Articles | Volume 16
Workshop report
05 Nov 2013
Workshop report |  | 05 Nov 2013

Scientific drilling and the evolution of the earth system: climate, biota, biogeochemistry and extreme systems

G. S. Soreghan and A. S. Cohen

Abstract. A US National Science Foundation-funded workshop occurred 17–19 May 2013 at the University of Oklahoma to stimulate research using continental scientific drilling to explore earth's sedimentary, paleobiological and biogeochemical record. Participants submitted 3-page "pre-proposals" to highlight projects that envisioned using drill-core studies to address scientific issues in paleobiology, paleoclimatology, stratigraphy and biogeochemistry, and to identify locations where key questions can best be addressed. The workshop was also intended to encourage US scientists to take advantage of the exceptional capacity of unweathered, continuous core records to answer important questions in the history of earth's sedimentary, biogeochemical and paleobiologic systems. Introductory talks on drilling and coring methods, plus best practices in core handling and curation, opened the workshop to enable all to understand the opportunities and challenges presented by scientific drilling. Participants worked in thematic breakout sessions to consider questions to be addressed using drill cores related to glacial–interglacial and icehouse–greenhouse transitions, records of evolutionary events and extinctions, records of major biogeochemical events in the oceans, reorganization of earth's atmosphere, Lagerstätte and exceptional fossil biota, records of vegetation–landscape change, and special sampling requirements, contamination, and coring tool concerns for paleobiology, geochemistry, geochronology, and stratigraphy–sedimentology studies. Closing discussions at the workshop focused on the role drilling can play in studying overarching science questions about the evolution of the earth system. The key theme, holding the most impact in terms of societal relevance, is understanding how climate transitions have driven biotic change, and the role of pristine, stratigraphically continuous cores in advancing our understanding of this linkage. Scientific drilling, and particularly drilling applied to continental targets, provides unique opportunities to obtain continuous and unaltered material for increasingly sophisticated analyses, tapping the entire geologic record (extending through the Archean), and probing the full dynamic range of climate change and its impact on biotic history.