by Bob Butler
Over the past six years, I have worked extensively with geoscience educators at the Incorporated Research Institutes for Seismology (IRIS), a consortium of university and government organizations supported by the National Science Foundation. IRIS is the professional organization of earthquake seismologists that facilitates seismological research through operation of the Global Seismic Network in cooperation with the US Geologic Survey. IRIS also supports development and dissemination of earthquake education resources through its Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Program. Since 2003, I have collaborated with IRIS EPO geoscience educators in providing professional development workshops for K-12 Earth Science teachers and developing earthquake and tsunami education resources including K-12 lesson plans, video lectures, and animations of earthquake processes and concepts.
IRIS Earthquake and Tsunami Education Animations
To develop new animations of earthquake and tsunami processes and seismological concepts, I work primarily with Jenda Johnson who is a computer graphics contractor employed part time by IRIS. Jenda moved to Portland in spring of 2004 within days of when I joined the faculty at UP. A mutual friend told both of us about each other and suggested that we could have lots of fertile ground to plow together. That was an understatement. Jenda has become a world-class computer animator and we have worked closely on many projects. Lots of animations have been born while we shared coffee and thought about earthquake processes that elude Earth Science learners.
This simplified animation illustrates both the subduction-zone processes that lead to a “ghost forest” as well as the evidence that scientists collected to determine that Cascadia has experinced many great earthquakes and tsunamis in the past, and will again in the future. This animation is based on the work of Brian Atwater who published his findings in the book “The Orphan Tsunami of 1700” (USGS Professional Paper 1707).
(You can see this link, as well as the rest of the IRIS site at:http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/animations/22 )
Recent Earthquakes Teachable Moments
Over the past four years, I have worked with Tammy Bravo and Jenda Johnson of IRIS EPO on “Recent Earthquakes Teachable Moments”. We produce notices for Earth Science educators on all magnitude 7 and larger earthquakes worldwide. There are about 20 – 25 of these events each year. These notices are “Teachable Moments” that are used by educators to incorporate discussions of earthquakes in the news and seismic hazards in their classrooms. An earthquake notice PDF is developed within 24 hours (often within 6 hours) of any M7+ earthquake worldwide. For earthquakes of substantial human impact, a five-to-twelve-slide PowerPoint presentation and a QuickTime animation of seismic wave paths are developed within 24 hours. These earthquake education products are posted on the web page ( http://www.iris.edu/hq/retm ) and are featured on the IRIS Home Page. These earthquake notices have a large audience, especially with K-12 Earth Science teachers across the country. IRIS EPO has hosted the Recent Earthquakes Teachable Moments web page since the beginning of 2009 and to date has received over 600,000 hits.
Perhaps the best single example of a Recent Earthquake Teachable Moment would be the notice on the March 11, 2011 Japan magnitude 9.0 great earthquake and tsunami. This event occurred at 9:45 PM Portland time on Thursday evening prior to the start of spring break in 2011. I was about to go to bed when that earthquake occurred. I didn’t go to bed. Instead I worked through the night with Tammy and Jenda as we grabbed images and information and crafted a PowerPoint presentation and an animation to convey the most information about this massive natural disaster. Our target was to complete this Recent Earthquake Teachable Moment and post the PowerPoint and the animation to the IRIS website by 7:00 AM Eastern Time so teachers on the east coast could use these educational resources in their classes on March 12 within 12 hours of when the Japan earthquake occurred. The animation shows seismic waves traveling from Japan to the University of Portland Seismometer (housed in my basement about ½ mile from campus).