20 year anniversary: International Continental Scientific Drilling Program ICDP

ICDP-drilling site at Lake Ohrid, Mazedonia (photo: Niklas Leicher, Universität Köln).

Participants of the ICDP training course (photo: K. Behrends, GFZ).

The climate and ecosystems of the past and a better understanding of natural hazards and geo-resources via the investigation of processes of the deep crust – these are the major topics of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, ICDP. Twenty years ago the ICDP was founded on the initiative of the GFZ on Telegrafenberg and ever since explores the continents. Also on Telegrafenberg it now celebrates its 20th birthday, from 20 to 21 October, with a workshop meeting. Hundred invited scientists, representatives of funding organizations and the media discuss the future direction of the ICDP, options of project funding, and the visibility of the ICDP within and outside of the scientific community.

The range of drill projects of the ICDP is from the collection of sediment samples from lakes, to the drilling into active fault zones and volcanoes, to the sampling of gas hydrates in permafrost soils. Until today, the ICDP financially and operatively supported 38 drill projects worldwide, with ten further projects in preparation.

Ever since the 1960s international scientific research vessels travel and investigate the oceans within precursor programs of the International Ocean Drilling Program, IODP. But not only marine sediments serve as witnesses of the past. Also on continents there are places where sediments are deposited for thousands and hundreds of thousands of years that reveal climatic and environmental conditions of the past, for example via pollen and spores preserved under anoxic conditions. Twenty years ago, on the initiative of the GFZ, the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, ICDP, was established. In analogy to the IODP it investigates the continents. The reconstruction of the climates of the past is only one of its major research topics.

Twenty countries are ICDP members, from the USA to Germany, from China to Iceland. Each country is represented by a scientific institution or university. Since the foundation of the ICDP in 1996, its development is closely linked with the GFZ. The GFZ supports the German ICDP membership and finances the Operational Support Group, OSG, which is run by the GFZ Centre for Scientific Drilling. The OSG consists of a team of scientists, engineers, and technicians that support the project planning and management of ICDP projects. Besides their general work for the GFZ, the GFZ scientists Ulrich Harms, Bernhard Prevedel, Thomas Wiersberg, Thomas Gorgas, Simona Pierdominici, Ronald Conze, and Jochem Kück are part of the OSG. They handle the data management of the drill projects, organize well loggings, provide equipment for core analysis, give advice for the realization of drill projects, and conduct training programs. Currently, until October 20, an ICDP training course for young scientists is run.

Besides the actual drilling, several GFZ scientists are also involved in the scientific analysis of the data. In 2015, for example, the Indonesian Lake Towuti was drilled at three locations with a total length of about 1100 meters, to investigate the deep biosphere and to reconstruct past climates. Here, the GFZ section Geomicrobiology was involved in scientific data evaluation. Another example is a current drill project in Iceland, where the usability of hypercritical fluids for geothermal energy production is tested, scientifically supported by the GFZ sections Geothermal Energy Systems and the GFZ Centre for Scientific Drilling.

Ariane Kujau, 20.10.2016

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