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Going down to acronym town

claire nzers

Kia ora! I’m Claire, the Science Outreach Projects Coordinator at Otago Museum. For the next month I will be working as the onboard outreach officer on the ship the JOIDES Resolution, for Expedition 378: South Pacific Paleogene Climate. I’ll be blogging about my adventures here, but you can also follow the ships social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Going down to acronym town – AKA what and who?!

So GNS and ANZIC-IODP along with Otago Museum are supporting me to be part of IODP Exp378 on the JR.


They do love their acronyms here. Let me try explain…

The JOIDES Resolution is an amazingly kitted out scientific research ship. The name itself stands for Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling. But to its friends it is known as The JR (that’s its twitter handle, you should follow it!).

The ship is used by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) which is a global collaborative committed to unlocking the secrets of the Earth’s history, environment, and changes by studying the rocks and sediments beneath the ocean. Different countries ‘buy in’ to be part of the program, and this allows them to send their researchers on different research expeditions run by the IODP. It is a pretty amazing programme that allows scientific research and collaboration to happen on a global scale, and continue to happen, despite how different governments might feel about each other at different times!

New Zealand partners up with Australia to buy in, so together they form ANZIC-IODP, the Australia New Zealand International Consortium. This means that New Zealand scientists can apply to go on expeditions, and use the samples that the IODP collects for research. On Expedition 378 there are three of us ANZICers, that is us above! There is myself, Dr Chris Hollis of GNS, the national geological research institute based in Wellington, and Professor Simon George from Macquaire University in Australia. (There will be more on Chris and Simon’s research in later blogs!). 

Alright. Enough of acronym town. What does the JOIDES Resolution actually DO?

Well, it is a ship that finds it hard to hide in a crowd, the giant derrick in the middle of the ship is always a dead giveaway. The derrick is the framework to support the drill rig, because the key purpose of the JOIDES is to drill down through the seabed floor to recover, and study, cores of sediment and rock that have been laid down over millions of years. These cores aren’t all that big in diameter (66 mm) – but the drill can go down quite deep (over 8000 m below the sea surface!), and the deeper it goes the further back in time you go. Once the sediment cores are brought onboard they are processed and studied by the team of scientists that are on the ship. Seabed sediment core study has been incredibly important for creating a global picture of the Earth’s systems across time because, well, firstly, most of the earth is covered in ocean, and secondly, sediment that settles on the seabed can be left there undisturbed and untouched by weather, leaving a perfectly layered record across time.

Image: Not an easy ship to hide. The huge derrick  on the JOIDES Resolution enables the drilling. By Claire Concannon © Otago Museum.

Each expedition on the JOIDES Resolution has a different key objective, and each scientist on board would have applied to sail, outlining exactly how they have the skills and ideas to contribute to that overall expedition objective. The key objective of Expedition 378: South Pacific Paleogene Climate is to look back at a period of time between 66 and 23 million years ago to study what the climate was like then. We will be drilling at a site with the catchy name of U1553, which is on the Campbell Plateau, south of New Zealand. This site has been drilled before, but 47 years ago, now we are back with waaaaaay better drilling technology and lab equipment to get more answers about this region. We will also be drilling a bit deeper, so that we can look beyond 66 million years ago, across the threshold between the Cretaceous (think dinosaurs) and Paleogene (dinosaurs gone!) periods, when a mass extinction occurred.

There is a lot of excitement onboard about what we are going to find at this site, but first we have to get there!



Top Image: Team ANZIC for Expedition 378 (L-R): Chris, Claire and Simon.By Claire Concannon © Otago Museum.