Letter from the USAC Chair

January, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

It’s been a busy second year for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP).  The JOIDES Resolution (JR) has completed five expeditions (Expeditions 353-356 and 359) since November 2014, and is currently drilling the SW Indian Ridge Lower Crust and Moho (Expedition 360).  In addition, the ECORD Science Operator (ESO) recently completed the offshore phase of Expedition 357, exploring the Atlantis Massif. 2016 will be equally busy, with Southern African Climates (Expedition 361), Sumatra Seismogenic Zone (Expedition 362), Western Pacific Warm Pool (Expedition 363) and Mariana Convergent Margin and South Chamorro Seamount (Expedition 366) planned for the JR through February 2017. This spring the Chikyu will install a Long-Term Borehole Monitoring System in the Nankai Trough (Expedition 365) and a mission-specific platform will core the Chicxulub Impact Crater (Expedition 364).

The role of United States Advisory Committee for Scientific Ocean Drilling (USAC) is to provide guidance for the U.S. Science Support Program (USSSP).  As incoming chair of USAC, I will work with the committee to improve our outreach to the community, particularly the generation of young scientists who have not yet sailed on an IODP expedition. Sailing as a shipboard scientist is a unique and unforgettable experience. Shipboard and post-cruise analyses conducted by shipboard scientists provide fundamental contributions to our understanding of planet Earth.  For graduate students and early career scientists, sailing is also an important career opportunity.  Working alongside more senior researchers can provide valuable mentoring and assist their development into future leaders in the Earth and life sciences.  Another area of focus will be prioritizing education and outreach activities to maximize the impact of a limited pool of resources.  Finally, we need to make sure that US government agencies appreciate just how significant ocean drilling data are to science and cutting edge research.  This is critical as we look to funding renewal of the US facility, the JOIDES Resolution, in 2019.  (As a reminder, the International Ocean Discovery Program is already approved through 2023).

USSSP is now under new management.  Sincere thanks go to Jeff Schuffert, Charna Meth, Katie Fillingham, Matt Wright, Julie Farver, and the rest of the team that guided USSSP for so many years. The transition to a new office, now headquartered at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, has been smooth thanks to Carl Brenner and his team, including Angela Slagle, Dave Goldberg and Maureen Raymo.  Many critical elements of the program remain the same—e.g., funding for shipboard participation and post-cruise research has not changed, and Sharon Cooper returns as Education and Outreach Manager. Others are different, but mainly in the details of implementation.  For example, applications for USSSP funding and to sail are more streamlined and are handled through an online review portal. Travel is now coordinated by James Spencer and reimbursements are administered through Columbia University’s offices. The Distinguished Lecturer series has been renamed the Ocean Discovery Lecture Series.  And USAC is shifting to a smaller, leaner committee consisting of 10 members; meanwhile, the use of ad hoc proposal reviewers is growing and thereby expanding input from the US IODP community at large.

IODP is stronger than ever as the JR explores the Indian and soon the Pacific Oceans. I look forward to serving the scientific ocean drilling community at this time of great discovery. Please feel free to contact me, or any USAC member, with ideas, questions or concerns.

Best regards,

Beth Christensen, Chair, U.S. Advisory Committee for Scientific Ocean Drilling