Meet the…. stratigraphic correlators

Afternoon (shore-based) shipmates!

As we are currently drilling Hole C at Site U1445, I thought this would be a good moment to introduce you to the stratigraphic correlators, and why it is that we feel the need to drill more than one hole in the exact same spot in the ocean!

Liviu is our day-shift correlator, who is hard at work as we speak making sure all the cores are correctly offset and that we’re not missing anything. I’ll let him expain in his own words what it is that he does…

Go ahead and introduce yourself – to start off, what do we call you?

Giosan… Liviu Giosan… 🙂

Hello Luviu. And where do you hail from?

I am a Romanian working in the USA at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod near Boston. Woods Hole, home of famed research submarine Alvin, is the largest independent institute for ocean exploration in the world and has sent many able marine scientists to sail on JR over time.

Ah so you’re from the “other Falmouth” in the USA. I bet it’s not as good as the original one in Cornwall 😉

Liviu at work

[Liviu working hard at the correlator’s station]

So what is your specialty on the JR and what does it involve?

I am a geoscientist widely interested in many aspects of Earth’s history. I sail here as a stratigraphic correlator – and together with my colleague Gianluca Marino, we make sure that the mud recovered by drilling is as complete as possible. What does this mean?

Let’s imagine an old book that has only two copies left and each copy has pages missing. The pages not available in one copy may be available in the other. The cylinders of mud that we extract at the bottom of the ocean have layers upon layers, pages in Earth’s history book. We can read that book through studies in our labs around the world. The deeper we drill the earlier we reach in time.

Drilling today is one amazing technology, but it is not perfect. We may lose mud layers, when we drill first, but a second try or a third one may not miss the same mud. Our job as correlators is to make sure that we can piece together this mud book from multiple drilled holes.


Coring offset figure

[Cartoon to show multiple-hole drilling. Black = full recovery, white = the bit we missed. The virtual splice created by the correlators combines both cores to make a complete record with no gaps! Just what we paleoceanographers need for our ongoing work]


 Great explanation! But why exactly is this job so important to the expedition and to ocean drilling in general?

Completeness insures that all scientists involved in this great effort called scientific drilling are able to perform their studies when they return in the lab. Drilling in the ocean is hard and expensive; it is not possible to go back in the same spot to drill again for decades or maybe ever. Correlation in real time insures that we get the best mud that money can buy …

Ah, value for money – always a compelling argument in these tough times. So can you tell us what your normal area of research is at home when you’re not on the JR?

I am interested in how people. Climate and landscapes interact and enrich or limit each other… For example: did climate cause the fall of the Indus civilization 4000 years ago? Did humans build river deltas by adopting agriculture in the Neolithic? Did the monsoon impact human migration out of Africa? Can we do anything to preserve lowland coasts for our grandchildren as sea level rises?

Oooh interesting stuff. And what is the scientific question you are most hoping to answer with the new material from Exp. 353?

 That’s a good question … Did not figure that out yet!

You have plenty of time and we’re getting great mud, so don’t worry! All of our research plans are evolving as we bring up more material during the cruise.

IODP Expedition 353 Indian Monsoon

[Liviu and Gianluca enjoying the sunshine on deck]


So what is the best part about being at sea on the JR?

I like the intense science done under pressure. After all – at the end of each cruise we have a book already written about the region we drilled. In what scientific program can you find such excitement and efficiency?

That’s very true. Sometimes we produce our best work with no rest and lots of motivation…! What is the worst part about being at sea on the JR? What do you miss most from home?

I miss my wife practicing piano – she is a classical pianist – when I work on my papers – it soothes me … And my high school son talking about engines and how we should not give up on inventing a perpetuum mobile 🙂

Great, well thanks Liviu. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Well, never pass the opportunity to sail in a science drilling cruise if you are ever presented with one!

 Excellent advice! See you next time for more deep-sea discoveries…

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