the geomagnetic field and the time control it enables. These studies outline the symbiotic relationship between paleo-geomagnetism and drilling that are critical if we are to understand Earth’s magnetic field and its past.


Dr. Stoner is an associate professor of oceanography in Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS). He has spent more than a year at sea on national and international research expeditions, including five ODP/IODP expeditions, and has also been involved in a number of field programs spanning a large part of the Arctic, including Svalbard, Greenland, Ellesmere Island and Alaska.


  • March 1, 2018 – Rice University, Houston, TX
  • March 30, 2018 – University of Texas – Dallas, Richardson, TX
  • April 13, 2018 – Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK
  • April 19, 2018 – University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
  • April 23, 2018 – Worcester State University, Worcester, MA


Host A Lecture


The application period to host a lecturer for the 2017-18 academic year is now closed. USSSP is currently working with the lecturers to try to develop broad scheduling priorities for the year. Applicants can expect to hear from lecturers in June or July to initiate the institutional scheduling process. Although every effort will be made to accommodate all requests, in some cases this may not be possible. When necessary, preference will be given to smaller institutions, or to those with a limited history of involvement with IODP.


USSSP will provide support for the lecturer’s travel to your institution, while hosting venues are responsible for housing, meals, and local transportation.



Nominate a Lecturer


The lecturer nomination period for the 2018-2019 academic year is now closed.



Ocean Discovery Lecturer Specifications


  • Six Ocean Discovery Lecturers are chosen for each academic year.
  • Each Ocean Discovery Lecturer is required to give six lectures during the academic year. Due to the popularity of the program, many lecturers, however, agree to give more.
  • The lecture topic should focus on results of IODP research. Synthesis lectures on broad topics associated with IODP’s scientific objectives (environmental change, processes, and effects; climate change; deep biosphere and the subseafloor ocean; and solid Earth cycles and geodynamics) are strongly encouraged.
  • Lectures should be aimed at a broad geoscience audiences consisting primarily of graduate and undergraduate students and the scientifically literate public.
  • USSSP will fund the speaker’s transportation expenses to and from each institution; host institutions will provide housing, meals, and local transportation for the speaker.
  • After completion of the required lectures, USSSP will provide a small honorarium for the speaker’s participation.



Previous Distinguished Lecturers


Information on current and previous Ocean Discovery Distinguished Lecturers can be found here.