Science Infrastructure Projects

The Paleontology Coordination Group (PCG)

This group advises the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program on paleontologic data management. It consists of ca. 10 members drawn from the marine micropaleontology community, plus one or more representatives from IODP-MI. Members of IODP's IO's IT staff generally attend meetings. The PCG was created after a community meeting on paleontology data in IODP (Houston, Sept. 2006) recognized the need for substantially improved paleontology data management, including better data entry, retrieval and quality control. Subsequent PCG meetings in Berlin (2007) and College Station TX (2010; 2011) have discussed and advised on many issues and have reviewed shipboard software systems. The major focus of PCG work however has been on cleaning up and standardizing the many thousands of taxonomic names held in IODP databases. This work has been done in close cooperation with programmers such as Patrick Diver, who worked on the Chronos implementation of the Neptune database (Lazarus 1994; Spencer-Cervato 1999), and with the PCG science chair (Lazarus) in Berlin.

As of early 2012, all primary taxonomic name lists, totalling nearly 20,000 name records, have been edited by taxonomic specialists and are undergoing final clean-up prior to being loaded into a new central taxonomic name server. This new database will provide a central, harmonised source of taxonomic names for use in ocean-drilling science, both within IODP and colloborative external databases such as Neptune.

Neptune Deep-Sea Microfossil Occurrence Database

Micropaleontologic study of deep-sea sediments cored over several decades by the DSDP, ODP and IODP drilling programs has yielded a vast body of information on the occurrences of individual fossil marine plankton species over time. This information also has been combined with other types of geochronologic information by interdisciplinary teams of scientists to construct detailed age estimates - age models - for hundreds of deep-sea drilling sections. Together, this information provides a uniquely detailed history of of biologic evolution in the oceans, as well as an important source of geochronologic information for geologic studies of ocean and climate change.

The Neptune database provides integrated access to this global data-set. It contains over 500,000 records for the occurrences of species in individual, numerically age-dated samples, age models for hundreds of deep-sea sections, and extensive, annotated, quality-controlled taxonomic lists for thousands of fossil marine plankton species. Neptune, or analyses from it, have been used in over 30 research papers (median ISI 3.5), including 8 in Science, Nature or PNAS.

Neptune was originally created by a team led by me in the early 1990s at the ETH in Zürich, and re-cast in internet form, with the addition of more data, by the Chronos project of NSF in the early 2000s. In response to the lapse of Chronos and support for Neptune, I teamed up with Patrick Diver, the main Chronos database programmer, to create a new version of Neptune (Neptune Sandbox Berlin, or NSB) that is hosted at the Museum für Naturkunde. Extensive reprogramming has streamlined the system so that it is easier to maintain, and includes support for direct programmable access over the internet for advanced research purposes. This project was supported by CEES, Oslo. NSB currently does not have a web-interface but one is planned to be added by early 2013.

NSB has already been used in published research within my own group, and to provide data on request to external scientists. Broader collaborations and renewed general public access via the web interface are planned for the future.

The Micropaleontological Reference Centers (MRC) Network


Since 1968, deep-sea drilling ships have recovered sediment cores from all the major ocean basins. This wealth of deep-sea material has yielded a unique record of biologic evolution in the form of abundant preserved skeletons of marine microfossils. These fossils are important for synthesising larger scale patterns of plankton evolution, to determine the geologic age of sediments and are key recorders of past environmental change. The Micropaleontological Reference Centers (MRCs) have been developed over a 30 year period to provide a scientific collection of this microfossil record.

Maintained by curators at over a dozen sites around the world, the Micropaleontological Reference Centers provide scientists with an opportunity to examine microfossils of various geologic ages, and from a globally distributed set of locations. The collections, with more than 20,000 samples, cover four microfossil groups—calcareous nannofossils, foraminifers, radiolarians, and diatoms—selected from sediment cores obtained from the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP), the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP), and the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). The MRCs are a source of materials for current research and are a legacy archive for deep sea drilling. The MRCs also accept selected "orphaned" collections of deep-sea microfossil materials.

The organization is supervised by a lead curator (currently me) together with the other scientists that make up the MRC network. See the MRC homepage at iodp.tamu.edu/curation/mrc.html for more information.

Last update: 24.09.2012