In late April, an international team of researchers working under the auspices of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) launched the New Jersey Shallow Shelf Expedition in the early hours one morning, taking advantage of the high tide to sail to the continental shelf just off the New Jersey shore. There, they will conduct coring operations to collect geological sediments that will inform them about Earth cycles that relate to sea level change, the mechanisms that force it, and that have impacted the geography of the shoreline over time.

“Researchers have drilled on the coastal plain and the continental slope to learn about sea level change from its highest to lowest levels over the last 35 million years,” says co-chief scientist Gregory Mountain of Rutgers University, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “Access to the records in our current drill target will provide us with missing information that bridges those two sets of records. The new samples will enable us to determine time, rate and magnitude of changes that have occurred over the last 35 million years and lead us to improve our understanding of coastal response to sea level rise, one aspect of climate change.”

The expedition is funded primarily by a consortium of 17 European countries called the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), in partnership with the U.S. National Science Foundation, Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, The People’s Republic of China, The Republic of Korea, Australia, India, and New Zealand. Additional support for this expedition was provided by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program. “This is the first expedition that afforded an opportunity for IODP and ICDP to co-fund a drilling project that results in sediment records that both research groups are eager to acquire,” explains ECORD managing agency director Catherine Mével. “This expedition completes the transect from land to sea initiated 15 years ago.”

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.