Inside IODP: Tales of Tectonics at the Nankai Trough and the Culture of Scientific Ocean Drilling

Dr. Jon Lewis
Professor – Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Department of Geology, Geography, Environment, and Planning
Host: Dr. Stephen Schellenberg

Wednesday, March 13, 2024
1 pm – CSL 422
watch Jon’s talk


Contributions from the IODP span a remarkable range of disciplines, from paleoclimate to petrology and from microbiology to mass wasting, to name just a few. Successes of the program have inspired legions of international scientists, making IODP one of the most successful engines of knowledge growth in the last half century. My presentation aims to highlight a little bit of science and quite a bit about the conditions that enabled it. It will be a glimpse under the hood. The science is a vignette of subduction zone behavior elucidated by drilling at the Nankai trough. The work highlights the exceptionally high-quality core that is a hallmark of IODP and that it was essential to revealing changing coupling conditions across a boundary known to produce M8+ earthquakes.

After the science vignette I will zoom out and share my observations of how IODP works both in science terms and more broadly. Themes I’ll discuss include how the science agenda is set, and how early career scientists are recruited and supported. There are many ways for trainees to become part of the community. Finally, I will explore how IODP is influencing the public at large. This part of my presentation will focus on three ways that IODP touches much more than the scientists and scholars that one might expect. First, IODP may well be in a K12 classroom near you, and I’ll describe how that might be the case and how you might participate. Second, IODP has hit the terrestrial highway to great effect. The In Search of Earth’s Secret’s project has brought scientific ocean drilling research to a swath of the US in recent years. Third, IODP has been the breeding ground for what I view as derivative projects that have proven to be very powerful.  IODP functions as a STEM-research and learning ecosystem that is truly extraordinary and indeed indispensable for a resilient future.


Jon Lewis is a professor of geology and environment at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he has been teaching in his undergraduate-only program since 2004. His scholarship focusses on tectonic geology and geoscience community innovations. Most of his recent tectonics work has been in SW Japan, Costa Rica, and Taiwan. In Japan his work has focused on young structures forming in response to plate convergence at the Nankai Trough subduction zone. In Costa Rica he has worked to understand the upper plate structures that are accommodating collision with the Cocos Ridge. In Taiwan he has addressed ongoing arc-continent collision. In the geoscience community realm, since 2016 Jon has co-led the STEM Student Experiences Aboard Ships (STEMSEAS) project, which assembles diverse cohorts of undergraduate students and takes them to sea for transformative experiences on vessels of the U.S. academic fleet for 5-10 days. He is also a co-founding member of the Coastal and Ocean STEM Equity Alliance (COSEA), which is working to support access and belonging for people historically excluded from and/or are not participating in geosciences.