Seismic data acquisition system for rapid deployments during teachable moments

Project Title: Seismic data acquisition system for rapid deployments during teachable moments

Project Lead’s Name: Mike Brudzinski


Phone: (513) 529-9758

Please Choose the Primary Affiliation: CAS

Are There Other Project Team Members?: No

Brief description of project: We are seeking funding for a new seismic data acquisition system designed for rapid deployments during time-sensitive events. A vast body of research indicates that capitalizing on teachable moments is an important strategy for improving student learning and engagement (e.g., Hyun and Marshall, J. of Curriculum Studies, 2003). Teachable moments are when a unique, high interest situation arises that lends itself to better understanding of a particular topic. Geology is often perceived as a static science based on the perception that rocks are old and don't change on human time scales. Event-based geoscience provides an opportunity to change this mindset and open student minds to how geology is a dynamic science that seeks to provide society with time-sensitive information to make effective decisions. One such opportunity occurs associated with earthquakes - it is well known that interest in understanding of earthquakes and geology in general spikes when large and important earthquakes occur ( Moreover, large earthquakes are typically followed by a series of aftershocks that create an ongoing risk and opportunity to study the fault that produced the initial main shock. Lately, earthquake swarms have become more common as they can be induced by oil and gas operations. Students in our department have been at the forefront of researching these human-induced earthquakes, including studies of over a dozen cases in eastern Ohio (e.g., Skoumal et al., J. of Geophysical Research, 2015; 2016). Many of these sequences last about a month, coinciding with the approximate time to hydraulically fracture a natural gas well. The earthquake magnitudes typically grow over the sequence, with some reaching the level where regulators can shut down operations to avoid impact on society, highlighting the importance of rapid evaluation and response to these events. The month-long time frame is ideal for a rapid deployment of newly developed seismic equipment that can installed in minutes by a novice user and operate autonomously for several months. This would enable students involved in any of our courses to have an opportunity for hands-on experience with a scientifically important experiment that can improve the detection and characterization of societally-relevant earthquakes.

Does this project focus on graduate student education or graduate student life?: No

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem.: Over the past few years, we have built the student expertise and leadership for deploying, detecting, and characterizing these types of earthquake sequences through external grant funded research. However, we do not currently have equipment capable of the rapid style of deployment to capitalize on important events as they are happening. We are requesting funds for a set of 16 seismometers in order to deploy a 4-by-4 grid over a target region a few miles wide. We envision deployments involving ~10 undergraduates, being led by a graduate student and senior undergraduate with previous field experience. We intend to enlist students both from our majors, student club (Miami University Geological Society), and large enrollment intro courses. Based on the rate of occurrence of these earthquakes sequences over the past few years, we expect to have about 3 deployment opportunities per year, but there could be more depending on the oil and gas market. An example schedule for deployment would be: 1.) discovery of the onset of an earthquake sequence through our existing realtime analysis led by the faculty advisor and an undergraduate student, 2.) arrangement of field logistics by the faculty advisor, graduate students, and senior undergraduate during the work week, 3.) enlisting of a group of undergraduates with Saturday availability for deployment, 4.) transport of the full deployment team out to the field site on a Saturday morning, deploy during the day, and then return Saturday evening, 5.) a similar transport of students about a month later to retrieve the equipment and recordings, 6.) analysis of the collected data over the next few weeks by students in majors and thematic sequence courses with seismology components (GLG 261, 461, 467; at least one occurs each semester) and those pursuing research projects, and 7.) dissemination of the results to the broad set of students we enlisted from (majors, student club, large enrollment intro courses) and to the scientific community.

The criteria state that technology fee projects should benefit students in innovative and/or significant ways. How would you describe the innovation and/or significance of your project?: This would create an entirely new learning opportunity for students at Miami. Field trips are relatively common in our majors courses, but we do not currently offer field-based learning opportunities tied to a teachable moment. The equipment being requested is at the forefront of seismic technology and has only become available in the past two years. Students pursuing a career in oil and gas or earthquake studies will likely work with this type of data during their careers, and would otherwise not have an opportunity to utilize it during their pre-employment training. Many students pursuing environmental science careers will also likely work with comparable monitoring technologies, such that the field deployment will provide valuable experience and transferrable skills. Finally, there are few universities with this type of equipment currently, such that this would provide a distinct advantage for student researchers, improving the likelihood of scientifically innovative results for publication and external funding of future research.

How will you assess the project?: The primary student learning outcome for this project is that students will learn how to deploy field equipment for measuring the earth processes, including an appreciation of precision, coordination, record-keeping, and validation. For students who analyze the data in a course or research project, a primary student learning outcome would be that students learn how to characterize earthquakes from recorded seismic waves. A secondary outcome for students involved in this project would be an increased likelihood to pursue a career in a related field. We will assess this outcome through surveys that students will complete when returning from the field excursions and after completing analysis in courses. This survey will include questions about whether students gained appreciation for the target learning outcomes and whether it influenced their likelihood to pursue a career in a related field. Lastly, the scientific outcomes (e.g., presentations, publications, and grant support) will provide an assessment of whether the purchased equipment impacted student research.

Have you applied for and/or received Tech Fee awards in past years?: Yes

If funded, what results did you achieve?: I applied for a Tech Fee award in FY2017 and received funding that purchases new desktop computers for our teaching laboratory in the renovated Shideler Hall. We have not yet submitted a final report as we are awaiting end-of-academic-year data collection. I applied for one Tech Fee award in FY2014 and submitted two proposals in FY2015. These proposals were not funded. I applied for two Tech Fee awards in FY2009 that were funded, but final reports were not required at that stage. The primary results from the FY2009 proposals were to 1) purchase laptops that enhanced the rigor in both field and laboratory teaching settings, and 2) purchase desktop computers for our student lab that encouraged our faculty to develop more computational assignments in our undergraduate majors courses.

Did you submit a final report?: No

What happens to the project in year two and beyond? Will there be any ongoing costs such as software or hardware maintenance, supplies, staffing, etc.? How will these be funded?: This equipment is expected to have a ~20 year life span. As with existing seismic equipment, hardware maintenance is funded through funds generated by external grants. Funds for field trips are regularly supplied by our department accounts and the travel costs associated with the deployments described in this proposal would be supported by those funds.

Budget: Hardware

Hardware Title(s) & Vendor(s): Zland V2 Seismic Data Acquisition System from Fairfield Industries Inc. (FairfieldNodal)

Hardware Costs: $66,929.00

What is the total budget amount requested?: $66,929.00