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IRIS/PASSCAL Intern Cuts Her Teeth on TESGM Project Fieldwork

IRIS/PASSCAL summer intern Jennifer Tarnowski is learning the ropes of a seismology career by working at the PASSCAL Instrument Center at New Mexico Tech, and also by participating with hands-on efforts in the field.  Jennifer recently participated in fieldwork supporting the Topographic Effects in Strong Ground Motion project (TESGM, PASSCAL project 201109) in early July, along with principal investigators Brady Cox,  University of Arkansas, Adrian Rodriguez-Marek, Virginia Tech., graduate student Clinton Wood, University of Arkansas, Robert Kent of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), and Steve Azevedo, IRIS/PASSCAL.

The project concerns topographic effects in strong ground motion, a well-documented phenomenon. These effects involve the modification and amplification of seismic ground motion in the vicinity of topographic features such as hillsides, ridges, and canyons. The TESGM study will be focused on how to quantify these effects, and incorporate them into design codes. The field area was chosen as representative of a mountainous region with frequent and predictable coal mining-induced seismicity.  It was instrumented with a locally-dense instrumentation array to capture potential topographic effects associated with ground motions in full-scale, natural features.

Here are some of Jennifer's observations about the experience, along with pictures from the deployment.  Click on any image to view a larger version.

Jennifer writes: "Two slightly muddy people walk out of a forest carrying a shovel and a handful of large black trash bags. No one blinks an eye and no, this isn’t a joke. I believe that there are only a handful of careers in which this scenario arouses no suspicion. It didn’t really hit me until the third day of deploying sensors, when Robert Kent and I walked out of a small forest on our way back to his truck, just how strange, yet wonderful, field work can be."

Jennifer and high school student Carlin in the field.



UARK's Clinton Wood and Brady Cox, navigating muddy roads with an all-terrain deployment vehicle.

Jennifer continues: "I officially started out on the TESGM project by jumping out of a truck with Steve Azevedo and Robert Kent into an evening thunderstorm to meet with Brady Cox and Clint Wood at what would be the logistical home base for the project. As we waited for the rain to subside and prepared for the huddle test, I hovered around Steve, asking questions and double-checking everything I did. I was nervous about ruining someone else’s project with what I felt to be my vast inexperience. The next day, Steve and I worked on five Guralp 40T sites with the help of Carlin, a local high school kid, while the other teams deployed the Trillium sensors. The nervousness faded with each site we installed. By the time we split up the following day to cover more ground, I was confident in my ability to program both the 40T and L22 sites."


Jennifer concludes: "For the duration of my time in Utah, we faced unpredictable weather, dense aspen forests, rugged terrain, and the joy of carrying equipment at 10,000+ elevations. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it. Whether it was the snow blocking the road, a vehicle stuck in the mud, missing pigtails, or sensors with wildly drifting mass positions, everyone stayed positive and found alternative solutions."

Jennifer returns from some rough field terrain (and snow!), after deploying four sensors.



This Google Earth image shows the field area in central Utah.



A closeup of the field area in central Utah.



This image from a Google Earth indicates the locations and names of the stations.

In this image, Jennifer Tarnowski (r) and student assistant Carlin (l) look up at the ridge.  The road they are standing on is pictured in the lower-right side of the preceding Google Earth view.





Jennifer sets up the pre-deployment Huddle Test.



Adrian Rodriguez-Marek of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Virginia Tech, along with his wife Tina, participated in the field effort.



UArk grad student Clinton Wood's job combines gorgeous scenery with old-fashioned physical exertion.


Brady Cox prepares to deploy an L-22 short period sensor, while Steve Azevedo completes the installation log.


Robert Kent of NEES, taking a differential GPS location at one of the Taurus/trilium compact stations.



Brady Cox negotiates a path in a dense aspen forest.



A gorgeous view, from the location of Site A3.

What was Jennifer's overall impression of the deployment?

"All around, it was a great group of people to work with. Nothing brings people together like rain, mud, and hours of hiking through gorgeous scenery, albeit with shovels and trash bags."

File TESGM Sensor Locations.kmz07/14/11 3:24 pm5.82 KB