Great Barrier Reef Environmental Changes Expedition

The expedition vessel ‘Greatship Maya’ (Image ©ECORD/IODP)

Regional map showing locations where core samples will be collected during the expedition. (Image ©ECORD/IODP)

Scientists study the cores sampled during the IODP Tahiti Sea-Level Expedition in 2005. (Image ©ECORD/IODP)

ESO logo

BGS international work

The Great Barrier Reef Environmental Changes Expedition will collect cores from fossil coral reefs on the seaward side of the present-day reef to improve our understanding of change in sea level during the deglaciation that followed the last major ice age some 20 000 to 10 000 years ago.

Project aims

Submerged fossil coral reefs are common but poorly studied features along the shelf edge of the Great Barrier Reef. The drilling targets include the successive reef terraces, relict reefs and the slope, from about 40 to 200 m water depth. The scientific aims of the project are to:

  • Establish the course of sea-level rise during the last deglaciation
  • Reconstruct the nature and magnitude of seasonal–millennial scale climate variability i.e. sea surface temperature and sea surface salinity
  • Determine the biological and geological response of the Great Barrier Reef to abrupt sea-level and climate changes in the past as a possible template to improve predictions of ecosystem response to future global climate changes.

Expedition team

The expedition team is a consortium of European scientific institutions who work on behalf of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP).

The team involves scientists from nine countries, who are working in three key regions of the Australian shelf. Onboard the Greatship Maya are nine BGS staff including:

  • Carol Cotterill, Staff Scientist — the main co-ordination role between ESO and the expedition scientists, in particular the two co-chief scientists who are responsible for the scientific objectives of the expedition.
  • Dave Smith, Operations Superintendent
  • Graham Tulloch and Lee Baines, Drilling Co-ordinators
  • Dave Wallis, Electronics Engineer
  • Alan Douglas, IT systems support
  • Colin Graham and Mary Mowat, Database Managers
  • Graham Lott, Sedimentologist

ECORD Science Operator (ESO)

The European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) is responsible for the European contribution to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), the world’s largest geoscience programme.

ECORD provides what is known as ‘mission-specific platforms’ (MSPs) to complement the US and Japanese ships, JOIDES Resolution and Chikyu, which are dedicated drilling vessels fitted out with permanent drilling, laboratory and offshore core repository facilities.

MSPs are platforms especially chosen to fulfil particular scientific objectives. In most cases this requires modifications to the most appropriate platform, which may be a ship or drilling rig.

MSP operations

BGS leads the consortium that is responsible for managing the MSP operations and provides the Science Manager (Dan Evans), Operations Manager (Dave Smith), Data Manager (Colin Graham) and Outreach Manager (Alan Stevenson) to the consortium, as well as the Staff Scientists and Administrative Support for each MSP. The ECORD Science Operator (ESO) also includes the universities of Bremen, Leicester, Montpellier and Aachen.

Arctic, Tahiti and New Jersey expeditions

Since 2003, ESO has successfully managed three IODP expeditions to the Arctic, Tahiti and off the coast of New Jersey.


Contact Alan Stevenson for further information.