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UCSB Earth Science Department Receives Grant to Study Underwater Geography and Fault Lines



UCSB’s Dept. of Earth Science has received a $553,000 grant from Seismic Micro-Technology Inc. to fund research in 3-D visualization, mapping and modeling of seismic data.

So far, scientists involved in the project have used this software, “KINGDOM,” to study a range of relevant topics.

According to Craig Nicholson, a researcher at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, the software allows for a more comprehensive visual presentation of data due to its capacity to create 3-D data sets and rotating 3-D images, including models of the sea floor, so that scientists can better visualize buried geologic surfaces.

“We use it [KINGDOM] for all sorts of interesting things, but we are mostly looking at active faults and the geometry of the active faults producing earthquakes,” Nicholson said. “What we are looking at are the active structures that are controlling the geometry of the basin, the creation of the mountains and things like that.”

Maura Quady, a graduate student in the Dept. of Earth Science specializing in hydrogeology, plans to use the software to investigate wells, variations on rock types and the water table.

“I’m hoping the software will allow me to look at well logs alongside my own resistivity data in a 3-D way that will help illustrate lateral variations in rock type or structure that, when seen over a wide area, may affect the flow of groundwater,” Quady said in an email.

The researchers gather data via reflected sound waves, a system which is similar to sonar but uses lower frequencies, ranging approximately from five hertz to one kilohertz. These lower-frequency sound waves penetrate the ground, allowing researchers to see below the seafloor. The KINGDOM software then interprets and helps scientists visualize the Earth in many useful ways.

According to Nicholson, UCSB has been using KINGDOM software for the past 12 years. The recent grant renews five licenses on campus for another three years, each valued at around $33,000 per year.

According to a press release, Seismic Micro-Technology’s goal is to put workstation software in the classroom so that students graduating from universities are equipped for the job market with experience using this software. In addition, the company benefits from the students’ and researchers’ feedback.

“They [Seismic Micro-Technology Inc.] feel that it is valuable to them because they get a lot of feedback from students and researchers about unusual applications of the software,” said Nicholson. Likewise, students appreciate the opportunity to use this software since it may give them valuable first hand experience applicable to related jobs in the field.

“I have no doubt being an experienced user of the software will help UCSB Earth Science students hit the ground running in the professional world,” Quady said in an e-mail.

Additionally, the grant may benefit the community by predicting earthquake activity and related environmental dangers including landslides and liquefaction, so locals can in turn prepare in advance.

“Basically, this kind of software helps us to better understand the subsurface geometry, including the location and distribution of active faults, and the active faults that have been producing earthquakes here in Santa Barbara,” Nicholson said. “In order to investigate those, we have to use this kind of software to get a handle on what the geometry is of the faults, and using that, what the potential is for producing large earthquakes.”

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One Response to UCSB Earth Science Department Receives Grant to Study Underwater Geography and Fault Lines

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