The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) is the world's largest scientific offshore drilling program and commenced the Great Barrier Reef Environmental Changes Expedition 325 on February 2010 from Townsville, Australia. The ECORD Science Operator (ESO) has the task of implementing the expedition, which used the 94 metre RV Greatship Maya and an international scientific crew to drill shallow boreholes along the Great Barrier Reef shelf edge.
Drilling targets include reef terraces, drowned (or submerged) reefs, and continental slope sediments along five separate transects to establish the course of sea-level rise since the last ice age and to reconstruct the effects of climate variability on the Great Barrier Reef.
The site survey required for the planning of this expedition was carried out in 2007 as part of the Drowned shelf edge reefs in the Great Barrier Reef project. Dr Robin Beaman led the ocean mapping team that collected the detailed 3D images of the seabed, and since then have worked closely with the IODP expedition Co-chief scientists to help identify the drilling targets on the shelf edge.
The data from these shallow cores will be used to study the impact of sea-level changes on coral growth, reef shape and biological makeup of the GBR. This information will help improve our understanding of reef development over time, and hence provide key information about reef responses to environmental change for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) who manage the Great Barrier Reef.