Cored Sediment and Microfossil Collection

Geological Collections radiolarian

Overview of Core and Microfossil Collections

Deep-sea sediment cores are vital to our understanding of the past and present oceans. They record the geological history of the ocean basins, providing evidence for changing climates, emerging environments, evolving biota, and dramatic events that have altered the course of earth history.

The Scripps Core Collection contains nearly 7,000 cores (15,000 refrigerated core sections). It is the largest collection in the U.S. (outside that of the Ocean Drilling Program) of sediments from the Pacific Ocean and also contains extensive material from the other major ocean basins. The core collection contains cores that were collected using gravity, piston, trigger, vibra- and box-coring techniques. Whole round core sections are then halved and stored in polystyrene D-shaped tubes, labeled and kept on specially designed wire racks. Each whole round produces two halves, one called the working half (the half from which samples are taken) and the other the archive half (the half that remains as a record of the subseafloor in that location).

Microfossils are the skeletal remains of marine organisms that either floated in the water column or lived on the sea floor. The Collections contain the raw samples, ~40,000 prepared microscope slides, and field notes from pioneering paleontologists who were the first to recognize and implement the use of marine microfossil remains for dating and correlating sediments.

The Microfossil Collections contain many reference samples from studies that have become classics in geological literature. Materials include stratigraphic samples from William R. Riedel and Annika Sanfilippo (radiolarian biostratigraphy), M. N. Bramlette (nanofossil stratigraphy), Fred Phleger/Frances Parker (foraminifer taxonomy and environmental studies), Francis Shepard (near-shore geological processes), Wolfgang Berger (isotopic studies on foraminifers leading to the understanding of ice-age climatic changes) and Patricia Doyle's microfossil fish teeth (ichthyoliths) collection (reconstruct past ecosystem changes in fish populations).

The Collections support not only Scripps faculty and student research, but also that of scientists from other domestic and non-U. S. institutions, and are a growing archive of sea-floor samples and associated data supporting a diverse variety of scientific research. Scientists then use a wide variety of methods to subsample and analyze working core halves (i.e. smear slides, grain size, x-ray analysis, isotope analysis, carbon dating, and more). Studies relate to virtually all fields of earth science including paleoceanography, paleoclimatology, stratigraphy, paleontology, geochemistry, geophysics, mineralogy, and tectonics. Collections materials provide a viable resource for the education of graduate, undergraduate, and K-12 students. Check out videos taken out at sea on the CalEchoes coring cruise to Santa Barbara Basin in late September/early October in 2010 here!


Historical Perspective

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the first U. S. institutions to undertake large-scale collection of sediment cores, has historically been a leader in core curation. The Sediment Core and Microfossil Collections contain samples collected from as early as 1916. William R. Riedel became the first curator of Geological Collections in 1955. He began to gather private collections, dating back to the early 1900s, and created a cohesive, well-documented collection that has continued to the present day.


Current Staff:

Dr. Richard (Dick) Norris, Curator. Email
Alex Hangsterfer, Collections Manager. Email

Emeritus Staff:

Dr. James W. Hawkins, Associate Curator. Email
Mr. Warren L. Smith, Collections Manager. Email
Dr. Annika Sanfilippo, Curatorial Advisor. Email

Campus Location

Deep Sea Drilling Building-East, Rooms 100, 202, 205, 206. (Map)
Elliott Field Station, Marine Geology Collections Building, 10203 Pomerado Rd, San Diego, CA 92131.