The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), the world's largest ocean research program, has expanded its base of international and scientific support by welcoming Australia, India and New Zealand as its newest associate members. With their membership, 24 countries now collaborate in the program.

"Australia, India, and New Zealand bring welcome scientific experience and leadership to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program," says James Allan, IODP program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation, which, along with Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, jointly provides IODP science and drilling operations with their largest proportion of support.

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program is an international marine research program dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth through drilling, coring and monitoring the sub-seafloor. The program operates three drilling platforms: Chikyu, a riser-equipped vessel provided by Japan; the JOIDES Resolution, a newly refurbished research vessel provided by the United States; and mission-specific drilling platforms managed by ECORD, a 17-member European ocean-drilling research consortium that supports IODP as a contributing member.

As IODP member nations, these three countries will contribute scientists to upcoming IODP research expeditions. In 2009, nine expeditions are scheduled: in the Pacific, the mid-Atlantic, the Bering Sea, and in waters off Japan, New Zealand and Antarctica, with a research expedition to investigate environmental changes in the Great Barrier Reef planned for 2010.