The benefits Australia currently enjoys from ODP participation are in large part due to those geologists who provided many years worth of energy and impetus for membership in ODP, notably Roye Rutland, Peter Davies, and David Falvey (all of Bureau of Mineral Resources--BMR) and Keith Crook (ANU), along with many others, and also to the foresight of the Australian Research Council, which declared ODP membership to be a national research priority in 1988.
Following Australia and Canada joining ODP as a consortium member, the Minister for Resources appointed an Australian ODP Council, formed by representatives of the four major funding agencies, and the Australian ODP Secretariat was established at the University of Tasmania. Since 1992, the Secretariat has been housed at the University of New England in the Department of Geology and Geophysics.
Australian involvement in ODP has been particularly strong in legs drilled in the Indian Ocean (especially off the Northwest Shelf), and a number of Australian scientists were invited contributors to the American Geophysical Union's Indian Ocean Review. One of the major discoveries from the Northwest Shelf drilling was the recovery of Triassic sediments and the identification of previously unknown potential hydrocarbon resources. Another highlight of Australia's ODP involvement was the exceptionally successful Leg 133 BMR-instigated program off the Great Barrier Reef.
To date, 26 Australian scientists have participated in ODP legs. Many of them have been eager, young scientists and graduate students in the course of establishing their careers. Besides the obvious benefits of working shoulder-to-shoulder with international experts for two months, these participants report that the ODP experience has dramatically broadened their scientific horizons, brought them into new research projects, extended their international contacts, and, importantly, developed confidence in their own abilities as research scientists. In addition, numerous shore-based scientists are working on ODP samples in Australian laboratories, and ODP benefits many Australian geologists indirectly via exposure to new concepts and ideas through seminars, conferences, papers and teaching.
Ian Metcalfe is the Science Coordinator for the Australian ODP Secretariat.