NIU scientist helps explore ocean floor

By Kathy Sisler

NIU geology Professor Dr. Hsin Yi Ling was one of seven U.S. scientists chosen to explore our planet’s last frontier—our ocean basin.

Eighteen scientists from around the world were chosen for the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP), whose goal is to retrieve rock and sediment samples from the Indian Ocean to better understand the earth’s history.

Ling said, “The Antarctic area has lots of mineral resources and some potentiality of oil.”

Dr. Ross Powell, a geology professor, said the ocean drilling project has continuous “legs,” or routes, and Ling has been on some expeditions before. This work is an extension of what Ling has done around Antarctica before.

Powell said, “The ocean drilling project is the biggest source of research programming going on in science right now. I think it is great a scientist from NIU is involved.”

Ling said the expedition will start in the Falkland Islands, dip toward Antarctica, then move eastward across the South Atlantic to the final destination—Mauritius Island in the Indian Ocean.

Ling said scientists are invited from eight different countries. “The countries are United States, France, West Germany, Japan, Canada, Russia, and (the) United Kingdom. The other country is called ‘European Science Foundation.’ This is a combination of about seven smaller countries,” Ling said.

“Between 12 and 18 months before the cruise, the ODP chooses two head scientists which are called co-chiefs for the project,” Ling said.

These two co-chiefs send out invitations, and then evaluate all the records which come back, Ling said. “A selection committee decides with the co-chiefs which scientists to choose. A high-caliber selection has to be chosen because they work together 24 hours a day,” Ling said.

Ling said a scientific endeavor as enormous as the ODP must rely on teamwork for its success. He said, “The scientists can not ask questions, they have to know right away.” The drilling crew, technicians and scientists work together to ensure an effective program.

Each scientist is evaluated against other scientists in their particular area of expertise. Ling said they have chosen a total of 20 scientists, and he will be a marine micropaleontologist on the expedition.

Ling said as a marine micropaleontologist he will be analyzing small organic remains (such as plankton) with the use of highly technological microscopes, and finding out their chemical compositions.

e said, “I am excited because a new ship has been used since January 1986, called JOIDES Resolution, considered to be one of the top-rated drill ships in the world.