SMU scientist Brian Stump leads global seismology consortium

SMU's Albritton Professor of Earth Sciences Brian StumpBrian Stump, Albritton Professor of Earth Sciences in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has been elected chair of the board of directors for a university-based consortium that operates facilities for the acquisition, management and open distribution of seismic data.

The programs of the Incorporated Research Institutes for Seismology (IRIS) contribute to scholarly research, education, earthquake hazard mitigation and verification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

IRIS was founded in 1984 with support from the National Science Foundation. The late Eugene T. Herrin Jr., who held the Shuler-Foscue Endowed Chair in the University’s Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, was a founding member. IRIS facilities primarily are operated through its more than 100 member universities and in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists from member institutions participate in IRIS management through an elected nine-member board, eight regular committees and ad hoc advisory groups. Stump’s term of office as chair of the board is for three years, and will expire at the end of 2013.

“IRIS was formed because it was realized that we needed to support the global seismic network and needed the free exchange of information and ideas,” Stump said. “Instrumentation is so expensive that the seismic community needed to find a way to make equipment available to anyone who needs it for research, regardless of the size or funding capability of their parent institution.”

More than 4,000 portable monitors are available through the IRIS/PASSCAL Instrument Center at New Mexico Tech in Socorro. These instruments proved invaluable to Stump and his SMU team in researching a series of small earthquakes that occurred in North Texas between October 30, 2008, and May 16, 2009. The ability to quickly place monitors at the site of the original quakes allowed scientists to record 11 earthquakes between Nov. 9, 2008, and Jan. 2, 2009, that were too small to be felt by area residents.

“The monitors available to IRIS members are well-used assets,” Stump said. “They’re constantly in service, like library books that fly off the shelves. We never have enough equipment.”

Stump also is one of two distinguished lecturers sponsored this year by IRIS and the Seismology Society of America.

The Global Seismographic Network consists of more than 150 permanent stations around the world. It is operated by IRIS in cooperation with the USGS Geological Survey and allows seismologists to examine large events occurring anywhere to determine if they were caused by natural events such as earthquakes, or man-made events such as mine explosions or nuclear tests.

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