Category: Research

GMES student selected as the 2015 Marliave Scholar

Lauren N. Schaefer, PhD candidate in geological engineering, has been selected as the 2015 Marliave Scholar by the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geology (AEG) Foundation. The $4,000 scholarship recognizes outstanding scholarship and professional dedication by students in Engineering Geology or Geological Engineering. Schaefer’s PhD advisor is Thomas Oommen.

 Lauren N. Schaefer, 2015 Marliave Scholar and Dr. Thomas Oommen
Lauren N. Schaefer, 2015 Marliave Scholar and Dr. Thomas Oommen

Disaster risk reduction and resettlement efforts in El Salvador

Bowman
Bowman
Luke J Bowman and Kari B Henquinet recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Volcanology, titled: “Disaster risk reduction and resettlement efforts at San Vicente (Chichontepec) Volcano, El Salvador: toward understanding social and geophysical vulnerability.”

Luke Bowman is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Technological University, where professors Bill Rose and John Gierke have promoted interdisciplinary “social geology” research regarding natural hazards in developing countries through the Peace Corps Masters International program.

 Henquinet
Henquinet
Kari B. Henquinet is Director of the Peace Corps Master’s International Program at Michigan Technological University.

Abstract: Despite a long history of volcanic debris flows on the northern flank of San Vicente Volcano, El Salvador, authorities and communities were ill-prepared for the lahars that occurred on Nov. 7–8, 2009. More than 250 people were killed by lahars resulting from shallow landslides, not to mention millions of dollars (US) in damage to houses, agriculture, and infrastructure. After the disaster, significant aid was invested in the region to reduce risk in future disasters. This case study uses the ethnographic tools of qualitative interviews, participant observation, and review of institutional documents to analyze two particular aspects of disaster risk reduction strategies in the town of Verapaz: 1) relocation of at-risk residents led by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and 2) hazard monitoring and emergency management training programs led by Civil Protection, the University of El Salvador, and NGOs. The relocation effort, while effective at reducing physical vulnerability to debris flows, failed to incorporate livelihood, social networks, and cultural ties to homes in their project design and implementation. Since diverse livelihoods are keys to survival, and tightly-knit social networks help families share responsibilities and withstand shocks during hardships, many families returned to the high-risk area or opted not to relocate. Others have adapted using unanticipated strategies to benefit from the resettlement effort. On the other hand, the emergency management training and education programs valued local input, knowledge, and action, which has helped increase awareness and improved the overall capacity to manage emergencies through wide, local participation. The different approaches used in the two risk reduction initiatives reveal important lessons regarding the importance of community participation. Challenges derive from narrow understandings of vulnerability on the part of disaster risk reduction experts, who neglected to consider and understand kin networks and residence patterns that help maintain diverse livelihoods, as well as ensure safety and security. As demonstrated in the 2011 Tropical Depression 12E, effective public engagement and empowerment helped bridge the knowledge, awareness, and preparedness gaps that existed prior to the 2009 disaster.

Link to the article: Disaster risk reduction and resettlement efforts at San Vicente (Chichontepec) Volcano, El Salvador: toward understanding social and geophysical vulnerability


Stabilizing Geotechnical Assets: New Research Aims to Identify Potential Highway, Railroad Problems

image57399-persWhile we’re able to enjoy timeless scenery as we travel in the United States, it’s important to realize that the soils and rocks forming the base of these transportation systems may not forever be stable.

In a new project led by Michigan Technological University, Thomas Oommen, assistant professor of geological and mining engineering and sciences, heads a team that is using advanced technology to develop a comprehensive management system to monitor our nation’s geotechnical assets—the ground that forms the base for the concrete, asphalt or steel that makes up our transportation system.
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Geoscientists Without Borders Helping Guatemalans Monitor Pacaya Volcano

Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano needs monitoring to prevent death and destruction from eruptions and landslides, and Michigan Technological University researchers are helping local residents and government agencies do just that.
As part of a two-year, $100,000 project, Thomas Oommen, Gregory Waite, and Rüdiger Escobar-Wolf have joined their Guatemalan counterparts scouting the countryside around the volcano to come up with the best sites for monitoring equipment. It’s the first step in compiling information to set up equipment for volcanic monitoring, part of a Society of Exploration Geophysicists-Geoscientists Without Borders (SEG-GWB) project.
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Landslide monitoring, social research protect San Vicente in El Salvador

Soil around San Vicente volcano in El Salvador has always been rich, leading farmers to plant coffee, beans and sugar cane on its slopes. In times of heavy rain, the loose soil and volcanic rock on the steep slopes washes down, covering the villages nearby in heavy mud.
Find out more about the work of John Gierke and Luke Bowman in the article published in Environmental Monitor

Remote Sensing and Hazard Modeling Workshop Video

Taller de Sensores Remotos y Modelacion de Amenazas en El Salvador


Great Lakes Research Center: One Year Old and Growing

This time last year, the finishing touches were just being put on Michigan Technological University’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC). Researchers were starting to move in, and plans were being made for a mid-summer building dedication.

What a difference a year makes. Now celebrating its first anniversary, the GLRC is fast becoming the go-to source for data about the Great Lakes and the home of pioneering investigations into solutions to the challenges facing them.

“This is a unique, amazing place,” says Guy Meadows, director of the GLRC. Meadows came to Michigan Tech from the University of Michigan to lead the Great Lakes research efforts here. “Scientists from all across the basin have their eyes on us. The future of Great Lakes research is based right here.”
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Michigan Space Grants Announced

Congratulations to our faculty receiving $5,000 Michigan Space Grants:

*Louisa Kramer (GMES): “Remote sensing of gases in smoke stack plumes”

Graduate students receiving $5,000 fellowship Michigan Space Grants:

*Kathleen McKee (GMES): “Analysis of Temporal Velocity Changes from Seismic Ambient Noise in Volcanic Environments: Source Modeling and Evaluation for Monitoring”

*Lauren Schaefer (GMES): “Application of remote sensing and numerical modeling to volcanic hazard monitoring”

*Emily Gochis (GMES): “Increasing Native American involvement in geosciences through interdisciplinary community-based student investigations”


Aleksey Smirnov Earns National Science Foundation Award

Aleksey Smirnov has been honored with a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, commonly known as a CAREER Award. The five-year, $470,000 grant will underwrite his research on the ancient history of the Earth’s magnetic field and how it may have affected the planet’s geology and even the evolution of living things.

MORE: From the Michigan Tech Research Magazine 2013 article by Dennis Walikainen