International Ocean Discovery Program

The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) is an international marine research collaboration dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth through drilling, coring, and monitoring the subseafloor. The research enabled by IODP samples and data improves scientific understanding of changing climate and ocean conditions, the origins of ancient life, risks posed by geohazards, and the structure and processes of Earth's tectonic plates and uppermost mantle. IODP began in 2013 and builds on the research of four previous scientific ocean drilling programs: Project Mohole, Deep Sea Drilling Project, Ocean Drilling Program, and Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.[1][2] Together, these programs represent the longest running and most successful international Earth science collaboration.[3][4]


Scientific scopeEdit

The scientific scope of IODP is laid out in the program's science plan, Illuminating Earth's Past, Present, and Future. The science plan covers a 10-year period of operations and consists of a list of scientific challenges that are organized into four themes called Climate and Ocean Change, Biosphere Frontiers, Earth Connections, and Earth in Motion.[5][6] The science plan was developed by the international scientific community to identify the highest priority science for the program.[7][8]

IODP funding and operationsEdit

JOIDES Resolution docked in Panama, October 2012

IODP uses multiple drilling platforms (JOIDES Resolution, Chikyu, and mission-specific platforms) to access different subseafloor environments during research expeditions. These facilities are funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), alongside the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China (MOST), Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM), Australian-New Zealand IODP Consortium (ANZIC), India Ministry of Earth Science (MoES), and Brazil's Coordination for Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES). Together, these entities represent a coalition of over two dozen countries. The IODP funding model differs from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program in that NSF, MEXT, and ECORD each manage their own drilling platform. International partners directly contribute to the operating costs of the drilling platforms in exchange for scientific participation on the expeditions and seats on the advisory panels.[9][10]

IODP expeditions are based on research proposals submitted by scientists that address the objectives described in the program's science plan. Advisory panels of international experts then rigorously evaluate the proposal for science quality, feasibility, safety, and any environmental issues. Proposals that are determined to be of high quality are forwarded to the appropriate facility board (JOIDES Resolution Facility Board, Chikyu IODP Board, and ECORD Facility Board) for scheduling.

IODP publishes a detailed account of findings and makes all samples and cores freely available.[11] IODP's open data policy assures global access to the information collected by the program, and it allows scientists to use data from multiple expeditions to investigate new hypotheses.

Cores collected during expeditions are stored at the IODP core repositories in Bremen, Germany (IODP Bremen Core Repository), College Station, Texas (IODP Gulf Coast Repository), and Kochi, Japan (Kochi Core Center). Scientists may visit any one of the facilities for onsite research or request a loan for teaching purposes/analysis. Archived cores include not only IODP samples, but also those retrieved by the Deep Sea Drilling Project, Ocean Drilling Program, and Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.[12]


IODP expeditions have investigated a wide range of Earth science topics, including past climate and ocean conditions, monsoon systems, seismogenic zones, the formation of continental crust and ocean basins, major extinction events, the role of serpentinization in driving hydrothermal systems, and the temperature limits of life in the deep biosphere.

An early outcome of the program harkens back to the original motivation for scientific ocean drilling with Project Mohole – drilling and sampling across the Mohorovičić discontinuity (Moho) and into the upper part of Earth's mantle. Expedition 360 was the initial part a multiphase project whose goal, among others, is to directly sample the mantle for the first time. The expedition took place near the Southwest Indian Ridge at a location where the crust is particularly thin due to the formation of an oceanic core complex. Expedition 360 completed 790 meters of drilling and IODP plans to return to the site in the coming years to continue the research.[13][14]

Expedition 364 sampled the peak ring of the Chicxulub impact crater, which is buried offshore near the Yucatán Peninsula. Chicxulub is the only well-preserved crater on Earth with a peak ring and was formed when an asteroid slammed into the planet 66 million years ago, killing off dinosaurs and most life on the planet. Analysis of the collected samples and data shows that the asteroid's impact caused rocks from deep in the Earth to shoot up and form the large mountains of the peak ring in a matter of minutes. The sediments overlying the peak ring also provide a record of how life returned to the area after the mass extinction event.[15][16][17]

In addition to studying how the Earth moves in response to impact events, IODP also studies the processes that cause earthquakes. For example, Expedition 362 brought new insight to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami through the sampling and analysis of sediments and rocks from the oceanic plate that feeds the Sumatra subduction zone. The science team discovered that the sediment's minerals dehydrated before reaching the subduction zone, resulting in a strong fault that allowed for a larger than previously expected earthquake to occur.[18][19]

IODP's early climate studies focused on efforts to understand the Asian monsoon system. Expeditions 353, 354, 355, and 359 collected sediments from the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman Sea, and the Arabian Sea. These sediments were eroded from the land and primarily carried by rivers to the ocean, where some of the sediments have laid buried for millions of years. By analyzing the chemical and physical properties of the sediments, scientists are learning about the evolution of mountain growth, monsoonal precipitation, weathering and erosion, and climate across the region and across multiple time scales. For example, one such study discovered that the monsoonal winds that drive the region's climate began suddenly 12.9 million years ago.[20]

Scientific studies from subseafloor instruments and IODP's core archives, which contain samples from this and previous ocean drilling programs, are also yielding insights into the Earth's climate and tectonic history. A study examining samples collected from around the world concluded that the rate of carbon release today is 10 times greater than during the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum or anytime during the past 66 million years.[21][22] And, measurements taken in the Nankai Trough near Japan show that slow slip earthquakes are releasing about 50% of the subduction zone's energy, which has implications for understanding tsunami hazards.[23][24]


Completed Expeditions
Number Expedition Name Start Date End Date
Exp. 349 South China Sea Tectonics January 26, 2014 March 30, 2014
Exp. 350 Izu Bonin Mariana: Rear Arc March 30, 2014 May 30, 2014
Exp. 351 Izu Bonin Mariana: Arc Origins May 30, 2014 July 30, 2014
Exp. 352 Izu Bonin Mariana: Forearc July 30, 2014 September 29, 2014
Exp. 353 Indian Monsoon Rainfall November 29, 2014 January 29, 2015
Exp. 354 Bengal Fan January 29, 2015 March 31, 2015
Exp. 355 Arabian Sea Monsoon March 31, 2015 May 31, 2015
Exp. 356 Indonesian Throughflow July 31, 2015 September 30, 2015
Exp. 357 Atlantis Massif Seafloor Processes: Serpentinization and Life October 26, 2015 December 11, 2015
Exp. 359 Maldives Monsoon and Sea Level September 30, 2015 November 30, 2015
Exp. 360 SW Indian Ridge Lower Crust/Moho November 30, 2015 January 30, 2016
Exp. 361 Southern African Climates and Agulhas Current Density Profile January 30, 2016 March 31, 2016
Exp. 362T Transit / Hole U1473 Remediation July 4, 2016 August 6, 2016
Exp. 362 Sumatra Seismogenic Zone August 6, 2016 October 6, 2016
Exp. 363 Western Pacific Warm Pool October 6, 2016 December 8, 2016
Exp. 364 Chicxulub K-T Impact Crater April 5, 2016 May 31, 2016
Exp. 365 NanTroSEIZE: Shallow Megasplay Long-Term Borehole Monitoring System March 26, 2016 April 27, 2016
Exp. 366 Mariana Convergent Margin December 8, 2016 February 7, 2017
Exp. 367 South China Sea Rifted Margin A February 7, 2017 April 9, 2017
Exp. 368 South China Sea Rifted Margin B April 9, 2017 June 11, 2017
Exp. 370 Temperature Limit of the Deep Biosphere off Muroto September 10, 2016 November 10, 2016
Scheduled Expeditions
Number Expedition Name Start Date End Date
Exp. 358 NanTroSEIZE: Riser Hole at C0002 TBD TBD
Exp. 369 Australia Cretaceous Climate and Tectonics September 26, 2017 November 26, 2017
Exp. 371 Tasman Frontier Subduction Initiation and Paleogene July 27, 2017 September 26, 2017
Exp. 372 Creeping Gas Hydrate Slides and Hikurangi LWD November 26, 2017 January 4, 2018
Exp. 373 Antarctic Cenozoic Paleoclimate TBD TBD
Exp. 374 Ross Sea West Antarctic Ice Sheet History January 4, 2018 March 8, 2018
Exp. 375 Hikurangi Subduction Margin Observatory March 8, 2018 May 5, 2018
Exp. 376 Brothers Arc Flux May 5, 2018 July 5, 2018
Exp. 377 Arctic Ocean Paleoceanography TBD TBD
Exp. 378 South Pacific Paleogene Climate October 14, 2018 December 14, 2018
Exp. 379 Amundsen Sea West Antarctic Ice Sheet History January 18, 2019 March 20, 2019
Exp. 380 NanTroSEIZE: Frontal Thrust Borehole Monitoring System January 12, 2018 February 24, 2018
Exp. 381 Corinth Active Rift Development October 2017 December 2017
Exp. 382 Iceberg Alley Paleoceanography and South Falkland Slope Drift March 2019 May 2019
Exp. 383 Dynamics of Pacific Antarctic Circumpolar Current May 2019 July 2019
Exp. 384 Panama Basin Crustal Architecture (504B) and Engineering Testing July 2019 September 2019
Exp. 385 Guaymas Basin Tectonics and Biosphere September 2019 November 2019
Exp. 386 Gulf of Mexico Methane Hydrate January 2020 March 2020
Exp. 387 South Atlantic Expedition March 2020 May 2020


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