Review of the ECORD Training Course 2018: "Virtual Ship Experience"

Shray Badhani (ESR 4), Monika Wiebe (ESR 11), Ting-Wei Wu (ESR 7) | @ MARUM, Bremen, Germany (23-27 April 2018)

From 23rd to 27th April, a group of seven SLATE ESRs participated in the ECORD Training Course 2018, which took place at MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, Bremen. The first thing we had to get used to during this course was the number of abbreviations – ECORD, IODP, BCR, MSP, LWD, MSCL, and so on – it was easy to get confused there.

First of all, ECORD is short for European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling, which consists of 14 European countries and Canada. It is also part of IODP – the International Ocean Discovery Program, a collaboration of 23 nations. IODP conducts research expeditions world-wide that recover sediment and hard rock cores from the seafloor in order to explore and solve scientific questions. The recovered cores are first processed onboard and then analysed onshore. Finally they are stored in one of the three core repositories, one of which is located at MARUM in Bremen. The Bremen Core Repository (BCR) hosts all cores from the North and South Atlantic Ocean; it presently contains 156 km of IODP cores from 90 expeditions.

The idea of the ECORD Training Course is to prepare and train young scientists for life and work aboard an IODP expedition. In total we were 31 participants, mainly PhD students, from different fields out of the marine sciences. The course provided us with a one-week “Vir­tual Ship Ex­per­i­ence” fo­cus­ing on the various methods used to analyse cores on board, but also on life on an IODP ship, and how to write an IODP proposal. It consisted of four main parts:

1. Introduction to IODP and ECORD

The course started with a general welcome, introduction and information part. Ursula Röhl, Rüdiger Stein and Holger Kuhlmann introduced us to the structure and objectives of IODP and ECORD as well as the purpose of this training course. Even though it was also a bit confusing, it was interesting to hear about what has to happen and how all the different panels and boards work together until an expedition can actually take place. In the end of this introductory session, Dierk Hebbeln took us on a tour through the MARUM. We visited the IODP core repository and also had a look at the different kinds of marine technology that are developed and applied by the MARUM, including the MeBo drill rig.

2. Virtual shipboard work at BCR/MARUM

In this part we learned how to work on cores on board. One of the most important parts is the core description. Core description is the first thing to do when the cores are obtained on deck before sediment properties begin to change afterwards. Visual observation at the time when the cores are still “fresh” can only rely on the skills of the describers. After the core description, the cores are placed on the machines (e.g. Multi-Sensor Core Logger, MSCL) for core logging, high-resolution linescan imaging and color scanning, and then sampled for different methods to obtain other physical and chemical properties. For example, pore water acquisition and analysis can provide us with concentration data such as salinity, nutrients, PH, alkalinity, ammonium, chloride, and sulphide. Smear slide analysis is a very simple and inexpensive way to determine some major components (e.g. sediment type and diatom data) of fine-grained sediments under the microscope. Biostratigraphy also uses microscopes but focuses on correlating and assigning relative ages of sediments by using the fossil assemblages contained within them.

3. Introductory seminars to general shipboard activities

In addition to these lab turns which were done in small groups, we also had seminars as a whole group. These gave us some more information as to what exactly happens on an IODP expedition. One of the most interesting and memorable talks was held by Oscar Romero who gave us a lively report of a recent expedition he attended, JR374. This expedition on IODP vessel JOIDES Resolution went from New Zealand to the West Antarctic ice sheet in order to investigate climatic and oceanic changes. With his pictures and stories Oscar Romero gave us a good idea on how both work and leisure time is spent on an IODP expedition. In this part we also learned how to obtain data and samples from previous expeditions, and did some practical work on core correlation and splicing. This is a method that ensures that a complete record is obtained by drilling more than one hole on one site.

4. Interactive session on defining drilling targets and strategies including drilling proposal writing

A successful IODP proposal needs a great idea, lots of planning, and execution at the right time due to the geographical location of the drilling vessels. In this session, we were given a general idea of a timeline of a successful IODP proposal and an introductory seminar on proposal writing. Our group was then asked to form small teams of 5-6 participants to write a short proposal and present it in front of the rest of the group and the lecturers. It was a challenging task for all of us since we all had different scientific backgrounds and had to find a way to present the ideas of the whole team. However, we were told that the most successful proposals are usually the ones which have the most multi-disciplinary objectives.

Overall the ECORD training course was a success and provided all of us with new knowledge and understanding as to what IODP is and does, and how we personally can use the acquired data or get involved.

"It is very useful to know how to work with different disciplines on board. I learned the orders of experiments and how a cruise mission is organized. I think the most precious part of the course is that it strengthened my skills to communicate and cooperate with researchers with different backgrounds."
"As a geophysicist, I spend most of my time working behind a computer -- so getting some "hands on" experience working with the cores and the laboratory analysis was great. I hope to use downhole logs and physical property measurements from the NanTroSEIZE expeditions during my PhD. For me it was very useful to learn more about the core handling and data archiving procedures, particularly around splicing core sections. I would recommend this course to anyone who plans to use any IODP datasets, as it was an excellent overview of the technical operations and wider scientific goals of the programme."
“The IODP Training Course was very instructive; especially to learn more about all the analyses proceeded on the cores from the recovery until the storage. Even if some of the methods used were familiar to me, I found it very interesting to see how they use these methods during an IODP cruise and how a day on board for each of them looks like. I particularly liked the hard rock core description, which was a step back in time to my first year at university and was a pleasant experience. In addition, I was very surprised by the biostratigraphy course, which the speaker made very interesting. Overall, it was a great experience, the team was really nice and the course made me want to participate in IODP expeditions.”
“I applied to the course without really knowing what to expect and how it might help me in my research. Now I am glad that I had the chance to attend, as it really helped me to understand better what kind of data is obtained and why. For me the physical properties sessions were the most important ones as I am using this data and now know better how to work with it. I also highly enjoyed the chance to get to know other young scientists from around the world and hear about their different research topics.”
“My main motivation to attend the course was to learn different techniques for sediment core analysis, which I will apply during the course of my PhD. It was also helpful to know about the accessibility of the openly available IODP core data, which we can also share with our colleagues. The course also helped me to grow my network in the scientific community, which is imperative for a career in academics.”
"The most important thing I got from the ECORD training course was to understand how to get the most out of IODP data. During the virtual ship labs we had the opportunity to see how very different types of data are collected and analyzed, providing a complete overview about what information one can get from a core. In this way I worked on topics that I am not really an expert in, and that I never thought could be useful for my research. The ECORD course provided a solid idea on how very different types of well data have to be considered together, in order to have a complete understanding about the well, and this is something I will definitely keep in mind while using their data in my research. Beside this, I obviously was really fascinated by the stories of IODP campaigns from people who have had the opportunity to directly live the experience. Who knows, maybe one day I will also be able to be part of the crew..."
  • MARUM, Bremen, Germany
Course Schedule

SLATE participants

  • J. Ford, ESR2
  • T. Gauchery, ESR3
  • S. Badhani, ESR4
  • D. Mencaroni, ESR6 
  • T.-W. Wu, ESR7 
  • R. Gatter, ESR9 
  • M. Wiebe, ESR10