To honor and celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), the SEG Women’s Network and Geoscientists *without* Borders® (GWB) are holding a joint event highlighting some of the efforts that women geoscientists are leading that contribute to a sustainable society, as well as making a positive impact in communities around the world.
The theme of the celebration is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” This event will feature two GWB Project Leads, Katrin Sieron and Patricia Persaud, who will present on their respective projects: “Monitoring the 5,636 m high Pico de Orizaba volcano (Mexico) – achievements and challenges” and “Breaking New Ground: An Earthquake Hazard Project in Myanmar.”
Monitoring the 5,636 m high Pico de Orizaba volcano (Mexico) – achievements and challenges
By: Katrin Sieron
In Mexico, volcano monitoring is focused mainly on the stratovolcanoes Popocatepetl and Colima, which have shown phases of activity in recent years. Other active volcanoes, but in a dormant phase, receive less attention, even though people are aware that volcanoes can reawaken. This was experienced in a devastating way during the 1982 Chichon eruption (densely vegetated edifice with the last eruption in the 14th century), which caused hundreds of death and missing people apart from significant economic damage. Pico de Orizaba, or “mountain of the star” (Citlaltepetl in native language) is the highest volcano in Mexico and the third highest in North America, which still hosts a glacier at its top and has had eruptions in historical times. Furthermore it is prone to edifice collapses, which are clearly noticeable when looking at the crests of the two former volcanic edifices, now destroyed, surrounding the recent cone. Pico’s cone is very prone to erosion due to a treeless slope above 4000 m asl, with abundant volcaniclastic deposits affected by both hydrothermalism (gases and fluids changing the rock structure) and by former glaciations. Strong rainfalls related to more and more recurrent tropical storms and hurricanes have triggered mud- and debris flows on its North- and South flanks, which have caused damage and loss of life during the last years. Pico de Orizaba is continuously monitored with only one seismic broadband station, which stands in contrast to the potential damage it would cause if it reawakened. Efforts are being made by the local state Veracruz University (UV) seismological and volcanological observatory (OSV), in collaboration with existing institutions like Cenapred and the Mexican Seismological Survey to better watch over changes that the volcano experiences. With the help of the Geoscientists Without Borders (GWB) program, in collaboration with the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla (BUAP), we were able to install a lahar monitoring system at the northern flank of the volcano, despite of all the difficulties related to altitude, difficult access, and Covid restrictions. The system now transmits precipitation-, seismic-, and visual data directly to the Observatory, hence allowing to better understand the volcano and the environmental conditions; this way we can potentially protect the local people that inhabit the lower flanks of the volcano and live in environmentally vulnerable conditions. Contacts with local authorities and citizens have been strengthened during the years, which will be helpful when installing the final alert system at the villages, protecting the already installed infrastructure and contacting in case of an observed emergency.
Breaking New Ground: An Earthquake Hazard Project in Myanmar
By: Patricia Persaud
Myanmar was ruled by a military junta and essentially closed to groups interested in conducting research until 2014. In early 2021, the military seized power again and according to the UN, the people of Myanmar are facing an unprecedented political, socioeconomic, human rights, and humanitarian crisis with needs escalating dramatically due to the military takeover combined with the impacts of COVID-19. Yangon is one of the fastest growing cities in Myanmar and plays a key role in the development of the country. It is located in an earthquake prone region and has a population of over seven million. Improving assessments of the earthquake hazard is critical and requires an understanding of the subsurface and geologic structures that underlie the city while also presenting an opportunity for capacity building in geophysics. Along with colleagues from the University of Yangon, we carried out a geophysical experiment that began in March 2020. We have recorded data at 110 seismic instruments that were installed along three lines across the city of Yangon in one of the first US-based international efforts of this kind. Most instruments were hosted by homeowners. We will discuss the project’s motivation, fieldwork, international collaborations, and future plans.
Katrin Sieron is a geologist (Msc) and volcanologist (PhD) academically trained in Germany, Canada, and Mexico. She holds a permanent researcher position at the Center of Earth Sciences at the Veracruz University (Mexico). Sieron has published in several indexed and dissemination journals, apart from numerous technical reports and outreach-related works. She has been a member to Mexican National System of Researchers (SNI) since 2014 and participated in multiple national and international research projects, of which she led three. She is a member of the Seismological and Volcanological Observatory of Veracruz State (Mexico) and has presented her work in more than 20 international conferences.
Patricia Persaud is an assistant professor of geophysics at Louisiana State University. She graduated from the University of Houston with a BS in Geophysics and holds a PhD in Geophysics from California Institute of Technology. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. She is a 2020-21 fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and an NSF CAREER award recipient. She works on seismic imaging with large-N arrays, and monitoring deformation at volcanos and underground salt caverns. Her group also uses deep-ocean drilling and oil industry borehole data to constrain stress.