Otago Museum’s Dr Claire Concannon is going to the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, and Dunedin is invited along for the ride!
Dr Concannon, Otago Museum Science Outreach Projects Coordinator, is boarding the JOIDES Resolution, an ocean research vessel, on 3 January 2020, to be part of Expedition 378. The ship is heading into the South Pacific to drill deep into the earth beneath the ocean to collect samples from Earth’s history, which will be used to inform climate models being developed today.
The exciting thing for Dunedin though, is that Dr Concannon and the crew of the JOIDES Resolution will be available for ship-to-shore video calls.
If a club, group, or school is interested in the science of climate change models, ocean expeditions, or just science generally, they can get in touch. They will hear about what’s happening on board, get a tour of the ship, and meet some of the scientists at the cutting edge of research. There are limited calls available, from mid-January until the beginning of March, when the crew disembark in Tahiti.
The expedition’s main focus is the Paleogene period, a geological time period between 65 and 25 million years ago. During this period a massive release of carbon meant the atmosphere was trapping heat, and Earth got a lot hotter than it is today. By drilling down and recovering the sediment laid down as this occurred, scientists can uncover what was happening in the Pacific Ocean at this time, discovering its chemistry, currents, and life as the global temperatures changed.
The current climate change Earth is experiencing is a complex and dynamic problem. Modelling what will happen to the Earth’s climate as carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures rise allows us to prepare for what is to come. The scientists on-board the JOIDES Resolution are hoping to reveal clues as to what might be in store for us by uncovering information about what was happening in the ocean during this warm period millions of years ago. This expedition will fill in gaps in the climate data for the remote South Pacific, and make more accurate models for our future. The Pacific is the world’s largest ocean and changes to its chemistry and circulation as sea temperature rise will have global effects.
The scientists will also be taking the opportunity to drill back further in time at a drill site near the Sub Antarctic Auckland Island. They have received permission to drill across the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (when the dinosaurs disappeared) so they can investigate what was happening in this region during that period, and attempt to uncover microorganism fossils.
“I love both science and adventure, these two things combined, wow! I can’t wait!”, said Dr Concannon. “It’s an amazing opportunity for me and I’m so grateful to the Otago Museum for allowing me to take advantage of it. I’m so excited to be doing the ship’s communications and sharing with the world what the scientists discover. I have always been fascinated by the ocean, and it will just be incredible to be part of this expedition.”
JOIDES stands for Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling, and, as well as a drill rig that can reach over 8 kilometres below the ocean’s surface, the ship has an incredibly sophisticated set of laboratories and equipment that will process the sediment cores while out at sea. From the cores, the scientists on board can tell a lot about what was going on from the times the sediment is from, ocean currents, sea temperatures, and ocean productivity, among other things.
The ship operates out of Texas, and expeditions are organised by The International Ocean Discovery Programme (IODP), an international consortium of member countries. The New Zealand branch is based in GNS Science, which has supported Dr Concannon and one other New Zealand-based scientist aboard the ship, Dr Chris Hollis, who specialises in Palaeontology, to be on this expedition.
Dr Concannon will be responsible for outreach and education while on-board, and will be running ship-to-shore workshops with a team of young people from Otago and Southland who are developing a museum exhibition on climate change as part of the Unlocking Curious Minds funded Science Journeys project. Dr Concannon’s journey will be chronicled on the Otago Museum blog, and also on the JOIDES Resolution social media sites.
To learn more about Expedition 378, or to request a ship-to-shore call, go to https://joidesresolution.org/.