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What is IODP?

The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) is an international research collaboration that coordinates seagoing expeditions to study the history of the Earth recorded in rocks and sediments beneath the ocean floor. The IODP builds on more than 50 years of scientific ocean drilling and the highly successful legacy of the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) and Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) that revolutionised our knowledge of the Earth and its oceans, resources, climate and life.

IODP brings together a variety of scientific disciplines with a common goal of understanding the Earth’s past, present and future.


The four main themes of IODP encompass high-priority scientific challenges:

Within each theme are a series of major Challenges that are further described in the current IODP Science Plan “Illuminating Earth’s Past Present and Future”.


The UK subscribes to IODP as a major contributor to the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD). ECORD unites 14 European countries and Canada in a single management structure for scientific ocean drilling as part of IODP. Together with the US, Japan, and other member nations, it funds and steers IODP research. ECORD is also responsible for funding and implementing Mission Specific Platform (MSP) expeditions.

UK participation in IODP is supported by NERC via UK-IODP by:

  • Funding membership in IODP through ECORD

  • Facilitating participation of UK scientists in IODP expeditions and research

  • Making UK scientists, industry and stakeholders aware of opportunities, and results of IODP-related research

  • Providing grants to enable UK scientists to exploit the results of IODP drilling

  • Organising and supporting IODP-related meetings and workshops in the UK and supporting attendance of UK scientists in international IODP meetings and workshops

  • Facilitating participation of the UK scientists in the Science Advisory Structure of IODP and ECORD


Climate and Ocean Change

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Biosphere Frontiers

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Earth Connections


Earth in Motion

Scientific Ocean Drilling Operations

Drilling into the ocean floor to collect valuable scientific samples requires state of the art technology and specially designed drilling platforms (ships and rigs). IODP operations are run by three Science Operators, each of which manages a different type of platform:

  • The JOIDES Resolution (JR) is a riserless drillship that can operate in water depths of 76 to 5800 m and drill to depths as much as 2100 m below the seafloor. It is operated by the JOIDES Resolution Science Operator (JRSO), based at Texas A&M University, USA. The JR is the most active IODP platform.

  • The Deep Sea Drilling Vessel Chikyu is the first riser-equipped drilling vessel built specifically for science. It is capable of drilling to depths as great as 7000 m below the seafloor. Chikyu is operated by the Institute for Marine-Earth Exploration and Engineering (MarE3) within JAMSTEC, Japan.

  • The ECORD Science Operator (ESO) operates expeditions using Mission-Specific Platforms (MSPs). MSPs may be commercial or research vessels/platforms with particular capabilities, such as shallow water or polar drilling, as required by the specific conditions of the expedition.

You can find out more about the history and statistics of scientific ocean drilling here.


JOIDES Resolution

(Image credit: Tim Fulton, IODP JRSO)

Image credit: Gabriel Tagliaro & IODP JRSO

MSP L/B Myrtle

(Image credit: D. Smith, ECORD)

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(Image credit: JAMSTEC)

NEW IODP 2050 Science Framework


Now available to download here:

2050 Science Framework

12-page summary document

2-page pamphlet

Thank you to all UK scientists who contributed reviews and feedback,

and especially to:

Dr Roz Coggon, University of Southampton (Co-lead Editor)

Professor Antony Morris, University of Plymouth (Author, Reviewer)

Professor Damon Teagle, University of Southampton (Contributor)

Professor Lisa McNeill, University of Southampton (Reviewer)

Dr Julie Prytulak, Durham University (Reviewer)

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