What is it like to work in an IODP onshore science party?

Sharing the enthusiasm for science: This month (February) I am working in Bremen (Germany) as part of the onshore science party for the IODP 381 Expedition; Corinth Active Rift Development. My role within the onshore phase of the expedition is working as a technician for the physical properties team, and more specifically, operating the digital line scanner. This is a digital camera attached to a scary looking machine which scans all the drill cores at high resolution once they have been split in half. These high-quality images are then used by the scientists in the core description lab. They are also archived so that there is a digital record of all the split cores.

So far, we have been processing core for 15 days and in that short time I have learnt a lot. I have learnt how to operate the line scanner, how the complex filing system and digital database works, I have become more familiar with Photoshop and now know how an onshore science party works. I have also worked out that it takes four minutes to scan a full 1.5 meter core section and that after taking time to crop the previous image and upload it to the database, this is not enough time to run to the bathroom (which is at the opposite end of the corridor), but is just enough time to grab a swig of coffee and a biscuit from the snacks table which is conveniently placed just outside of my lab! But, some might say more importantly, I now know how to ask if the food is vegetarian in German, I have learnt that German university canteens are chaotic and that tired and cranky geologists can be bribed with chocolate cookies.

The system used to process the core is clearly well practiced and the MARUM-team (MARUM stands for Center for Marine Environmental Sciences) at the University of Bremen know exactly where everyone and everything should be at any given time – at least it feels that way. It is great to see the enthusiasm of the scientists when they see something exciting in newly split core, and to see geologists with a wide range of experience and expertise working alongside each other.

We work hard – eleven hours a day, seven days a week – but everyone is happy to contribute, knowing that they are collecting and processing truly world-class material and data. It is clear  that for many of the scientists, having an IODP expedition occur in their geographical area of research is an opportunity that only a select few have the chance to experience, and to be able to be a part of the onshore science party and be some of first to see the core is the icing on the cake. IODP expeditions appear to be a prime example of how collaborative research should work. I doubt there are many examples of so many scientists from all over the world congregating in one place to collect the raw data that they, and many others, will use for future research.

Leah Nolan

Leah Nolan operating the line scanner. Photo: VDiekamp, ECORD/IODP

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