Monday, 26 October 2015

The International Ocean Discovery Program (UK) Student Conference 2015...by Rowan Dejardin

The Joides Resolution (JR), the IODP’s flagship vessel
(courtesy of UK-IODP).
In late September 2015 29 PhD students from across the UK headed to Northumberland to learn about the scientific work carried out by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). After registering at the University of Newcastle the group were taken by coach to Allendale, in the beautiful North Pennines AONB, and the conference got off to an excellent start with a hearty meal! This was followed by a talk from Kate Littler, from the University of Exeter, describing a typical day in the life aboard the Joides Resolution (JR), the IODP’s flagship vessel, and an exciting live Skype tour of the JR. The first full day of the conference began with an introduction to the UK-IODP from conference convener Sean Burke, after which all the students presented ‘elevator pitches’ on their research, with the best pitch winning a spot presenting at the IODP general conference. This proved to be a very successful session revealing the wide range of science that is possible when working on material collected by the IODP, from the investigation of past climate to planetary formation, from evolution to invasive jellyfish! It was also a good opportunity to practice presenting research in a conference environment, vital to all early career researchers.

After an excellent lunch and following discussion of how to apply for an IODP expedition and the site survey requirements for such a proposal, led by Bridget Wade (UCL) and David Long (BGS), we moved on to the practical part of the conference: formulating a proposal for an IODP expedition! In teams of around six people our mission was to develop an expedition proposal, a process that would normally take many months, in less than 24 hours. The proposal needed to encompass as many of the four core research areas of the IODP science plan (Climate and Ocean Change, Biosphere Frontiers, Earth Connections, and Earth in Motion) as possible, in addition to being scientifically and logistically feasible, as well as safe.  After initial discussions, the team I was part of decided that we would be able to shoehorn all our various scientific objectives into one expedition to the Southern Ocean. Our objective decided we retired for yet another feast provided by our wonderful hosts at Deneholme House, to prepare ourselves for the busy day ahead!

A group photo of the delegates (and organisers) at the UK-IODP 2015 conference in Newcastle.
The morning of the final day of the conference proved to be a frantic one as we raced to gather the information that would allow us to present our proposal to the conference after 2 pm. Although the activity was quite frenzied will still found time to design a striking logo for our team’s proposal, an important part of any IODP expedition! Against all odds all five teams were able to reveal their proposals in a series of excellent presentations, with a very diverse range of scientific targets advanced, that stimulated a lot of feedback from the other students and the IODP scientists who were running the event.

The logo designed as part of the
conference to represent a
(fictitious) research proposal.
The meeting had been organised so that it was possible for attendees to head to the UK-IODP general conference, being held at the University of Newcastle the following day. This was a great opportunity to see proposals for future expeditions (with some interesting parallels with some of our own ideas!), preliminary results from recent expeditions, and the ongoing science from older expeditions.

Overall the student conference was a really useful event allowing all the attendees to meet up with lots of other researchers a similar stage in their careers, hopefully creating lots of contacts for future collaborations, as well as learning a lot about the work of the IODP and about the process of proposing an expedition. I look forward to being able to attend future events and would highly recommend any other PhD students working in this area to do so too.


By Rowan Dejardin (University of Nottingham and the British Geological Survey PhD student). Rowan is supervised at the University of Nottingham by Dr Sev Kender and Dr George Swann, at the British Geological Survey by Prof Melanie Leng, and at the British Antarctic Survey bd Dr Vicky Peck and Dr Claire Allen. 


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