US university expanding sediment core collection to be one of world's largest

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/3/14 8:42:30

Oregon State University (OSU) has received a pair of grants from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to more than double the size of its repository of oceanic sediment cores starting later this year.

The public institute of high learning said Monday that with the grants, the OSU Marine and Geology Repository will assume stewardship of a collection of sediment cores taken from the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, known as the Antarctic and Southern Ocean National Collection of Rock and Sediment Cores.

The collection, currently housed at Florida State University since the mid-1960s, will move into a sophisticated new OSU facility located off-campus.

"These cores are time capsules, allowing scientists today to compare the conditions on the Earth we live in with the way it was eons ago," Thom Wilch, Earth Sciences program manager at NSF was quoted as saying in a news release. "This collection of cores and samples is an incredible resources that has yielded many important scientific findings about the past. Preservation and curation by OSU ensures that the cores are available for future research by the national and international scientific communities."

OSU has operated a sediment core lab since the 1970s, but its origins were rather modest, according to Joseph Stoner, a geologist in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and co-director of the OSU Marine and Geology Repository. Lacking a storage facility, the first cores were kept in a cooler at a Chinese restaurant in Corvallis. "The expanded collection will include some 35 kilometers, or about 22 miles, of sediment cores, more than doubling the size of our current repository at Oregon State."

When completed over the next two years, the expanded repository will give OSU the premier collection of sediment cores from the Pacific and Southern oceans. It is difficult to put a dollar value on the cores. "If we had to replace the cores in our current OSU repository, it would cost roughly a half billion dollars just in ship time to go collect them," Stoner said. "That doesn't include the cost of the people involved. To replace the Antarctic collection would easily cost more than 1 billion dollars, since the Southern Ocean is so remote, travel is difficult, and you can only work two or three months out of the year."

The OSU collection includes cores that have sediments as old as 50 million years, and from as deep as a kilometer below the Earth's surface.

OSU said the repository will be available to scientists around the world to study the sediment cores, which provide evidence of the Earth's climate over the past millions of years, oceanic conditions, the history of the magnetic field, plate tectonics, seismic and volcanic events, ice ages and interglacial periods, and even the origin of life.

Posted in: AMERICAS

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