CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will receive $1.6 million from the National Science Foundation to establish the EarthScope National Office. EarthScope is a nationwide program to explore the North American continent and understand better the physical processes that cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
EarthScope works with the Earth science community and NSF to coordinate the activities of scientists studying the structure and evolution of the continent – and its earthquakes and volcanoes – as well as to promote education and outreach on the topic.
Anne Trehu, an OSU professor in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, will serve as director of the EarthScope National Office, or ESNO. Bob Lillie, an OSU professor in the Department of Geosciences, will be the new education and outreach manager for EarthScope.
“Over the next decade, EarthScope will acquire data from thousands of new seismometers, strainmeters and GPS (Global Position System) devices, which will allow us to observe the inner-workings of the continent,” Trehu said, “just as a doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to a patient’s heartbeat and assess other vital signs, and an astronomer uses a telescope to look into the heavens.”
Much of the instrumentation will be permanently based in the western United States, which includes a broad, geologically active boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. During the next several years, EarthScope researchers will install additional instrumentation across the country, moving eastward to acquire new data – eventually constructing an image of the Earth’s structure beneath North America.
These images will provide researchers with information on how the continent evolved over millions of years, Lillie pointed out.
“The data we acquire will not only help scientists,” Lillie said, “it will also give students and the public a greater appreciation of how the shape, size and internal structure of North America has changed over time and how it continues to change in ways that affect our lives.
“EarthScope presents an outstanding opportunity to instill appreciation for a dynamic Earth through visitors to national parks and other places where geological forces are so apparent,” he added.
In addition to Trehu and Lillie, OSU professors Paul Vincent and Gary Egbert, both in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, will serve as EarthScope principal investigators. Several other OSU researchers with oceanography and geosciences backgrounds also will be involved, as will undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students, according to Kaye Shedlock, the EarthScope manager for the National Science Foundation.
“OSU is a particularly attractive site for the EarthScope national office because of the breadth and depth of geoscience research, education and public outreach,” Shedlock said.
Trehu said EarthScope will coordinate research projects from individuals and teams throughout the United States using facilities constructed, operated and maintained as a collaborative effort with UNAVCO – a non-profit corporation that manages geodetic data and instruments for the academic community – as well as with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) program, and Stanford University.
Contributions will come from the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and several other national and international organizations.
Field work for the research – primarily installation of geophysical instruments – has been going on for the past two years and will continue over the next decade.
Among the projects already under way – recovering rock samples from deep within the Earth by drilling into the San Andreas Fault zone, which will allow researchers to understand better the conditions where earthquakes originate.
More information on EarthScope is available online at: www.earthscope.org
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