Letter from the USAC Chair

December, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

I was recently asked to speak about scientific ocean drilling at the 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. The theme of the meeting is Science Without Borders, and the symposium is entitled International Territory: Science at Sea, Science in Space, and Science at the Poles. The invitation led me to realize that I had taken the international aspect of scientific ocean drilling for granted. From my first cruise as a graduate student (ODP Leg 146) to my most recent (IODP Expedition 316), I have worked as a member of an international science team. In my experience, I’ve realized that over the course of an eight-week expedition, the boundary between nightshift and dayshift becomes more important than borders between nations.

Although the focus of the AAAS session is international collaborations, scientific ocean drilling bridges several “borders” – those between land and sea, between disciplines, and between new and experienced scientists. The science brings together top names in the field with graduate students. The differences of experience disappear as you are having breakfast in the galley or working around the core table. Galley and core discussions also bring together disciplines that would otherwise rarely interact.

As the current phase of drilling gathers momentum, IODP continues to dissolve boundaries. We are now successfully drilling in shallower waters, drilling deeper below the seafloor, and extending the range of piston coring beyond what was previously possible. At the August 2010 Science Planning Committee meeting, representatives from new member nations such as China, India, and Korea provided encouraging news on their growing ocean science communities.

Now is a critical time to consider the value that scientific drilling has provided to your research and to the broader community. At the upcoming AGU Fall Meeting, please attend the IODP Town Hall and the Union session Frontiers in Scientific Ocean Drilling, which will highlight program accomplishments and opportunities. Then, take it a step farther and assure that the recent accomplishments and future potential of ocean drilling are visible to your colleagues, institutions, funding agencies, and general public.

Best regards,

Liz Screaton, USAC Chair