Charlotte’s SciComm for SciOD Reflection

This post was written by Charlotte Heo, a graduate student at Binghamton University in the seminar Science Communication for Scientific Ocean Drilling (SciComm for SciOD), Spring 2023. 

Here’s a picture of me presenting my research at the spring 2023 regional Southeastern/Northeastern Geological Society of America conference and it’s an example of what I think of when I imagine science communication but casually talking about research at the dinner table with family and friends can also be considered science communication as well!

I decided to take SciCommSciOD this semester because I had some free time in my schedule and I wanted to show my support for a new class. I am so glad I decided to because I have learned so much about science communication that I was not aware about before. Science communication is a growing area of interest in the scientific community and I definitely think it should be talked about more and prior to the formation of this class my university lacked a curriculum like it. SciCommSciOD opened me up to new perspectives about sharing science, such as how science communication can be used as a tool to connect with people directly affected by science and it shifted my perspective to think more about the people I want to share my science with. I think sometimes I struggle with SciComm because a lot of the time I’m sharing my science with people with strictly science backgrounds such as at conferences or seminars but it is really important for me to make my research accessible to the public. The work that I do directly pertains to climate change which impacts a ton of different people within different communities and backgrounds (both in science and in public audiences) so it’s necessary to be able to have a discussion about it in an accessible way. Overall, I hope that learning about science communication becomes more of a standard in the scientific community, and as scientists I believe we have a responsibility to effectively communicate our findings in accessible ways.

329: South Pacific Gyre Subseafloor Life

Map of locations for sites that were drilled during Leg 329 on the South Pacific Gyre off of the coast of New Zealand. Figure from IODP Expedition 329 Summary.

International Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 329 took place from October to December in 2010 and drilled Sites U1365–U1371 in the South Pacific Gyre, a large system of rotating ocean currents in the South Pacific Ocean located off the coast of New Zealand. The expedition was a collaboration between scientists and staff from the United States, Japan, Germany, China, Norway, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Korea, Australia, and India. Currently, there are no other ocean drilling sites located near Expedition 329 sites making it a massively understudied location. The sites drilled and studied during this expedition are an excellent location for exploring and researching subseafloor sedimentary habitats in what is considered to be the center of an open ocean gyre. The South Pacific Gyre is Earth’s largest gyre system out of five total gyre systems. Even though the cores recovered on Expedition 329 vary in ages, they are all extremely useful in understanding hydrothermal circulation (the circulation of hot water), and habitability (the capacity to be lived in) of oceanic crusts. 

Detailed image of a calcite crystal contained within a section of basalt, the rock that makes up the ocean crust. Blue coloring is from a marker. Image from the LIMS Database.

Expedition 329 had four major objectives: 1) to document habitats; 2) research how oceanographic factors affect habitats; 3) quantify subseafloor microbial communities; and 4) determine how habitats at the sites vary with crust age. Before Expedition 329, life in the sediments beneath mid-ocean gyres was generally understudied and poorly understood, despite the South Pacific Gyre being a unique location. Within this gyre system, surface chlorophyll concentrations and primary photosynthetic productivity in the seawater are lower than in other ocean regions, contributing to some of the lowest organic burial rates in the ocean. Scientists and staff aboard the ship during this expedition found that microbial cell counts are lower than at all sites previously drilled, dissolved oxygen and nitrate are present throughout the entire sediment sequence, and dissolved hydrogen concentration is low but often above detection limits in deeper sediments. High-resolution chemical and physical measurements provided the opportunity for reconstructing glacial seawater characteristics through the South Pacific Gyre. Overall, Expedition 329’s findings and discoveries of the presence of dissolved chemicals revealed that there is microbial habitability of the entire sediment sequence, offering valuable insights into gyre habitability.


D’Hondt, S.L., Jørgensen, B.B., Miller, D.J., et al., 2003. Proc. ODP, Init. Repts., 201: College Station, TX (Ocean Drilling Program). doi:10.2973/

Dubois, N., Mitchell, N. C., & Hall, I. R. (2014, April). Data report: particle size distribution for IODP Expedition 329 sites in the South Pacific Gyre. In Proc. IODP| Volume (Vol. 329, p. 2).

Expedition 329 Scientists, 2011. Methods. In D’Hondt, S., Inagaki, F., Alvarez Zarikian, C.A., and the Expedition 329 Scientists, Proc. IODP, 329: Tokyo (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International, Inc.). doi:10.2204/iodp.proc.329.102.2011

198: Shatsky Rise

Reconstruction of the position of Shatsky Rise (in light blue) through time (from 140 to 0 million years ago) across the Pacific Ocean. Shatsky Rise moved due to movement of plate tectonics. Image from ODP Leg 198 Summary.

Shatsky Rise is an oceanic plateau that is located in the Northwest Pacific Ocean off of the coast of Japan. The main goals and objectives of Ocean Drilling Program (ODP)  Leg 198 at the Shatsky Rise was to gain a better understanding of abrupt climatic event transitions, “greenhouse” climactic events, and climactic events in general. Shatsky  Rise is an excellent location to study such events because it contains sediments of Cretaceous (145.5–65.5 million years ago) and Paleogene (66–23.03 million years ago) ages at relatively shallow burial depths on three distinct highs. Understanding past climatic events such as warming or cooling can play a key role in understanding and predicting similar climatic events in the future. 

ODP Leg 198 took place from August 27th, 2001 to October 23rd, 2001. The expedition began at a port located in Yokohama, Japan and ended at a port in Honolulu, Hawaii. The large quantity of sediment cores that were collected on this expedition were helpful in meeting the goals of Leg 198, partially due to the fact that many of the cores contained a clear record of nanno- and microfossils, which are tiny microscopic fossils such as diatoms and foraminifera, that can be an incredibly useful tools to better understand geologic climatic events. Foraminifera, for example, create their shells from ions in the surrounding seawater in which they live, and as such the chemistry of their shells largely reflects the chemistry of the ocean at the time they built their shells.  From these fossils and their chemistry,  scientists and researchers are able to measure and reconstruct past ocean conditions such as temperature, salinity, and water productivity. 

Relief map of Shatsky Rise, with the drilled locations indicated by the red and yellow circles and site numbers. Cooler colors indicate deeper areas, whereas warmer colors indicate shallower areas or areas of higher topography. Image from ODP Leg 198 Summary.

There were three main findings that researchers discovered on Leg 198 that were related to paleomagnetism, climatic transitions, and a cooling event. Paleomagnetism, which is a branch of geophysics, is a field of study that uses rocks or sediment to study  the direction and intensity of Earth’s magnetic field at the time of sediment or rock formation. At Site 1208, Leg 198 recovered many mixed siliceous-calcareous Neogene aged (23.03–2.58 million years ago) sediments  that were identified to have strong paleomagnetic cycles making them useful for paleoceanographic and paleomagnetic records in the Pacific Ocean during the Neogene (~23-2.58 million yeasr ago). Leg 198 also found climactic transitions related to dysoxic (low-oxygen) or anoxic (no oxygen) environments at the bottom of the seafloor, clear records of nannofossil and planktonic foraminiferal assemblage transformations at the time of major environmental upheavals and transitions, and transitions from paleodepths at the shallower sites that were less sensitive to chemical changes in the deep ocean to those that were at depth ranges highly sensitive to changes. They also found an important deep water cooling event that is related to glaciation in the Antarctic during the Eocene–Oligocene transition (33.9 million years ago), which is important for better understanding the deepening of the calcite compensation depth (CCD), which is the point at which calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is not preserved due to the bottom ocean waters being too acidic. Below the CCD organisms that secrete  shells, such as corals, foraminifera, and nannoplankton are not preserved in the sediment. 


Bains, S., Corfield, R.M., and Norris, R.D., 1999. Mechanisms of climate warming at the end of the Paleocene. Science, 285:724-727.

Bralower, T.J., Premoli Silva, I., Malone, M.J., et al., 2002 Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program, Initial Reports Volume 198

————, 1995. Carbon-isotope stratigraphy and paleoceanographic significance of the Lower Cretaceous shallow-water carbonates of Resolution Guyot, Mid-Pacific Mountains. In Winterer, E.L., Sager, W.W., Firth, J.V., and Sinton, J.M. (Eds.), Proc. ODP, Sci. Results, 143: College Station, TX (Ocean Drilling Program), 99-104.

ODP Leg 198 also recovered sediments that span the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, the event that wiped out all non-avian dinosaurs! The darker colored sediments indicate the mass extinction event recorded in the sediments. Image from ODP Leg 198 Summary.

Charlotte Heo, Masters Student at Binghamton University

Hiking at Salt Springs State Park in PA this past summer with Binghamton’s Geology Club.

Hi! My name is Charlotte and I am currently a graduate student from Long Island, NY pursuing an accelerated masters degree in biology at Binghamton University in NY. I am also a recent graduate and earned my bachelors in biology in May of 2022 at Binghamton. I love exercising and being active and some of my favorite activities are taking spin classes, practicing yoga, and I recently got into hiking over the summer. When I’m not in the lab I also enjoy going to museums, listening to music, spending time with my friends and family, and going to the beach and swimming in the ocean.

What kind of scientist are you, and what do you do?

The research that I am currently doing as a graduate student for my master’s thesis project is to reconstruct future climate warming scenarios using past climates. I use stable isotopic data from two species of thermocline-dwelling planktic foraminifera found in deep ocean sediments that date back to ~3-3.35 million years ago during the Pliocene era. More specifically I am trying to reconstruct ocean behavior in the Kuroshio Current Extension (KCE) off of the coast of Japan during the mid-Piacenzian Warm Period (mPWP) which is often regarded as an analogue to future climate warming scenarios. The calcium carbonate shells of foraminifera can be used as a proxy to reconstruct past climates because they collect the chemical signature of the water around them through isotopes of carbon and oxygen. From this data I am able to understand ocean characteristics such as salinity, temperature, and water productivity from over millions of years ago. Climate change is an incredibly important topic that I am extremely passionate about and using the past as a tool to understand the future can be one method to understand how to solve the problem.

This is what my lab bench looks like! The foraminifera are super small and I’ve spent countless hours at my microscope identifying and picking them to be processed for stable isotopic analyses.

What is your favorite part about being a scientist, and how did you get interested in science?

I honestly came into my first year of undergrad as an undeclared major. In high school I never excelled in science or math and never thought I could make it through undergrad majoring in science because of this. This however, changed when I felt more confident in myself as a scientist after joining Binghamton’s First Year Research Immersion program in the biogeochemistry research stream where I worked in a group on a geology based project reconstructing the environmental conditions of the oldest known forest located in Cairo, NY. I was so lucky to be supported by an incredible mentor and a great group of peers that made me feel more comfortable about majoring in science. My first few years of undergrad were tough but I was able to get through it and get exactly where I needed to be. From that experience I was able to meet my current mentor and current research advisor Dr. Adriane Lam who I’ve been so grateful to be working with since 2020. My current research interests include paleoclimatology, paleoceanography, and anything related to foraminifera. After my masters graduation next May I hope to enter the industry working on corporate sustainability projects. Last summer I interned at Pfizer with the Global Environmental Health and Safety Group and I worked on some projects regulating the company’s environmental impacts. My research background has made me more passionate about climate change and I really want to make a difference in the corporate industry one day. My favorite part about being a scientist is definitely working with other amazing and bright scientists and I have met so many inspiring mentors, labmates, classmates, and lifelong friends.

Presenting my research at Syracuse University’s 2022 Central New York Earth Science Student Symposium.

What advice do you have for up and coming scientists?

There are so many things I wish I knew but my biggest piece of advice is to not get discouraged. Being a scientist can be extremely difficult but it is also extremely rewarding at the same time. Try not to compare yourself to others because everyone is on a different path and do not give in to imposter syndrome. Nobody truly ever has it figured out but if you work hard and do your best you will end up exactly where you need to be. I also think it is important to take every opportunity as an opportunity to grow and never to be afraid to ask others for help and advice.