News Archive

posted 10/01/03

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Will Co-Lead Multi-Million Dollar Research Program to Explore Earth Processes Beneath the Ocean Floor

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Alliance of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc., Texas A&M University, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University announced today that they have signed a contract to operate a scientific drillship as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). The contract has an estimated cost of $626 million over ten years.

“IODP research will play an essential role in our efforts to understand and predict how our earth will change in future decades, and the Borehole Research Group at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory will be playing a leadership role in this important international research. This announcement insures that Lamont will retain and further establish it's global reputation as a leader in innovation in the observation of our planets active processes,” said G. Michael Purdy, Director of The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

The contract names the Alliance the System Integration Contractor, responsible for program management; planning for scientific services and drillship operations; drilling, coring, and logging of seafloor sediments and crustal rock; collecting, analyzing, storing, curating, and disseminating data, samples and results; and science education and outreach for a non-riser vessel.

Bruce Malfait, Head of the Marine Geosciences Section at NSF, said, “Signing the contract is a major step in implementing the IODP and follows on recommendations of the international scientific community developed over the last seven years of planning for this exciting new program. The alliance institutions have provided exemplary service during the Ocean Drilling Program and we have every confidence that they will be able to meet the increased challenges of the IODP.”

JOI President Steven Bohlen added, “The Alliance looks forward to building upon our past successes with the Ocean Drilling Program and reaching future science goals with innovative approaches.”

The contract signing comes just before the official start of IODP on October 1, 2003, and will allow the United States to bring a research vessel on-line by next June. Following the advice of the IODP science planning and operations committees, the first expedition will take place next summer at the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the northeast Pacific Ocean to study fluids in the oceanic crust.

IODP will use the JOIDES Resolution for this expedition. The JOIDES Resolution was used for nearly 20 years by the Ocean Drilling Program, and with minor improvements, will be used by IODP for one to two years. An enhanced vessel capable of achieving the long-range science and engineering goals of IODP will then be acquired, converted, and operated by the Alliance.

In addition to the JOIDES Resolution, IODP will utilize a riser vessel currently under construction in Japan named Chikyu (“Earth”). Plans are also underway for additional countries to sponsor special platforms for drilling in shallow water and ice-covered regions.

IODP is an international program of basic research that builds upon the legacies of the Deep Sea Drilling Project (1968-1983) and the Ocean Drilling Program (1983-2003). IODP is guided by its science plan, which encompasses three main themes: the Deep Biosphere and Subseafloor “Ocean;” Environmental Change, Processes, and Effects; and Solid Earth Cycles and Geodynamics. More information is available online at

The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is one of the world’s leading research centers examining the planet from its core to its atmosphere, across every continent and every ocean. From global climate change to earthquakes, volcanoes, environmental hazards and beyond, Observatory scientists provide the basic knowledge of Earth systems needed to inform the future health and habitability of our planet. For more information, visit

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is among the world’s leading academic centers for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines—earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences—and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.