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 New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>