Aerial view of TAMU

Sailing The Open Seas For World-Class Research


September 25, 2019

Dear Aggie Community,

Last week, during a trip to San Diego, I looked down from the deck of the JOIDES Resolution and was reminded that an incredible treasure trove of our research and discovery is conducted deep below the surface.

For more than a decade, the ship had been circling the globe, extracting samples of rocks and sediments at key points around the world. By pausing at a port in San Diego, we had the opportunity to take a tour of a project that represents the largest federal research program for Texas A&M – $350 million over the next five years.  

The National Science Foundation and the ship’s parent owner, Siem Offshore, support Texas A&M’s leadership role as the ship’s official science operator.

International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 385 Guaymas Basin Tectonics and Biosphere
Photo credit: Tim Fulton

Data from decades of discovery tell us the story of millions of years of biological, chemical and geological history, providing us with a clearer picture of how global temperatures and weather patterns evolve. It’s giving us a glimpse of life existing at greater depths than scientists ever believed was possible. It’s providing us with a window into how earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis are first formed.

This gives Texas A&M the opportunity to take a leading role in finding solutions to problems that affect us all. One day we hope this research will help us respond to challenges like Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Depression Imelda, which could have devastating effects on our state and our region.

After the core samples are removed from the ocean, some are transported back to campus, where they are stored in coolers at our International Ocean Discovery Program. Texas A&M researchers collaborate with scientists from 26 countries around the world, who analyze and share data that is helping us unravel enduring mysteries of how the ocean has transformed over time.

As the trip came to a close, we greeted a group of microbiologists who were preparing to embark on a two-month expedition to study microbial life below the ocean floor in the Gulf of California.  

It was a reminder that exploration and discovery is always a team effort, and I would like to thank the many Aggies who warmly welcomed us in San Diego.

Dr. Debbie Thomas, the dean of our College of Geosciences, knows the JOIDES Resolution well because she served as a graduate researcher on the ship in the early 2000s.

I’m also thankful for the ongoing dedication of Dr. Brad Clement, Director of Science Services, and Dr. Tobias W. Höfig, Expedition Project Manager.

Finally, I also want to express my gratitude to the many talented staff members – aboard the ship and here on campus – who work tirelessly to keep the spirit of exploration and discovery alive at Texas A&M.

Michael K. Young