Studying Earthquakes in Ohio: Video Transcript

Teresa Langenkamp [honors junior major in Geology, Geographic Information Science certificate, Class of 2019]: So my freshman year I went on a spring break trip with the Geology Club, and we went out to Joshua Tree, California. And while we were out there, I was talking to the graduate students about their research projects, and one of them mentioned that he was studying earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing, and I was asking him more about that, how he got interested in earthquakes. He was telling me all about it, and his research advisor is Mike Brudzinski, and how much he loves his research advisor.

So I talked to Mike Brudzinski about it, and he said, "We can get started on the project next year. Over the summer you can look at a few things, and if you like it we can keep going on with it, and if you don't like it, you know, you can always find another research project."

I actually stayed here over the summer to do work on it, and it's just been a mixture of field work, going out installing seismometers in eastern Ohio, maintaining them, and then looking at the data that comes back, evaluating, determining when the earthquakes are, what their sizes, and then what the relationship with hydraulic fracturing, and then later on putting that into words into a report, a poster, and sharing it with the scientific community.

So we've got a network out in eastern Ohio; it's about five seismometers — instruments that measure ground movements — and they need to be maintained. Some of them, maybe a lightning bolt struck one, so we have to dig it up and replace it with one that is working. Another one, the landowner wanted it moved, so we had to dig it up and put it somewhere else. And then another trip was just installing a new one so that we had a new area where we could get better data. We can get the data remotely, but any time that we need to fix the machine or move it or put a new one in, that would require driving out to eastern Ohio and doing work. The whole process probably takes one to two days, but digging a hole that is at least three feet, and then doing all the electrical work, installing the machine, and then filling it up, making sure the solar panel is good to go, and then making sure that you're getting the data in like you need to.

I am looking for earthquakes above a magnitude one. Ohio doesn't have a lot of large earthquakes, so I'm usually not going to see anything over a magnitude four. It's probably in the two to three range, to be honest, so these small earthquakes. But it's important to study the small ones because the small ones help you understand the big ones. So we've seen larger earthquakes cause by hydraulic fracturing and wastewater injection in places like Canada, and that could be a risk in Ohio if we upped our production because they have a higher production there. So we want to be aware, we want to understand the relationship better so that we can avoid them, because these earthquakes can cause damage to homes, water lines.

It's expanded my ways of thinking, so, research, you're asking the question, and you don't know the answer. And sometimes you're going to encounter problems, maybe at your field site, and you got to get creative. It might be frustrating at the time, but it just shows you that you've got to keep going. Through the project I have talked with other scientists, especially graduate students, and that's encouraged me to want to go to graduate school and pursue a research project at that level. It's given me more confidence in my research abilities just by being involved in a project.

[March 2018]