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Helping seismologists see the complete picture

Anna Lim ’14 and Brian Rodrigues ’13 are looking for places like these—quiet and off the beaten track—to locate seismic stations in Pennsylvania and three neighboring states.

Two undergraduates are spending the summer working in Pennsylvania and other Mid-Atlantic states as part of a decade-long nationwide project that will help record earthquakes and measure seismic activity across the United States.

Earth and environmental sciences majors Brian Rodrigues ’13 and Anna Lim ’14 are identifying locations where seismic stations can be installed. They are working with EarthScope, a program that deploys thousands of seismic, GPS and other geophysical instruments to study the structure and evolution of the North American continent and the processes that cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Once installed, the stations will contain instruments that record and transmit ground motions from earthquakes, explosions, volcanic eruptions and other seismic sources. This nationwide network will provide data that can help explain geological events and lead to better detection of coming events.

Seismometers are more commonly installed in the western U.S., where earthquakes occur more frequently. The addition of instrumentation in the eastern part of the country will provide a more complete data picture of geological activity nationwide.

Rodrigues and Lim are charged with identifying 26 station locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. Some of their work is taking them into densely populated areas such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.

First Google, then a personal approach

According to Lim, stations will be placed 70 kilometers apart from one another on a grid-like map of the U.S. For their region, Lim and Rodrigues are searching Google Earth to determine where open fields exist within 15 kilometers of where each site is needed.

“A good area is out of the way, quiet, far from roads—pretty much in the middle of nowhere,” says Lim, who has so far staked five of the sites.

Once the coordinates are identified, Lim and Rodrigues travel to the location to ask landowners if they would be willing to host a site on their property. The 26 stations in their region will be installed between October 2012 and April 2013.

The EarthScope Student Siting Program in which Lehigh is participating is a collaborative effort by U.S. universities that is being organized by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS). Rodrigues and Lim are working under the direction of Lehigh seismologist Anne Meltzer, professor of earth and environmental sciences, who has been playing an active role in the EarthScope project.
 
“We were both very excited and eager to work for Earthscope, meet new people, and be a part of a science-changing project,” said Lim.

 

Story by Tricia Long

Posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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