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Visitors explore “In Search of Earth’s Secrets” at the Noble Research Center on OSU's Stillwater campus earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Tracy Quan)

Drilling deep: School of Geology brings ocean’s secrets to Oklahoma

Friday, August 19, 2022

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

Dr. Tracy Quan, associate professor in the Boone Pickens School of Geology, wants to clarify the academic study of geology in Oklahoma: It is not all about oil and gas.

Students can come to OSU to study geology and do research on oceanography, even though the nearest coastline is over 800 miles away.

“We’d like to expand what people think of as geology,” Quan said. “Geology covers climate. Geology covers marine organisms, geochemistry and other things other than oil and gas. You can come here and research oceanographic questions, questions about the past and what has happened in Earth’s history. And you can do that here at the Boone Pickens School of Geology.” 

In partnership with the Stillwater Public Library, Yale Public Library and the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), the School of Geology recently hosted “In Search of Earth’s Secrets” to showcase their wide-ranging research and its importance. The exhibit showcased the scientific research ship JOIDES Resolution and the unseen secrets about the Earth that its scientists are discovering using ocean floor core drilling. 

“I was most impressed by the mobility of the exhibit,” said Lauren Haygood, an OSU geology graduate student who assisted with the exhibit. “It made it easy for our group to move the exhibit from one location to another and still provide audiences with the full experience. I was also impressed with the large-scale inflatable replica of the JOIDES Resolution; it was very neat to inflate it and have people walk through a drill ship.”

The interactive exhibit included six learning stations, encouraged public participation and featured the progress and importance of scientific ocean drilling. It rotated between OSU, Stillwater Public Library and Yale Public Library from April to June. 

“At the bottom of the ocean, a whole bunch of sediments collect and form a timescale,” Quan said. “So if you start at the top, that’s the surface, it’s modern day, and then you go backward as you go deeper. The JOIDES Resolution is a drillship that obtains deep-sea sediment cores, and it’s part of the IODP, an internationally sponsored program. … [So] as scientists, we can get samples from these sediment cores basically for free — many of the projects I have been doing while at OSU use sediments from this program.”

Quan said it was important to show people in Oklahoma that although it’s land-bound, OSU’s School of Geology has valuable information about the ocean and Earth’s history that it uncovers and then teaches to the public.

The IODP had previously only taken “In Search of Earth’s Secrets” to coastal cities, but because of OSU’s established relationship with IODP, it was able to bring the exhibit to Oklahoma. This marked a milestone for the program, with Oklahoma becoming the first inland state to host the exhibit. 

“I would like people to know that geology is a very diverse science, as it includes multiple disciplines such as chemistry, physics, math, art, biology, health and more,” Haygood said. “Studying geology allows us to discover Earth’s secrets of the past and present, which allows us to work towards a more sustainable future.” 

Story By: Kelli Leech, CAS graduate student |

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