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Towuti Drilling Project, Indonesia

Coordination of the international drilling project as Principal Investigator


Lake Towuti (2.5°S, 121°E) is a 560 km2 large, 200 m deep tectonic lake in central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The lake is located in the centre of the Western Pacific Warm Pool, the heart of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Following comprehensive pre-site surveys in 2007-2013, and a workshop in Indonesia in March 2012, which was funded by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP), the Principal Investigators (PIs) of the Towuti Drilling Project (TDP) in 2013 have successfully applied for partial ICDP funding of a deep drilling campaign at three lake sites. In the respective proposal, the major goals of the TDP were outlined, addressing (i) the climatic and environmental history on orbital to millennial timescales during the past ~650.000 years, (ii) the evolutionary history of endemic faunal and floral elements, (iii) the status and long-term changes in microbial processes operating at depth in the sediment column, and (iv) the formation of the lake basin and neotectonic activities in the region

Annual average precipitable water content of the Earth’s atmosphere (kg/m2), from the NOAA-ESRL physical sciences division (Kalnay et al. 1996, Bull. Am. Met. Soc. 77: 437-471). Stars mark the locations of past and currently planned ICDP lake drilling projects, with Lake Towuti in the centre of the Western Pacific Warm Pool labelled.

A consortium of German scientists intents to contribute to the TDP with the following analyses:

  • detailed sedimentological, geochemical and chronostratigraphical investigations on drill cores from the northern lake basin (Martin Melles, University of Cologne),
  • evolutionary biological analyses in order to link patterns of organismic diversification with key climatic and environmental events (Thomas von Rintelen, Nat. Hist. Mus. Berlin),
  • geomicrobiological investigations for a better understanding of current and perhaps ancient biogeochemical reactions in this unique lake system fed by ferruginous metal substrates (Jens Kallmeyer, GFZ Potsdam), and
  • downhole logging at all three coring sites in order to decipher the in situ sediment stratigraphy and characteristics (Thomas Wonik, LIAG Hannover).

For this purpose, four projects, forming the “Towuti Bundle”, have been submitted to the Priority Program “ICDP” of the German Research Foundation (DFG) in summer 2013. These projects have a high potential to provide significant contributions to all overarching objectives of the TDP. They perfectly complement one another and at the same time add to the science conducted simultaneously by international members of the Towuti Science Party. Besides support of the aspired scientific work, the Towuti Bundle also seeks a financial contribution to the drilling operation and on-site core processing.