Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

African initiative trains students, explores geophysical mysteries

16.02.2009
Earthquakes, volcanoes and the African superplume are only some of the phenomena under investigation through AfricaArray, a program that establishes geophysical observatories, trains African and American students and examines geophysical phenomena on the African continent.

"In order to train masters and doctoral students there has to be a research effort," said Andrew Nyblade, professor of geosciences, Penn State and co-director of AfricaArray. "We started with geophysics but we think it is a good model to support all geoscience," he told attendees at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Feb 13 in Chicago.

The model, created by a trio of institutions -- Penn State; University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, S.A., and the Council for Geoscience (S.A.) -- combines student education with establishment of a research program in geophysics; field schools attended by African and American students and corporate personnel, and a graduate exchange program.

The center of the program is the research that relies on data from a network of seismic observatories: 27 installed by AfricaArray, 6 that should be installed by the end of the year and 16 other seismic observatories. The program also employs temporary targeted networks of stations for specific, higher resolution problems and currently has networks in Angola, Botswana and Namibia exploring the Congo Craton; South African gold mines looking at small, deep seismic events, and in Uganda/Tanzania for imaging the African Superplume. Data from the stations is stored with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), a university research consortium sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

"Africa has not really been looked at in this way by geologists," said Nyblade. "Underneath South Africa and its surrounding ocean sits the largest seismic anomaly in the Earth's mantle. We call it the African Superplume, but we do not really know what it is because we do not have very good images of it."

He notes that another superplume exists in the middle of the Pacific Ocean exactly opposite the African superplume and slightly smaller. Investigating the African superplume is easier. Scientists understand the down welling that takes place at subduction zones, areas in the Earth where one tectonic plate moves beneath another and dips down into the mantle. However, scientists do not understand up welling, which is perhaps what forms the superplumes.

"We do not really know what it is or why it is or how it fits into plate tectonics," says Nyblade. "It could be a key to understanding how our planet works internally. If we record enough data we can help to explain and image the mantle under Africa."

Nyblade works with Paul Dirks, head of the School of Geosciences at Witwatersrand who he met for the first time in 2003 at that first meeting of Penn State AESEDA -- Alliance for Earth Sciences, Engineering and Development in Africa. Although an independent project, AESEDA now is a partner in AfricaArray. So far, after three years, AfricaArray has supported 34 undergraduate, 13 masters and 10 doctoral students. They have also hosted five postdoctoral fellows. From the U.S. side, 12 students, half of them women, have participated in three-week geophysical summer programs to South Africa from North Carolina A&T State University; Fort Valley State University, Georgia; University of Texas, El Paso, and California State University, Northridge. Graduate students from Wits have also come to the U.S. to study under Penn State faculty co-advisors.

"We decided that if we could do this at Wits, we should be able to do it at other universities in Africa," said Nyblade. "And, if we are going to do this so that we can focus on students with disadvantaged backgrounds, women across Africa are in that category."

Plans for the future include expansion of seismic observatories into West Africa and eventually North Africa as well. They are currently working with two other African universities -- Agostinho Neto in Angola and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia -- to include the program in their universities. The researchers would like to see installation of additional types of sensors and monitors including meteorological, environmental and geographic positioning system instruments, noting that once the infrastructure is there for the seismic observations, it is easier to collect data in other disciplines.

A'ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu
http://africaarray.psu.edu/partners/current_partners.asp

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht A new dead zone in the Indian Ocean could impact future marine nutrient balance
06.12.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica
05.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Simple processing technique could cut cost of organic PV and wearable electronics

06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

3-D printed kidney phantoms aid nuclear medicine dosing calibration

06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision

06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>