What’s New in Science? (Spring Term)

Part of: Deans’ Lunchtime Lecture Series

Course description

Satellites, Drones and iPhones: New Approaches to Understanding Earthquakes

Edwin Nissen, PhD, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

Friday, Jan. 18: 12:30 to 1:45 pm

Earthquakes are one of the most significant natural hazards faced by humankind, with millions of fatalities forecast this century globally. Understanding the factors that govern the location, timing, and magnitude of earthquakes is therefore one of the grand challenges of geology. In this talk, I will discuss new technologies for studying and mitigating earthquake hazards, that build upon or are complementary to traditional seismology (the study of earthquake seismic waves). I will begin by discussing satellite radar measurements that map out the build up and release of strain on faults. Moving closer to Earth, I will then discuss airborne laser scanning measurements that allow us to peer beneath dense forest canopy, revealing the tell-tale signs of past earthquakes captured in the landscape. Finally, I will describe efforts to develop earthquake "early warnings" that will - in the future - alert us to incoming seismic waves before the dangerous shaking commences.

Edwin Nissen grew up in London, UK, and studied Natural Sciences (BA, MSc) at University of Cambridge before doing a PhD in Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford (2009). I then spent three years back in Cambridge working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Bullard Labs, famous as the place where plate tectonics was discovered in the 1960s. I then did a short post-doctoral fellowship at Arizona State University, before joining the faculty at Colorado School of Mines in 2012. I moved to the University of Victoria in 2017 to take up an Associate Professorship and a Canada Research Chair in Geophysics. My research interests span the twin fields of earthquake geodesy (how the earth surface deforms in an earthquake) and tectonic geomorphology (how the landscape evolves over many earthquakes).

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