At MARSSAM we recognize that planning and executing a research a cruise is a lot of work. While individual principal investigators provide the impetus for marine geology research in specific locations, the seafloor samples recovered on a cruise funded by the National Science Foundation are ultimately archived and made available to the broader scientific community for decades after their collection.

The mandate of MARSSAM is to offset some of the burden of sample collection on individual PI’s by providing logistical support, maintained  equipment, and technical expertise. We operate on an independent budget, and our services are available at no additional cost to NSF-funded expeditions, as well as on a contract basis for non-NSF PI’s. If desired, we are also available to help you with the proposal writing process, and can provide  insight on the viability of desired sample sites, the best ships to request for the work, the best sampling devices for the science, and time estimates for deployment, recovery, and processing.

The Proposal Process:

Many PIs contact us prior to the submission of their proposals to verify that their finalized plans are reasonable (sampling strategy, ship suitability, days requested etc.).

Funded Proposal:

Once funded, it is important to contact MARSSAM as soon as possible so that planning can begin on our end. For trips with international ports of call, early notification about your cruise plans are critical as one-way shipping times for our equipment can be months. We also need to know the type of sampling devices you’ve requested, as well the number and desired length of core samples so we can ensure the appropriate equipment. Depending on the nature of the cruise we will also decide on how many technicians to send. If your materials will be archived in the NSF-funded OSU Marine and Geology Repository (or any other NSF repository), this is also a good time to contact the curators there to discuss archival needs and conventions.


MARSSAM technicians support the coring operations on a ship. They handle shipping of MARSSAM equipment necessary for the cruise, supervise deck layout and loading, provide training on proper archival techniques, work with the ship to run deck operations, work with the science party to rig and deploy corers, and provide training and supervision of core extrusion and processing. MARSSAM technicians are focused on deployment, recovery, and maintenance of the sampling equipment and do not participate in onboard science. As such, although we will provide training, the labeling, logging, processing, description, and archival of collected materials are the responsibility of the science party. If you do anticipate the need for shipboard support in these tasks, contact us and we will help identify an additional technician(s).

A Typical Cruise:

Cruises generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Coring is secondary to the main science goals. For example: operations on a biological oceanography expedition may consist predominantly of net tows and CTD casts, with only two or three desired cores.
  • Coring is part of the main science goals. Coring operations happen regularly but not continuously.
  • Coring is the primary goal. These trips generally have 24-hour coring operations.

After the months (or years) of proposal writing and planning the expedition, our gear will be shipped to meet the research vessel, and we will onload and stage the equipment. Training of the science party in core processing, logging, and archival begins on day one of the expedition so things go smoothly when we reach the first sample site. Once we approach the desired sampling area, the following workflow is typical:

  • Site selection is finalized
    • Preliminary cruise planning including multi-beam survey and 5 kHz survey
    • Mapping can be a big part of successful coring
    • Note that while MARSSAM PI’s can provide advice on site selection in the planning stages of the cruise, at sea our technicians can assist but are not responsible for operation or interpretion the sub-bottom survey. If you would like training in these areas please let us know in advance.
  • Sampling equipment is rigged
    • We usually rig corers based on the success of previous core recovery in the area and the 3.5 kHz sub-bottom image
    • If we are working in an unfamiliar region with no prior core recovery and jumbo piston cores are desired, we strongly recommend allocating time to start with a large (4” diameter) gravity corer. This allows us to (literally) ground truth the sub-bottom and greatly decreases the risk of wasting ship time trying to recover stuck corers or even losing all our coring equipment in the first days of your cruise.
  • Recovered samples are processed
    • If jumbo piston cores are collected, cores are sectioned into 150 cm increments and carefully labelled. Multi-corer
      tubes containing samples for processing and archival are removed and replaced. Box and Kasten cores are sub-sampled as desired.
    • If physical properties data is to be collected, whole rounds are logged in the MARSSAM multi-sensor track (MST) van.
    • Cores can be extruded, sliced and bagged, rhizones can be used for pore water, and sections to be archived and sampled ashore can be split and described.
  • Cores are archived and stored
    • Whole rounds and archival multi-cores, once labeled, can be stored in a the MARSSAM refrigerated van or in refrigerated science spaces on the ship.
    • Split sections are wrapped to prevent desiccation and sealed in D-tubes, then boxed and transferred to a refrigerated location for storage until shipping.
    • Prior to going to sea the OSU Marine Geology Repository will provide training on how to archive materials to be stored in that or any other NSF-supported repository. Our techs will review this training at sea, but following these conventions is important to ensuring consistent and straightforward archival.

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