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Lake Towuti


Lake Towuti Scientific Drilling Projecttowuti-scientific-drilling-project

lake-towuti-small-imageLake Towuti (2.5°S, 121°E) is a, 560 km2, 200-m deep tectonic lake at the downstream end of the Malili lake system, a set of five, ancient (1-2 Ma) tectonic lakes located in central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Lake Towuti’s location in central Indonesia provides an important opportunity to reconstruct long-term terrestrial paleoclimate change in a crucially important yet understudied region- the Western Pacific warm pool, heart of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Lake Towuti has high rates of floral and faunal endemism and is surrounded by one of the most diverse tropical forests on Earth making it a hotspot of Southeast Asian biodiversity. The ultramafic (ophiolitic) rocks and lateritic soils surrounding Lake Towuti provide ferruginous metal substrates that feed a diverse, exotic microbial community in the lake and its sediments, potentially analogous to the microbial ecosystems that operated in the Archean Oceans and on Mars.  The Towuti Scientific Drilling Program provided valuable new information to understand the climate, biological, and geomicrobiological evolution of this unique system.


Read more about this scientific drilling project at Leibnitz Institute for Applied Geophysics.

Read more at ICDP.

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Lake Junin


Lake Junin Scientific Drilling Project


Lake Junín, located at ~4100 m asl in the inner tropics of the Southern Hemisphere, is a prime target for drilling because it contains a thick (>200 m) sediment package deposited at a high rate (0.2 to 1.0 mm yrF1). Moraine mapping coupled with cosmogenic radionuclide dating indicate that paleoglaciers reached the lake edge, but have not overridden the lake in one million years, or more. Lake Junín is thus one of the few lakes in the tropical Andes that predates the maximum extent of glaciation and is in a geomorphic position to record the waxing and waning of glaciers in nearby cordillera. The lake also contains ideal sediments for multiproxy analysis that can be reliably dated using both the radiocarbon and UFTh methods. The oxygen isotopic composition of marl and ostracod carapaces recovered in multiple preliminary cores covering the last 50 ka demonstrate that the d18O of authigenic calcite primarily records the isotopic composition of precipitation and secondarily the degree of evaporative enrichment of lake water. Lake Junín contains a continuous record of tropical hydroclimate over interglacial and interstadial intervals for much of the past several hundred thousand years that both complements and significantly extends stable isotope records from regional ice cores and speleothems.

Read more about this scientific drilling project at ICDP.

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Geothermal Play Fairway Analysis of the Snake River Plain, Idaho

Geothermal Play Fairway Analysis


Presented by Dennis L. Nielson, DOSECC President, at the Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering Stanford University, Stanford, California, January 26-28, 2015


Play Fairway Analysis is a systematic approach to exploration that integrates data at the regional or basin scale in order to define exploration targets (plays), and then interrogates these data to highlight plays that have the highest likelihood of success. Play Fairway Analysis provides greater technical rigor than traditional geothermal exploration approaches, and facilitates quantification of play risks even when data are sparse or incomplete. It is a mature practice in petroleum, but represents a new approach for geothermal that we believe will aid in the discovery of buried or blind systems. A key challenge will be adapting fairway analysis to geothermal exploration in a way that provides both meaningful results and measurable return on investment. In this project, we focus on the Snake River Plain where, during Project HOTSPOT, our team discovered a blind hydrothermal system at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. From that discovery we are able to define key parameters that characterize the elements necessary for a geothermal reservoir based on basaltic (plume-related) magmatism, fracturing that defines a reservoir volume, seals that are provided by lake beds, hyaloclastics, and highly altered clay-rich basalts, and fluid recharge that is controlled by faulting and the primary permeability of basalt flows. Project Hotspot identified three different play types in the SRP (a) high thermal gradients along the volcanic axis beneath the SRP aquifer, (b) extremely large low temperature systems, and (c) blind high-temperature systems like that discovered at Mountain Home. Phase 1 of this project will assess the distribution and viability of these plays throughout the SRP region; Phase 2 will focus on detailed analyses of specific plays as we move from a Regional/Basin focus to a Play/Prospect focus. Our approach is to analyze direct and indirect methodologies for identifying critical reservoir parameters: heat source, reservoir permeability, seal and recharge.

Read full publication here.

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Pagosa Springs

Pagosa Springs Geothermal Drilling

Pagosa Springs Geothermal Drilling Project

Pagosa Springs Geothermal Drilling

Pagosa Verde LLC received a grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) to investigate the potential development of geothermal resources near the town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. As part of the geothermal investigation, Pagosa Verde worked with the DOSECC geothermal drilling to drill several thermal gradient monitoring (TG) wells to test the geothermal capabilities of the area. Should data from the TG wells indicate a usable resource, then additional investigations may take place in the area. These investigations may include the drilling of exploration and confirmation wells and development of the geothermal resource for an end use. However, further exploration of the resource is dependent on the data results from the TG wells. The end use may range from geothermal-supported community greenhouse operations to construction of a 4-megawatt geothermal power plant, dependent on the results of the TG well drilling.



Six test holes were drilled in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to help with development of future geothermal resources in the area. The Pagosa Verde project consists of one 2,000-foot-deep wells and five 1,000-foot-deep holes on private and schools lands near Pagosa Springs, about 60 miles east of Durango in southern Colorado. Developers believe temperatures of up to 180 degrees will be measured from the holes. Exploration hole drilling is scheduled to be completed by year’s end.

“Geothermal is a critical energy source to be explored and developed, especially as climate change and global warming become more of an issue,” said Dennis Nielson, DES chief executive officer. “We have the equipment and expertise to quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively assist Pagosa Springs in this important project.”

Pagosa Springs is one of several projects DES is undertaking. In an ambitious and challenging move, DES is designing and building a drilling system that will map the bedrock beneath the Antarctic ice sheet and search for the oldest ice. Teams will drill through 1 1/2 miles of ice to reach bedrock. Subsequent optical logging is expected to reveal if the ice contains volcanic ash, gas bubbles, and other materials that will help the scientific community gauge what the Earth’s climate was like a million years ago – and how it’s changed since. Project details can be found at http://bit.ly/1lX6hKU.

The company is also overseeing and conducting projects in Indonesia, Africa, and other parts of the United States.

Commercial geothermal clients rely upon DOSECC for our ability to conduct full-service preliminary analysis, slim hole assessments, and data reporting in new prospective areas.  Contact us for more details.

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Olduvai Gorge


Olduvai Gorge Scientific Drilling Projectthe-olduvai-gorge-scientific-drilling-project

The scientific goals of The Olduvai Project are to develop a better understanding of the evolution of the Olduvai basin throughout time, particularly in the impact of climate change to the evolution of hominins in the last two million years.  This approach extends archaeological investigation of hominin adaptation beyond the traditional method and beyond the Gorge.  Core samples from areas beyond the Gorge would greatly expand our knowledge about the basin-wide landscape contexts of hominin activities, and the basin’s structure, lacustrine history and how it relates to regional climate history.  The ultimate goal of this approach is to strengthen both research and conservation in the Gorge.

See more information on the goals and research relating to this project:



This project is related to:

Hominid Sites and Paleo Lakes Scientific Drilling Project HSPDP

Lake Olorgesallie Scientific Drilling Project

Smithsonian Human Origins Project


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Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid scientific core drilling project, located in Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid project, located in Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid project, located in Ohrid, Macedonia, a 2013 project was institutionally-funded.

Scientific Collaboration On Past Speciation Conditions in Lake Ohrid (SCOPSCO)

Lake Ohrid is a transboundary lake between the Republics of Macedonia and Albania. With more than 200 endemic species described, the lake is a unique aquatic ecosystem of worldwide importance. This importance was emphasized, when the lake was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, and included as a target area of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) already in 1993. The lake is considered to be the oldest, continuously existing lake in Europe. Concurrent genetic brakes in several invertebrate groups indicate that major geological and/or environmental events must have shaped the evolutionary history of endemic faunal elements in Lake Ohrid.

Read more about the scientific core drilling project on Lake Ohrid at ICDP.

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Critical Zone Observatory (CZO)


Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) Scientific Drilling Project

critical-zone-scientific-drillingThis is a NSF- funded scientific drilling project in California’s Sierra Nevada conducted by the DOSECC core drilling services team in 2013.  This overview is from their website, CriticalZone.org:

Spearheaded by colleagues at the University of Wyoming, researchers have been participating in a number of weathering studies investigating long-term versus short-term rates of erosion (sediment basins and solute fluxes versus cosmogenic nuclides and regolith geochemistry), landscape evolution, “stepped topography” and the role of bare rock in shaping landscapes, the role of dust in pedogenesis and nutrient supply to the forests in and around the CZO (from isotopic tracers), and the origins of coarse sediment in streams (also from isotopic tracers).

Geophysical imaging of weathered layers at the CZO has been studied over the past two summers to provide 2D and 3D knowledge of the subsurface. Methods of geophysical investigation include seismic refraction and resistivity. Tests on hypotheses include what controls the thickness of the subsurface (weathering and erosion), and how much water is stored in the subsurface (porosity versus depth).

Future studies focus on cosmogenic nuclide method development (10Be in magnetite), drilling and coring in partnership with DOSECC (Drilling, Observation and Sampling of the Earths Continental Crust).


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Hominid Sites and Paleo Lakes Drilling Project (HSPDP)

Kenya Human Origins Drilling1

Drilling for Human Origins

Andrew S. Cohen University of Arizona

We participated in this scientific core drilling services project to obtain sediment cores from several of the most important fossil hominin and early Paleolithic artifact sites in the world, located in Kenya and Ethiopia. Our objective was to drill in near-continuous lacustrine sedimentary sequences close to areas of critical importance for understanding hominin phylogeny, and covering key time intervals for addressing questions about the role of earth system (and especially climate)forcing in shaping human evolution. These sites are all currently on-land, but consist of thick lacustrine sedimentary sequences with rapid deposition rates. Therefore, the sites combined the attributes of relatively low cost targets (in comparison with open water, deep lake sites) and the potential for highly continuous and informative paleoenvironmental records obtainable from lake beds.


Tugen Hills – June 1, 2013

W. Turkana – June 21, 2013

Chew Bahir – November 6, 2014

Northern Awash – February 23, 2014

L. Magadi – June 15, 2014


Since the 1980s paleoanthropologists and geologists have made major strides in attempting to link our understanding of human origins with the tempo and mode of climate change and variability on the Earth (e.g. Vrba, 1988, Potts, 1996, deMenocal, 2004). Systematic efforts have addressed the key question of why hominin evolution displays a pulsed pattern, with well-defined periods of extensive speciation or extinction, cultural change and geographic expansion, interspersed with long periods when relatively little change seems to occur. Is this the result of broad forcing effects of either directional environmental change (climate, etc.), the result of changes in the variability of local or regional environments, or yet-unrecognized forcing mechanism(s). These efforts have proceeded along two fairly well established paths:

  • Correlating broad-scale patterns of hominin phylogeny with the global beat of climate variability, especially the rhythm of orbital forcing cycles, as recorded in the continuous archives of deep-sea sediment cores (e.g. DeMenocal, 1995 and 2004), or,
  • Correlating regional shifts in the hominin fossil and archaeological record with more local patterns of paleoenvironmental change, inferred from continental outcrop records of paleosols, lake beds and non-hominin fossils (e.g. Bobe and Behrensmeyer, 2004; Quade et al, 2004).


Kenya Human Origins Drilling

Figure 1. Outcrop of Middle Pliocene diatomaceous lake beds at Ledi Geraru, northern Afar region of Ethiopia, typical of the target lithologies for drilling in this area (photo: Roy Johnson.)














Our objective is to develop a new community-wide effort to address this central question about human origins, combining the strengths of both of the approaches above, and avoiding some of their inherent weaknesses. Our approach is to promote a concerted effort to obtain drill core records from near-continuous sedimentary sequences located close to areas of critical importance for understanding hominin evolution, focused around critical time intervals for our core question above.

Drill cores, with their continuity and potential preservation of organic matter, fossils and other archives that are frequently degraded or disjunct on the outcrop exposures, provide a record that will vastly improve understanding of environmental history in the places and times where various species of hominins lived. Obtaining such records from the continental interiors will provide a spatially resolved record at the landscape scale, much more localized (and with much higher temporal resolution) than the regional/global climate signals preserved in deep sea core records. Finally, because the largest number of critical events in hominin phylogeny occurred in Africa, such a drilling campaign should start in that continent. The rationale for such a research program was defined at a recent NSF/DOSECC-funded conceptual workshop “Paleoclimates and Human Evolution” (Cohen et al., 2006; Potts, REF).

Our approach to the use of scientific drilling to address questions of human origins has a precedent in the 2005 drilling campaign at Lake Malawi (e.g. Scholz et al., 2006; 2007; Cohen et al., 2007, Brown et al. 2007, 2008). This project yielded near-continuous core records spanning the last few hundred thousand years, an important time intervals in human prehistory. It also provided a “proof-of-concept” that high-quality core records can be retrieved from African lake deposits with profound implications for the connection between climate and human prehistory.

We now propose to conduct a scientific drilling campaign at four sites of outstanding importance for addressing questions of linkages between human origins and paleoenvironmental history:

  • The Awash River Valley-Ledi Geraru area, northern Afar area of Ethiopia (Middle Pliocene; Figure 1)
  • The West Turkana area, northern Kenya (Plio-Pleistocene)
  • The Olorgesailie area, southern Kenya (Pleistocene)
  • Lake Magadi, southern Kenya (Pleistocene)

As an outcome of this drilling project we will be able to:

  • Test the similarity between hominin site records within local depocenters and existing lake/deep sea core records using similar types of core data sets. By linking the site records to each other where they overlap (e.g. Olorgesailie and Magadi) we will be able to tease out which aspects of the paleoenvironmental records are a function of local hydrology and which are regional signals.
  • Identify climate “surprises” such as major, abrupt climate shifts or short duration events of wide spread impact, which may have played a role in shaping human evolutionary events or hominin species demography (e.g. Cohen et al., 2007).
  • Test hypotheses linking local environmental conditions/change/variability to adaptations (physical and cultural) (e.g. Potts, 1996 and in press). Our records will allow us to evaluate the records of terrestrial climate at key hominin sites through intervals of changing modes of variability in marine records. Marine records and solar insolation forcing suggest modal periods of high environmental variability, which Potts (1996 and in press) has argued should lead to pulses of evolutionary innovation. Whether orbitally modeled periods of high and low climate variability, which are well recorded in marine cores, are also the primary drivers of environmental variation in the African continental tropics remains to be tested, and would be an outcome of our drilling campaign.

As of late 2008 drilling funds for this project have not yet been secured. However, funding has been provided by NSF to conduct initial site and logistics surveys, including the acquisition of subsurface geophysical data (Figure 2) and from NSF and ICDP to hold a drilling workshop to discuss the target localities and other possible future drilling sites for collecting paleoclimate information relevant to human evolution.


Kenya Human Origins Drilling1

Figure 2. Reflection seismic survey of Plio-Pleistocene sediments at West Turkana (June 2008). Preparing to shoot using a Land Cruiser mounted accelerated weight drop system (photo: Craig Feibel)















Bobe, R. and Behrensmeyer, A.K. 2004, The expansion of grassland ecosystems in Africa in relation to mammalian evolution and the origin of the genus Homo. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 207: 399-420.

Brown, E.T. Johnson, T.C., Scholz, C.A., Cohen, A.S. and King, J. 2007, Abrupt Change in Tropical African Climate Linked to the Bipolar Seesaw Over the Past 55,000 Years. In Press, Geophys. Res. Let. 34, L20702, doi:10.1029/2007/GL031240.

Brown, E.T., Johnson, T.C., Scholz, C.A., Cohen, A.S. and King, J.W., 2008, Reply to comment by Yannick Garcin on ‘‘Abrupt change in tropical African climate linked to the bipolar seesaw over the past 55,000 years’’ Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 35, L04702, doi:10.1029/2007GL033004, 2008.

Cohen, A.S., Ashley, G.M., Potts, R., Behrensmeyer, A.K., Feibel, C., and Quade. J., 2006, Paleoclimate and Human Evolution Workshop. EOS 87:161.

Cohen, A.S., Stone, J.R., Beuning, K.R., Park, L.E., Reinthal, P.N., Dettman, D., Scholz, C.A., Johnson, T.C., King, J.W., Talbot, M.R., Brown, E.T., and Ivory, S.J., 2007 Ecological Consequences of Early Late-Pleistocene Megadroughts in Tropical Africa. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 104:16422-16427.

deMenocal, P.B., 1995, Plio-Pleistocene African climate. Science 270:53-59.

deMenocal, P. 2004, African climate change and faunal evolution during the Plio-Pleistocene. EPSL 220:3-24.

Potts, R., 1996, Evolution and climate variability. Science 273:922-923.

Potts, R., in press Environmental context of Pliocene human evolution in Africa. In: Hominin Environments in the East African Pliocene: An Assessment of the Faunal Evidence (R. Bobe, Z. Alemseged, and A.K. Behrensmeyer, eds.), Kluwer, New York.

Potts, R., 2007, Paleoclimate and human evolution. Evolutionary Anthropology 16:1-3.

Quade, J., Levin, N., Semaw, S., Stout, D., Renne, P., Rogers, M., Simpson, M., 2004, Paleoenvironments of the earliest stone toolmakers, Gona, Ethiopia. GSA Bull. 116:1529-1544.

Scholz, C.A., Cohen, A.S., Johnson, T.C. and King, J. W., 2006 The 2005 Lake Malawi Scientific Drilling Project. Scientific Drilling Mar 2006:17-19, doi:10.2204/iodp.sd.1.04.2006.

Scholz, C.A., Johnson, T.C., Cohen, A.S., King, J.W., Peck, J., Overpeck, J.T., Talbot, M.R., Brown, E.T., Kalindekafe, L., Amoako, P., et al. 2007, East African megadroughts between 135-75 kyr ago and implications for early human history Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 104:16416-16421.

Vrba, E.,S 1988, Late Pliocene climate events and hominid evolution. In Grine, F.(ed) Evolutionary History of the “Robust” Australopithicines. Aldine Press, N.Y., pp. 405-426.

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Dead Sea

Dead Sea scientific core drilling company project, located in Ein Gedi, Israel

Dead Sea drilling project, located in Ein Gedi, Israel

Dead Sea project, located in Ein Gedi, Israel, a 2011-2012 scientific core drilling services project that was ICDP-funded.

The Dead Sea as a Global Paleo-environmental, Tectonic and Seismic Archive

(Photo ©:NASA)

A borehole in the deep basin of the Dead Sea (at water depth of ~200m) will recover a continuous sequence of the Pleistocene-Holocene sedimentary record. The core will provide a high-resolution record of the paleoenvironmental climatic, seismic and geomagnetic history (in scales ranging from sub-stage, through millennial, to sub decadal) of the East Mediterranean region.

Additionally this sequence will serve as a basic scale for basin development studies of this extraordinary sedimentary environment (e.g. salt formation) and the understanding of the geotectonic environment along the Dead Sea Transform fault.

Read more about this scientific core drilling services project at ICDP.