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 NASA sees quick development of Hurricane Dora
27.06.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Collapse of the European ice sheet caused chaos
27.06.2017 | CAGE - Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>