Ship ahoy! We’re taking you on an expedition at sea, to do science on a research ship! With the help of geochemist Jeanine Ash, we’re climbing on board the JOIDES Resolution, a one-of-a-kind vessel that travels the seven seas, exploring what lies beneath the seafloor. The ship is equipped to find clues to Earth’s history, geology, biology, and even… alien life. So get your sea legs (and ears) ready, and let’s chart a course for science.
The JOIDES Resolution
"The JOIDES Resolution (JR) is a research vessel that drills into the ocean floor to collect and study core samples. Scientists use data from the JR to better understand climate change, geology and Earth’s history. It is a part of the International Ocean Discovery Program and is funded by the National Science Foundation."
The JR has a fantastic website chock full of educational resources, that will tell you about all aspects of the boat! Here's a few of our favorite videos to help you visualize the aspects we mention in the episode.
What does the "drill derrick" look like, and how it works:
Jeanine took her recording from a place called "the catwalk", which is as close as she could get to the drill floor.
Here's a summary of the process when scientists hear the call "core on the floor." (Nice rhyme, guys.)
A microbiologist on a previous expedition explains some of the interesting biology that can be found in the cores.
Expedition 385: Guaymas Basin Tectonics and Biosphere
The expedition we reported on in our episode took place in what's called the Guaymas Basin.
Here's how the expedition website describes the site: "The Guaymas Basin, in the Gulf of California, is a very active area. It is a young spreading system (separating the Pacific and North American plates) where new seafloor is being created. At the same time, organic-rich sediments are rapidly being deposited on the seafloor from highly productive waters above. This is highly unusual for spreading centers — most of them are located far offshore in the open ocean where very little sediment accumulates."
In other words, it's a special place where tectonic plates are ripping apart.
Here's what scientists are doing there (again, website wording): "On Expedition 385, the JR will drill at key locations in successions of sediments and sills of varying age and temperature to explore the physical and chemical gradients along present and extinct fluid pathways. We will also investigate subsurface microbial communities that are sustained by the chemical compounds which are present below the seafloor. This will allow us to have a better idea of their efficiency at capturing these carbon-containing products and to advance our understanding of the conditions that limit life in the depth of our planet."
The scientists on Expedition 385 are keeping a great blog, chronicling life and science on board! It's a fantastic resource to really dive into the specifics.
A favorite post: The JOIDES Resolution gets ready for Halloween!
Check out the full range of JR's educational resources for the classroom.
You can even order free posters and pencils. I mean, this is a no-brainer.
Arrange classroom visits to the JOIDES Resolution!
One of the really cool things that JR does is arrange live broadcasts for classrooms on the ship. It's literally the only thing better than a podcast.
Want to hear more from our interview with Dr. Jeanine Ash onboard the JOIDES Resolution, and her chronicle of her day? Get our bonus episode on Patreon for just $1/month (or however much you'd like to donate).