Earth Sciences in Jamaica

During J Term 2013, nine students are traveling to Jamaica as part of a multidisciplinary Earth Sciences course to conduct geophysical research on earthquake risks on the Caribbean island. Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston rests precariously along the western edge of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault, which activated in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in nearby Haiti. During their trip, the students will collect and analyze geophysical data on land and at sea, and will present their findings to Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. Taught by SMU Earth Sciences Associate Professor Matt Hornbach and Lyndon Brown of the University of the West Indies, the course is funded in part by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists’ Geoscientists Without Borders program and The Institute for the Study of Earth and Man in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

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Arrival in Jamaica

SMU students testing coring gear off the pier. (Photos by Joey F.)

An update from Brett, a geophysics major:

We flew into Kingston’s airport and arrived at Morgan’s Harbour Hotel in Port Royal at about 3 p.m. After a long day of flying, it was great to finally get settled into the hotel and be in the Tropics.

Cliff beside the seismic chirp system.

After a debriefing by Professor Hornbach, we divided into specific groups based on our project goals and interests for the week. These groups include a group responsible for seismic imaging, a group responsible for sediment coring, and a group interested in slope stability surveying. One key goal for this study is to integrate multiple datasets so that we can begin to determine areas prone to slope failure if an earthquake occurs. Today these groups tested equipment and methods to make sure everything worked smoothly for when the real research begins tomorrow.

After spending a few hours making sure all the equipment is functional, we had a dinner of fish sandwiches and burgers right on the water. I think the temperature was somewhere around 85 degrees; couldn’t get much better.

Ben examining seismic data display tests.

After dinner we then met back up and went over what each groups’ goals are for tomorrow and where they are going to conduct their research. We also began to record the methods we plan to use and present over the next several days.

Overall, it was a hectic day of travel and preparation, but after a good night’s sleep, we will all be ready for the days to come.

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