Auburn and Alabama students team with national initiative to study Earth’s interior

Auburn University student James Taylor, left, and University of Alabama student Stanton Ingram, right, examine a potential site in rural Alabama for a seismic station.

AUBURN – Despite their sometimes destructive consequences, can earthquakes actually be helpful events? The answer is a resounding “yes,” according to a team of two students and two professors from the University of Alabama and Auburn University.

Students Stanton Ingram, from the University of Alabama, and James Taylor, from Auburn University, along with their professors, Andrew Goodliffe, associate professor of geological sciences at Alabama, and Lorraine Wolf, professor in the department of geology and geography at Auburn, have teamed with other researchers across the country in a National Science Foundation-sponsored project known as Earthscope.

Earthscope, a scientific initiative to study the Earth’s interior, makes use of a collection of seismographs that will record earthquake waves from all over the globe. Aptly termed USArray, the seismographs will help geoscientists to study the characteristics of the deep Earth, much like a doctor can study the body’s interior through medical imaging.

Since 2003, 400 USArray seismic stations have been slowly marching toward Alabama from their starting point on the West Coast.

Ingram, from Birmingham, and Taylor, from Cincinnati, are both geoscience students at their respective schools. They were selected to join 10 students to help find locations for seismic stations in Alabama and the Midwest states this summer.

The two students are scouting for sites in rural Alabama to host the stations, scheduled to arrive in the state during 2011.

These stations will not only record local earthquakes that occur in the state, but will be sensitive enough to pick up earthquakes from afar. Seismic waves that travel through the Earth reveal information about the Earth’s composition and its inner workings. Scientists will use the collected data to understand how mountains and continents form and how they are modified through time.

More information about the Earthscope project is available at the website, http://www.usarray.org.

Contacts: Charles Martin, Auburn University, (334) 844-9999 (marticd@auburn.edu)