About IDP, our goals, organization, motivation, history, and advisory boards



The Ice Drilling Program (IDP) was established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to coordinate long-term and short-term planning in collaboration with the greater US ice science community and to provide polar drilling, borehole logging, and ice coring support and expertise for NSF-funded research.

Mary Albert at Dartmouth College is the PI of IDP, with subawards to the University of Wisconsin (IDP Co-PI Kristina Slawny) for drilling operations support, and to the University of New Hampshire (IDP Co-PI Mark Twickler) for digital communications. In addition, the IDP-Dartmouth convenes a Science Advisory Board that advises IDP on scientific issues and meets annually for the purpose of informing the IDP-Dartmouth updating of the Long Range Science Plan that articulates the direction of U.S. ice coring and drilling science and identifies the drills and drilling technology required to enable the science. IDP-Wisconsin provides engineering design support for new drilling systems as well as the operation and maintenance of existing drill systems. Once a year, the IDP-Wisconsin updates the Long Range Drilling Technology Plan, which provides an overview of the multifaceted system of drills and technology needed to advance the science that is identified in the IDP Long Range Science Plan (see above) and aspects of the plan that IDP-Wisconsin has the capacity to support. In addition, in order to obtain the best available advice in regard to drill innovation, design, and operation, IDP-Wisconsin established a Technical Advisory Board of experts who meet in person biennially, but are available regularly via email for ongoing advice and assistance with specific technical tasks as needed.

To produce and maintain long-term and short-term integrated science and drilling technology plans in collaboration with the U.S. ice coring and drilling research communities
To identify new technology needs, seek funding for technology development, and acquire new technology
To provide the drills, equipment, and drilling expertise needed by the science
To enhance communication and information exchange related to ice coring and drilling science and technology

Our Motivation

One of the most pressing environmental issues of our time is anticipating the climate changes resulting from our warming planet. In order to predict the future with confidence, we need a clear understanding of the past changes recorded in and under the climate archives of glaciers and the polar ice sheets. Ice core records have led to many important discoveries about climate change, for example the discovery that dramatic changes in climate can occur abruptly, in less than ten years. This discovery has revolutionized climate science and also has important impacts on policy; it established some of the key groundwork leading to the 2007 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for climate science. Members of the U.S. ice coring community have led the efforts for these and a multitude of other important findings in fields ranging from climate to life in extreme environments to geophysics. The societal need for accurate predictions of future sea level rise requires improved understanding of glacier and ice sheet dynamics. This involves probing glaciers and ice sheets by geophysical means, with particular emphasis on poorly understood basal processes. Ice sheets themselves can serve as platforms for science for a wide range of discoveries, from astrophysics to biology in extreme environments. U.S. scientific productivity in these areas, including both knowledge generation and creation of the next generation of scientists, critically depends upon a mechanism for ensuring continuity and international cooperation in ice coring and ice drilling efforts, along with availability of appropriate drills, drilling expertise, and innovations in drilling technology.

The U.S. Ice Drilling Program’s mission is to conduct integrated planning for the ice drilling science and technology communities, and to provide drilling technology and operational support that will enable the community to advance the frontiers of science.

Our History

The Ice Drilling Program (IDP) has evolved through several past National Science Foundation (NSF) cooperative agreements between NSF and Dartmouth, UNH, and the University of Wisconsin starting in October 2008, to lead long-term and short-term planning in collaboration with the greater U.S ice science community, and to be the principal supplier of ice drilling and ice coring support and expertise for NSF-funded research. This approach to integrated research and technology planning and execution is based on scientific visions and drilling requirements generated by community scientists, but is carried to fruition by the daily operations of the Ice Drilling Program through the support of NSF.

To enable discoveries about changes in climate and the environment, using evidence from within and beneath glaciers and ice sheets, to inform environmental policy.

Strategic and Implementation Plan

As required by the project's Cooperative Agreement, IDP has developed a strategic and implementation plan to guide its activities; the updated plan will be posted here soon.