University of Portland is part of a consortium of Northwest universities that has received a $625,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant includes training educators in Oregon and Washington coastal communities on the region’s earthquake and tsunami hazards and conveying this knowledge to students and visitors to parks and museums.
University of Portland environmental studies professor Robert Butler is one of four principal investigators of the grant. Since 2004, Butler has led a program called Teachers on the Leading Edge (TOTLE). TOTLE is a professional development program for Pacific Northwest earth science teachers. The TOTLE web site offers K-12 teachers an introduction to the active continental margin geology of the Pacific Northwest. Teaching resources that are provided include animations, video lectures, slide shows, virtual field experiences, and lesson plans that feature plate tectonics and geologic hazards of the Pacific Northwest.
The NSF grant is designed to help Pacific Northwest coastal residents respond to a major earthquake or tsunami. Starting next summer, scientists will offer eight workshops – which are collectively being provided by the participating universities – to inform public school teachers and other educators about the threat and how to respond. The 2013 workshops will be held at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport in August and in Astoria in October.
“We can have earthquakes that produce tsunamis all along the Oregon and Washington coast,” notes Butler, adding that earthquakes in Alaska and Japan also can affect Northwest coastal communities.
Besides University of Portland, the consortium of universities includes Oregon State University and Central Washington University. Their project — the Cascadia EarthScope Earthquake and Tsunami Education Program (CEETEP) — will also provide the latest results from the national EarthScope program, a multi-decade endeavor to learn about geology of the United States.
The lead principal investigator for the grant is Bob Lillie, professor emeritus of geosciences at Oregon State University and a leader in the new educational program. Other principal investigators include Nancee Hunter, an education specialist with Oregon Sea Grant, and Beth Pratt-Sitaula, research associate at Central Washington University.
As a result of the NSF grant, new educational materials will be made available to the public — online videos and animations — to demonstrate the principles of earthquakes and the Cascadia Subduction Zone. By providing up-to-date information about coastal geologic hazards and what to do when the shaking begins, experts hope that school children, museum and park visitors and others will be better prepared.
Butler has also worked with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, to develop videos, animations and publications about earthquakes and tsunamis worldwide.