Science AMA Series: Hi Reddit, this is Jerry Dickens, an oceanographer and professor at Rice University. I have been studying mud and water beneath the seafloor for over 25 years to understand topics such as the migration of natural gas, variations in sea level and past climate change. AMA!


Right now, I am at 34°26.7 south latitude and 171°20.8 east longitude, or about 400 km northwest of Auckland. Along with a large crew and international science team, I am on board the research ship JOIDES Resolution partaking in Expedition 371, a two month long mission to drill submerged portions of northern Zealandia. Per background, Zealandia is a large (~5 million km2), mostly underwater fragment of continental crust, and thus increasingly referred to as Earth’s hidden continent. From a science perspective, Zealandia provides an end-member piece of Earth’s surface in which to understand plate tectonics, particularly the initiation of subduction, the process where one plate moves beneath another. Unlike exposed regions of more familiar continents, where erosion often dominates, much of Zealandia has been accumulating sediment records at relatively shallow water depth for the last 50 or so million years. Expedition 371 is a major push by the broad science community to understand the geological history and past climate of the region. I am always happy sharing my fascination with oceanography and the evolution of our Earth. You can check out some recent articles on Zealandia as well as photographs and videos of Expedition here

I’ll be back at 5PM ET today to answer your questions on all sorts of things, including Zealandia, marine mud and gas, the generation of paleoclimate records, to living and working on a drill ship for months at a time.

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