Ocean Discovery Lecture Series


For over 20 years, the Ocean Discovery Lecture 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 750 presentations to diverse audiences have been made through the Lecture Series.


For the 2016-17 academic year, an exciting lineup of distinguished lecturers is available to speak at your institution. The topics of their lectures range widely, and include tectonics, climate change, hydrogeology, microbiology, and more.



The Ocean Discovery Lecturers for the 2016-2017 academic year are:

Anatomy of a Long-Lived Oceanic Arc: Synthesis of Three IODP Expeditions in the Izu-Bonin-Marianas Arc


BusbyThis talk provides an overview of results from three closely related IODP expeditions carried out in se­quence in the Izu-Bonin-Mariana (IBM) arc system in 2014. It focuses on geologic results that are of interest to those working in magmatic arcs on continents as well as those in the sea. Expedition 350 was the first expedition to drill in the Izu rear arc; all previous IODP sites were drilled in or near the Izu-Bonin arc front or fore arc, leading to an incomplete view of Izu arc magmatism. Thus, the main objective of Expedition 350 was to reveal the history of “the missing half” of the subduction factory. The second expedition (351) focused on IBM arc origins by drill­ing west of the Kyushu-Palau remnant arc ridge, where the foundation, origin, and early evolution of the IBM arc is recorded. The third expedition (352) ex­amined the processes of subduction initiation, by drilling the outer IBM fore arc. My talk will describe the Paleogene to Neogene evolution of the IBM arc system, and compare it with outcrop analogs, with the goal of constructing an Island Arc Crust Virtual Field Model.


Dr. Busby has spent her life as a University of California field geology professor, specializing in outcrop studies of arc and rift terranes. She had never been on an oceanographic expedition before she was offered the exciting position of Co-Chief Scientist on IBM Expedition 350.




  • 03 November 2016 University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
  • 04 November 2016 University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
  • 15 November 2016 San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA
  • 29 March 2017 Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Lock Haven, PA
  • 31 March 2017 Ohio University, Athens, OH
  • 04 April 2017 Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
  • 06 April 2017 University of Missouri- Kansas City, Kansas City, MO
  • 20 April 2017 West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
  • 03 May 2017 Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID

Subseafloor experiments and models reveal complex patterns of coupled fluid-heat-solute transport through the ocean crust


FisherMassive flows of fluid, equivalent to the discharge of all of Earth’s rivers and streams, transfer heat and solutes between the crust and ocean. Most of this “coupled transport” occurs at relatively low temperatures and is difficult to locate, measure, or sample. As a result, much remains unknown about the rates and patterns of these flows and their impacts. Recent studies of the ocean crust, including crustal-scale hydrogeologic and tracer experiments and the next generation of three-dimensional computer simulations, reveal the complex nature of subseafloor flow systems. Dr. Fisher will present and link results from multiple experiments, and discuss how novel tools and modeling approaches are creating new opportunities in subseafloor exploration and discovery.


Dr. Fisher has participated on nine ocean drilling expeditions, most recently as a co-chief scientist on IODP Expedition 327, eastern flank of the Juan de Fuca Ridge.


  • 15 November 2016 California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, CA
  • 20 March 2017 Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • 22 March 2017 The University of Akron, Akron, OH
  • 23 March 2017 Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
  • 14 April 2017 University of Georgia, Athens, GA
  • 5 May 2017 University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Miami, FL


Building Mountains in an Icy World: Results from IODP Drilling in the Gulf of Alaska


JaegerRugged ice-covered mountains are an omnipresent feature of this planet’s landscape, seemingly fixed in time and unyielding to the elements. Yet over geologic time, the ice and mountains are actually dynamic, responding to changes in tectonics and climate that shape how mountain ranges evolve over time. Dr. Jaeger has spent 20 years documenting how the largest temperate glaciers on earth in southern Alaska have impacted the rapidly growing St. Elias Range, the planet’s highest coastal mountain range. He will present results from a recent scientific ocean drilling expedition to the Gulf of Alaska where an international group of scientists used the marine sedimentary record to recreate the history of this under-explored region spanning the last 10 million years of Earth’s history and reveals how a major change in Earth’s climate one million years ago drastically impacted this developing mountainous territory.


Dr. Jaeger has been involved in IODP Expeditions 317 and 341 to learn how Earth’s landscape evolution can be investigated using marine sediments.


  • 3 October 2016 Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
  • 5 October 2016 University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA
  • 25 January 2017 New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
  • 27 January 2017 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
  • 24 February 2017 Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
  • 14 March 2017 Penn State University, State College, PA
  • 7 April 2017 University of Houston, Houston, TX
  • 10 April 2017 The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX
  • 21 April 2017 Appalachian State University, Boone, NC


Back to the Future? Insights into Future Climate Change from Warm Climate Intervals of the Past


LawrenceBecause the observational record of climate change is short relative to the time scales on which many climate system processes operate, the paleoclimate community explores past climate intervals to gain insight into the behavior of critical climate system processes. Deep Ocean Drilling has provided a rich archive of marine sediments for studying Earth history. A variety of different indicators of past climate recovered from these sediment archives have enable the detailed characterization of climate conditions during both warm and cold intervals in the past. Because of the dramatic changes in Earth’s climate and oceans imposed by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gasses, of particular interest are past warm climate intervals, which help elucidate and contextualize potential future climate conditions. The last interval of sustained warmth in Earth’s history was the Pliocene Epoch (~3-5 Ma), during which global mean annual temperatures were 3-4°C warmer than modern and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide were comparable to modern (~400ppm).


Recent synthesis studies, based on records derived from organic biomarkers preserved in ocean sediments on the sea floor, explore the spatial patterns of ocean surface temperature and productivity during past periods of sustained warmth. A Pliocene sea surface temperature reconstruction reveals that the spatial distribution of temperature was markedly different than modern, with significantly reduced (4-6°C) temperature gradients between high and low latitudes and across ocean basins at tropical latitudes. A companion synthesis of marine biological export production reveals a dramatic shift in marine productivity at the end of the Pliocene, with marked productivity declines in high latitude regions and marked productivity increases in mid to low latitude regions. These syntheses speak to fundamentally different patterns of ocean surface conditions during the Pliocene warm period and highlight the possibility that increases in global average temperatures in the future may result in major shifts in the patterns of both ocean and climate conditions.


Dr. Lawrence is a paleoceanographer/paleoclimatologist who uses sediments from deep sea cores to study past intervals of sustained warmth, the history of glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere, and the effect of Milankovtich cycles on late Cenozoic climate.


  • 11 September 2016 Willamette University, Salem, OR
  • 06 October 2016 University of Maine, Orono, ME
  • 07 October 2016 Colby College, Waterville, ME
  • 27 October 2016 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro, PA
  • 17 November 2016 SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY


South China Sea – Drilling back in time to determine the evolution of a vital marginal sea


LinThe South China Sea (SCS) is the world’s largest equatorial marginal sea, critically positioned between the world’s highest mountains, the Himalayas, and the world’s largest oceans. Covering an area of more than 3 million square kilometers – twice the size of the State of Alaska – the SCS directly controls the Earth system of the East and Southeast Asia, impacting the life of one third of the world’s population. While the vital role of the SCS is obvious, its tectonic history, however, is still a subject of considerable debate: When and how did the SCS form? When did the seafloor spreading start and terminate in the SCS? Why and how did the SCS break into two distinct eastern and southwestern sub-basins, and what are their ages? How did the past tectonic, volcanic, and climatic events interact each other? In 2014, Dr. Jian Lin and colleagues co-led IODP Expedition 349 – the first expedition of the new decade-long International Ocean Discovery Program – to address these and other critical scientific questions. Through drilling back in time, Dr. Lin and colleagues successfully determined, for the first time, seafloor spreading ages of the SCS, discovered evidence for significant past volcanic events, and obtained a rich sedimentary record of tectonic and climatic changes of the SCS. Dr. Lin will share exciting new IODP results, shining lights on the evolution of this vital marginal sea. He will also share the story of how a team of international scientists, including many from the region, have overcome challenges at sea, working towards a common goal of scientific discovery.


Dr. Jian Lin is a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He was a Co-Chief Scientist of IODP Expedition 349 in 2014 (South China Sea tectonics), a Physical Properties Specialist and JOIDES Logging Scientist on ODP Leg 184 in 1999 (East Asian monsoons), and a key proponent of IODP Expeditions 367/368 (South China Sea rifted margin) scheduled for 2017.


  • 02 December 2016 University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
  • 10 February 2017 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA
  • 21 February 2017 University of California, Riverside, Riverside, CA
  • 23 February 2017 University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Knoxville, TN


Those rocks are alive! – Geomicrobiology of the deep biosphere in subseafloor igneous basement


sylvanOne of the great surprises in ecology during the last 20 years was the discovery of a vast microbial biome deep below the seafloor. This environment, known as the deep biosphere, is the largest microbial habitat on the Earth. We now know that as many prokaryotic cells live in subseafloor sediment as in the entire oceanic water column. Microbial biomass in the basement rocks underlying sediments is currently unknown, but can only add to that total. Therefore, there are likely more cells below the seafloor than in the water column, making the study of the marine deep biosphere critical to understanding marine microbiology, chemistry and geology. My research focuses on geomicrobiology in basement rocks – how many microbes are present, who they are, and what they are doing. I will present findings from two recent IODP expeditions on which I sailed – Expedition 330, which sampled 55-80 million year old extinct volcanoes along the Louisville Seamount Chain in the southwest Pacific Ocean, and Expedition 360, which completed in January 2016 and drilled 789 meters below seafloor into 11 million year old lower crustal rocks as the first part of a multi-expedition program to drill to the Earth’s mantle. Results from these cruises help redefine our understanding of biomass in igneous basement and provide insight into the types of lifestyles subseafloor microbes lead in these environments.


Dr. Sylvan’s research focus is the microbial ecology of marine hydrothermal ecosystems and subseafloor igneous crust. He has sailed on several scientific ocean drilling expeditions, most recently IODP Expedition 360, which drilled into the Atlantis Bank on the Southwest Indian Ridge.


  • 01 November 2016 Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Cospus Christi, TX 
  • 09 November 2016 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Woods Hole, MA 
  • 10 November 2016 Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Booth Bay Harbor, ME 
  • 16 November 2016 Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 
  • 18 November 2016 University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 
  • 23 February 2017 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WS 
  • 22 March 2017 Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 
  • 04 April 2017 Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ 
  • 05 April 2017 University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, MD 
  • 06 April 2017 University of Delaware, Lewes, DE 


Host A Lecture


The application period to host an Ocean Discovery Lecturer during the 2016-17 academic year has now passed.


Nominate a Lecturer


The lecturer nomination period has closed.


Ocean Discovery Lecture 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


A list of previous Ocean Discovery Distinguished Lecturers can be found here.