Learning the fundamentals of continental scientific drilling with ICDP at GFZ, Potsdam…by Jack Lacey

The International Continental scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) is a global initiative that provides financial and operational support for multinational research teams to drill the Earth’s continental crust, with the principle aim of better understanding our Earth system through cutting-edge transdisciplinary scientific research. ICDP has supported drilling projects across the world to investigate a broad range of science themes, including geological hazards, natural resources, and palaeoclimate (see the extensive list here). The program comprises 24 member countries, and the UK has been an active member since 2012 funded by the British Geological Survey (ICDP-UK).
Key ICDP research themes (source: icdp-online.org)
Each year ICDP hosts a training course that covers the fundamentals of continental scientific drilling, and I was one of 29 scientists, including four other UK-based participants, selected to attend this year’s event hosted at the GFZ in Potsdam, Germany. The course is designed to provide a foundation in the theory and practical aspects of drilling for those involved in current and future ICDP projects, and is delivered through a series of lectures given by leading ICDP scientists. The sessions covered a comprehensive range of topics from drilling technologies, core sampling, and geophysical logging, to the importance of outreach, proposal writing, and data management – all in just under three days! Dr Virginia Toy from the University of Otago also gave us a fascinating look into the history and achievements of the Deep Fault Drilling Project, an on-going ICDP project that drilled into the Alpine Fault in New Zealand to investigate the processes of rock deformation and earthquakes.

Delegates of the 2016 ICDP training course on continental scientific drilling (courtesy of ICDP)

Imaging a core on the line scanning device at the
BGR Core Repository (the core is rotated
during a scan producing an ‘unrolled’ image
 of the whole outer surface)
The course is normally hosted by an active project to enable delegates to experience a drilling campaign first-hand. However, ICDP is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016 and so the training was held at the GFZ to coincide with an important workshop being attended by over a hundred invited scientists, funding organisation representatives and the media (see Melanie Leng’s recent blog) – a valuable networking opportunity. To cover some of the practical aspects of drilling projects the training course included a visit to the BGR Core Repository in Spandau, where we were shown how to image and log core sections, scan cores using XRF, and use a multi-sensor core logger.

Whilst in Potsdam I was able to visit the Sanssouci park that contains several palaces, including the Neues Palais built in the 18th century. One room, the Grottensaal (Grotto Hall), is particularly impressive being encrusted with over 24,000 shells, rocks and fossils – an idea for what to do with those rock collections back home perhaps?

A section of marble wall encrusted with geological specimens

Overall, the training course and workshop were extremely useful and provided a great opportunity to meet others involved in continental scientific drilling. If you are, or will be, involved in an ICDP drilling project I thoroughly recommend applying for next year’s course (details will be announced here).

By Jack Lacey (Centre for Environmental Geochemistry and Stable Isotope Facility, British Geological Survey). Jack is involved in the ICDP Scientific Collaboration on Past Speciation Conditions in Lake Ohrid (SCOPSCO) project.