Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities Lecture Video: UW’s John Vidale

Unlike some natural disasters that we can depend on arriving at our doorstep every year—hurricanes, tornados, fires—earthquakes can be out of sight and out of mind because of their relative infrequency. But when the Big One strikes, it could be a real catastrophe for the Pacific Northwest coast, deeply disrupting the lives and economies throughout the region.

John Vidale, professor of Earth and Space Sciences and chief seismologist for the State of Washington, wants people to be aware of the threats. He doesn’t want to scare people; rather Vidale wants people to be as prepared as possible for when disaster strikes. He not only studies the kinds of earthquakes we can expect in our region, but applies that knowledge so that emergency managers, city planners, engineers, and others can be more resilient in the face of extreme shaking.

Vidale’s sold-out lecture Tuesday, October 10 at Kane Hall, uncovered the science and data behind earthquakes and earthquake preparedness, outlined some misconceptions about June’s high-profile New Yorker article, and revealed the origins of the Seattle Seahawks Beast Quake. The lecture was part of the Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities series from the UW College of the Environment, UW Alumni Association, and UW Graduate School.

Video of the lecture is now available on YouTube:

 

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Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities Lecture Recap: Team Rubicon’s Jake Wood

jake wood
Team Rubicon co-founder and CEO Jake Wood

Jake Wood was submitting applications for MBA programs when a magnitude 7.0 struck Haiti in 2010. Having just returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was surprised by the similarities between the news footage from Port-au-Prince and what he had seen on the ground, during times of war as a marine. Unable to plug-in with traditional disaster relief organizations, who preferred monetary donations over extra hands, Wood and three friends charted their own path to Haiti and beyond.

Air Force veteran Rebekah La Due, part of Team Rubicon's Operation: Good Medicine in Okanogan, Washington in October 2015.

Team Rubicon
Air Force veteran Rebekah La Due, part of Team Rubicon’s Operation: Good Medicine in Okanogan, Washington in October 2015.

Five years later, Team Rubicon has grown to include 31,000 volunteer members, mostly veterans, from all around the country. Those members have been deployed to more than 120 disasters across the United States and abroad. Team Rubicon saves lives through filling a vital function—utilizing small unit tactics learned through military service to aide in the aftermath of disaster events—that other organizations can’t. It also provides returning veterans with community, a sense of purpose, and identity, something many need.

Part of the Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities series from the UW College of the Environment, UW Alumni Association, and UW Graduate School, Team Rubicon’s co-founder and CEO Jake Wood spoke on Tuesday, November 3, about how we can all be the leaders that our organizations need in times of crisis using his own personal story as a vehicle.

Key takeaways

  • The world is fast-moving and full of uncertainty. Chaos is certain.
  • Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, 80 are just targets, nine are real fighters, and we are lucky to have the, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” Wood contends that leadership is a function of “the one and the nine”—that the one needs to determine whether he or she wants that mantle of leadership and, if so, how to recruit their nine.
  • Leadership is a standard that needs to be set every single day. If you’re the one, and you set that standard, it’s contageous. If you’re the one and you don’t lead by example, your nine will become complacent. When people are complacent they no longer buy into the value of that higher mission.
  • Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. And, leaders, get out of the way and let your people do what they need to do.
  • For Team Rubicon, counterinsurgency tactics are used to deliver humanitarian aide. 2.5 million veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan represent an enormous amount of human capital that traditional disaster relief organizations weren’t going to tap into.

Quotes that resonate

  • “It’s not good enough to know who you want to be. You have to have the courage to become that person.”
  • “We know that chaos and calamity is agnostic of industry. It doesn’t matter if you are working for a disaster response organization. It doesn’t matter if you are working in higher education—chaos will happen, uncertainty will happen at some point in time. We need good leadership to thrive in succeed in that environment.”
  • “Leading that squad of marines in Iraq was the privilege of my entire life.”
  • “My gift for graduating [sniper training] was hopefully a roundtrip ticket to Afghanistan.”
  • “Leadership is built on the principles of following well. If we know how to follow well, not only are we going to make the teams we’re part of better, we’re going to make our leaders better and we’re going to become better leaders ourselves.”
  • “I was watching this footage come out of Port-au-Prince, and I sat there and I thought to myself, “That looks just like Afghanistan.” That’s me coming off of a mission. It seemed to eerily familiar. As I sat there, I said, “I could help down there. I know that there are going to be limited resources, and I know there’s going to be chaos. And I know one thing—I do chaos really, really well.”
  • “When we were down in Port-au-Prince, we found ourselves running mobile medical triage clinics in the hardest hit areas of the city. The parts that other organizations either couldn’t or wouldn’t go.”

Related reading

Upcoming Surviving Disaster lectures

11/10: John Vidale—This lecture is sold out, but stay tuned for our video of this event!

Written by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu


Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities: Q&A with UW’s John Vidale

John Vidale
UW’s John Vidale

The UW’s John Vidale is a man of many titles—professor of Earth and Space Sciences, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, and Washington state seismologist. More recently, Vidale helped launch the university’s M9 Project, a cross-disciplinary effort whose goal is to reduce the catastrophic potential effects of a Cascadia megathrust earthquake.

Earlier this year, an article in the New Yorker stirred up panic nationwide over the looming possibility of megaquake along the Cascadia Fault. The writer noted that Seattle and Portland would be impacted greatly, and specifically, that everything west of Interstate 5 would be “toast”. Journalists and concerned individuals wanted to truth check the writer’s claims with a PNW-based earthquake expert—many sought out Vidale’s expertise.

John VidaleAs part of the Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities series from the College of the Environment, UW Alumni Association, and the UW Graduate School, Vidale will discuss the types of shakes Puget Sound is vulnerable to at a public lecture on Tuesday, November 10 at 7:30 p.m. His talk, “A tale of three Seattle temblors: One big, one deep and one direct hit”, is sold out—but a video link will be available in the days following.

In advance of his talk, we caught up with John for a quick Q&A:

What do you hope attendees of your Surviving Disaster lecture walk away with?

“My lecture will be a smattering of recent discoveries, unsolved and perhaps unsolvable problems, and new progress in hazard mitigation. Fighting the rare but destructive attacks of earthquakes is still a work in progress.”

Why is this issue area especially important to focus on in 2015 and beyond?

“Earthquakes are a recurrent fear in areas with as intense geological action as the Pacific Northwest. The shocking tsunamis from the M9 quakes in Japan in 2011 and in Sumatra in 2004, called into view by the recent New Yorker article entitled “The really big one”, have yet again put on the front burner the scenario of building-shaking, inundation, and land sliding in megaquakes in our neighborhood.”

What aspect of this issue rarely gets the attention it deserves?

“We scientists and emergency managers tend to soft pedal the great uncertainty about what will happen in the next dramatic earthquake. When, where, and how severe are far from certain, and the greatest damage is hard to predict. People like specific, actionable advice rather than imprecise muttering about the many dire things that MIGHT happen.”

What aspect of this issue is largely misunderstood by the general public?

“I think that the public tends to overestimate the chance of being hurt in bad earthquakes, but at the same time underestimates the vast cost of damage and business downtime that earthquakes sometimes inflict.”

What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

“Nothing. Is it surprising that I’m a science nerd? My family consists of a long line of scientists? Maybe that two relatives got Nobel Prizes.”

What are the three most important personality traits for someone in your line of work?

“Intense and sustained interest in enormous piles of picayune details, the ability to avoid mistakes in long chains of logic (or at least find them when experiments run aground), and the irrepressibility to communicate clearly about one’s latest ideas while knowing the most novel and exciting ones probably have mistakes one hasn’t figured out yet.”

What’s something you can’t believe you’re still up against?

“Learning new computer software is endless. It’s probably similar in many jobs. Math, instrument management and data retrieval, data archives, writing, making figures, tracking geographical info, tracking literature, keeping one’s CV, and financial accounting all require sets of programs. The programs change every few years, and even the programming languages. Fortunately the younger scientists are not yet as exasperated, and are willing to tackle the hardest parts.”

What is the most exciting aspect of your current research?

“One thrill is that I don’t know what will happen tomorrow (or late tonight)—whatever shakes will trigger our sensors. Some discoveries take years of curating subtle data, some just require waking up in the morning and looking at the seismometers scattered across the Cascades. It’s hard to imagine a more fun job.”

Written by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu


Don’t be scared, be prepared: A response to the New Yorker article “The Really Big One”

Shelley Chestler, UW seismology graduate student

The July 2015 New Yorker article “The Really Big One,” by Kathryn Schulz, shook up the Pacific Northwest (PNW) more than any earthquake has since the Magnitude-6.8 Nisqually earthquake in 2001. In the article’s most dooming statement, the head of the Cascadia FEMA division was quoted saying, “everything west of I-5 will be toast.” This assertion scared the living daylights out of PNW residents, creating a sense of terror and hopelessness that was the antithesis of what the article meant to do: to spur the region into preparing for this potentially devastating event.

Personally, as a strong believer in good science communication, I liked the article a lot. It was well written, read like a good story, and the science was interesting and understandable. In fact, as a graduate student in seismology, I was at first surprised that the article caused such uproar.   My familiarity with the Cascadia hazard numbed me to the shock many others experienced upon first learning the news that we do indeed get large, or as Seattle reporter Sandi Doughton calls them in her book[1], “Full Rip” earthquakes, here in the PNW.

What is the proper reaction to the article? You probably should not go on living without batting an eye like I did, nor should you pack up your family and belongings and flee eastward. The answer is preparation. For the past month I have been attending talks in the UW Alumni Association’s Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities lecture series. Before each talk, when the dean of the College of the Environment, Lisa Graumlich, gives her typical introductory spiel, telling us to turn off our cell phones and reeling off the speaker’s credentials, one line catches my attention. She says, “We want to focus on preparation to prevent hazards from becoming disasters.”

Each time she says that my head nods in agreement. The looming “really big one”, or any other natural hazard, is not a disaster until it actually harms humans. And though the Cascadia earthquake could happen tomorrow, it could also happen 200 years from now. That means we have between 1 day and 200 years to prepare ourselves and our infrastructure to prevent as much damage, injury, and loss of life as possible.

Earthquake preparation is one of those daunting tasks, like vacuuming under the couch, that most of us put off from year to year.   I’m guilty of that too. In fact, it was not until this year that I started filling empty milk and juice jugs with water and stowing them in my basement. My roommate was more on top of it. He has kept an entire shelf of canned refried beans stocked since we moved into our house 3 years ago.

There are many other steps you can take to prepare besides storing food and water. Make an earthquake kit with a first aid kit, space blanket, flashlight, extra batteries, and hand-crank radio. Strap down your water heater and remove heavy objects from high shelves. Attend a local earthquake-preparedness or home-retrofit class. Finally, make sure you have an out-of-region contact who friends and family can call to make sure you are okay in case the local cellular network goes down. By taking the proper steps, you can be your own first responder.

One comforting idea that I have taken home from the Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities lecture series is that people and communities are capable of doing amazing things to help each other during disasters. Jeb Horne, a journalist from New Orleans, talked about how after Hurricane Katrina, individuals rowed around in their own boats, saving people from attics and rooftops, and how people from all over the United States traveled to the New Orleans area to volunteer in makeshift food kitchens. Kate Starbird, a professor in the UW College of Engineering, explained that after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, people from all over the United States, many who had never been in contact with each other, banded together on social media to organize and relay important information and assist with the relief effort. Starbird calls this response digital volunteerism and has studied it after other natural disasters such as the flooding in the Catskill Mountains after Hurricane Irene in 2011. I believe that after the Cascadia earthquake communities in the PNW will come together and that any community relief efforts will only be amplified if we are more prepared.

I’ll leave you with a rather cheesy statement: don’t be scared, get prepared! Also, believe in your local community; it will have your back. Finally, if you are still feeling shaken from the New Yorker piece, read the author’s follow-up article responding to the outcry over the original. It clarifies some of the more terrifying statements in her first and has some good tips on preparedness.  I liked it just as much as I liked the first one.

[1] By the way, Sandi Doughton’s book The Full Rip 9.0 is worth a read!


Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities Lecture Recap: UW’s Kate Starbird

Kate Starbird
UW College of Engineering’s Kate Starbird

More than ever before, people—emergency responders, media, and the public—are turning to social media to communicate important information during times of crises, both natural and manmade. Whether to articulate their own whereabouts to friends and family after a disaster has occurred or to offer up help to others in need, connected crowds are wading through noise and rumors that persist online to assist in the aftermath of tragedy.

Part of the Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities series from the UW College of the Environment, UW Alumni Association, and UW Graduate School, Kate Starbird explored this new type of “digital volunteerism” for an audience at Kane Hall on Tuesday, October 27.

An assistant professor at the College of Engineering, Starbird shared her innovative research looking at the intersection of social computing and disaster events, specifically the tools people use to connect and share information and the behaviors that those platforms enable.

Key takeaways

  • Social media and connected crowds present an opportunity to gain more information about what’s going on during disaster events and, ideally, to be able to make better, faster decisions as a result of having more information available.
  • Digital volunteerism emerged after a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. People from all over the world were helping from afar using online tools to amplify, route, verify, and remote operate.
  • When Hurricane Irene flooded the Catskills in 2011, live blogging showed successful emergent collaboration across platforms.
  • Twitter was used to talk to the media and to the remote crowd after the Oso landslide in 2014, while Facebook was leveraged by the local community.
  • The volume of data that can be taken from social sites, the noise found within that content, misinformation and rumors, and unstructured data are the main challenges to utilizing information that sits at the intersection of social computing and disaster events.

Quotes that resonate

  • “Everything about disasters is social. It wouldn’t be a disaster or a crises event if it didn’t affect our lives.”
  • “The crowd is appropriating social media and other online tools to converge digitally, to connect and collaborate to solve problems during crisis events.”
  • “Social media are becoming part of the critical infrastructure of emergency response.”
  • “The existence of these tools are putting strain on traditional relationships between government, media, and members of the public. They’re opening up new opportunities, but also putting strain.”
  • “Rumors are sort of a byproduct of the collective sense making process people go through when they’re trying to make sense of imperfect information in times of uncertainty and anxiety. But online dynamics can change the situation.”
  • “How do we build technologies—tools, social media, but also policies and systems—to support resilience, knowing what we know about this human behavior? These aren’t just technical questions, they’re human questions.”

Related reading

Upcoming Surviving Disaster lectures

11/3: Jake Wood (RSVP) |11/10: John Vidale (SOLD OUT)—stay tuned for our Q&A with the Earth and Space Sciences professor!

Written by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu


Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities: Q&A with Team Rubicon’s Jake Wood

jake wood
Team Rubicon’s Jake Wood

Former Marine Jake Wood didn’t stop serving when he returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, he serves fellow veterans and communities in crises across the globe. Wood is the co-founder and CEO Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that works with military veterans to respond in the immediate aftermath of natural hazards—before conventional aid organizations arrive.

A CEO, author, and former U.S. Marine, Wood has mastered the art of thriving in high-stakes situations, often under intense time restraints. He draws on all of these experiences to inform his approach to leadership and decision-making.

As part of the Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities speakers series from the College of the Environment, UW Alumni Association, and the UW Graduate School, Wood will give  free public lecture titled “How to lead and succeed when it matters most: Deploying America’s veterans in response to natural disasters and global crises” on Tuesday, November 3 at 7:30 p.m. RSVP today!

What can attendees expect at your Surviving Disaster lecture and what do you hope they walk away with?

“First, that disasters are chaos and that the ability to survive and thrive in chaos is directly tied to our ability to be prepared, think critically and lead clarity in the midst of it. I hope attendees walk away with a better understanding of the type of leader one needs to be to handle that circumstance and bring everyone around them home safely.”

Why is this issue area especially important to focus on in 2015 and beyond?

“Disasters are only getting more frequent and severe, for a variety of reasons. Regardless of the cause, it is critical that we not ignore the threat we all face.”

What aspect of this issue rarely gets the attention it deserves?

“Preparation and community resilience. These topics are not sexy, and politicians rarely have the foresight to invest in them. What we know unequivocally, however, is that the upfront investment in them saves lives and money when the inevitable happens.”

What aspect of this issue is largely misunderstood by the general public?

“Who does what when a disaster strikes. Many people misunderstand the functional role of agencies and organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross, and because of that there are incorrect expectations set by people impacted.”

What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

“I didn’t start out with a passion for disaster response. Team Rubicon started simply out of the desire of a handful of people to put our skills and experiences to good use following the Haiti earthquake. What followed was the discovery of an opportunity to build an organization that could fill a void in disasters while simultaneously helping veterans transition to civilian life.”

What are the three most important personality traits for someone in your line of work?

“Passion, temperament and humility.”

What is something you can’t believe you’re still up against?

“Convincing people that we’re for real.”

What is the most exciting aspect of your current work?

“The opportunity to state an ambitious vision to change the world and attract people foolish enough to think we can do it, daring enough to try, and stubborn enough to have a chance.”

Written by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu


Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities Lecture Recap: Journalist Jed Horne

Journalist Jed Horne
Journalist Jed Horne

On Tuesday, October 20, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Jed Horne took the stage to discuss lessons learned and unlearned ten years after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana.

Part of the Surviving Disasters: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities series from UW College of the Environment, UW Alumni Association, and UW Graduate School, Horne focused on life in a post-apocalyptic environment. His talk delved into everything from public and political discourse and land use issues to coastal ecology and inaccurate media portrayals of the ravaged city.

By highlighting both positive and negative shifts in the wake of Katrina, Horne’s hope is that other cities can benefit from the lessons learned by New Orleans—especially as climate change forces us to deal with large-scale natural hazards more frequently.

Four days after Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast.

Wikimedia
Four days after Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast.

Key takeaways

  • Tragedy can present opportunity.
  • To seize opportunities latent in catastrophe, cities and regions should take planning seriously.
  • New Orleans has a lot to show for itself today, including $14 billion in levee improvements and defenses, 80,000 homes rebuilt, an overhauled school system and housing projects, and a culture that attracts artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs.
  • But murder and violent crime are a major problem, and childhood poverty and income inequality are worse than before Katrina.
  • What has worked well and what hasn’t worked at all for post-Katrina New Orleans should be used as a learning opportunity for other cities in advance of disaster.

Quotes that resonate

  • “Hurricane Katrina was not fundamentally a natural disaster. It was an engineering failure. The worst in U.S. history, by most accounts. Our first $1 billion disaster. The collapse of our levee system, which was the engineering failure at the heart of the Katrina fiasco, ranks as the second worst engineering failure in human history behind Chernobyl.”
  • “Myths and fabrications are as poisonous to recovery as any of the toxins that spill across a landscape that has been flooded or shaken to bits.”
  • “Disaster can also bring out what you might call “our better selves”. Sheer survival puts a premium on cooperation. Even love, as in love thy neighbor as thyself. Tribal hostilities fade. And it’s not just for an hour or two of high fives and back-slapping with strangers like you get after the Huskies win a big one, or the Seahawks, or the Saints.”
  • “A significant number of us got over ourselves long enough to start putting the city back together. And this may come as a surprise to some of you, because God knows there were pundits and reporters aplenty selling a different story—that Katrina had laid bare simmering cauldrons of class and race hatred and so forth.”
  • “Preplanning is also a matter of working out post-disaster recovery systems well before disasters strike and chaos starts to sew the seeds of distrust and paranoia that made consensus and decision making initially very difficult for us in New Orleans.”

Related reading

Upcoming Surviving Disaster lectures

10/27: Kate Starbird (RSVP) | 11/3: Jake Wood (RSVP) | 11/10: John Vidale (SOLD OUT)

Written by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu


Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities: Q&A with UW’s Kate Starbird

UW College of Engineering's Kate Starbird
UW College of Engineering’s Kate Starbird

From city to city and across continents, barriers to communication are fewer than ever before. In an increasingly connected world, where the 24-hour news cycle reigns and a billion people are on Facebook, people have grown accustomed to instant, accessible information that spans the globe.

Kate Starbird, assistant professor at the UW’s College of Engineering, is exploring a new type of “digital volunteerism” that leverages social media as an online meeting place during crises. Emergency responders, as well as local and remote volunteers are using online platforms to gather, strategize, and work together to help those affected by disaster.

As part of the Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities speakers series from the College of the Environment, UW Alumni Association, and the UW Graduate School, Starbird will give a free public lecture titled “Social media use during disaster events: The evolving role of the connected crowd in response and resilience” on Tuesday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m. RSVP TODAY!

In advance of that lecture, we caught up with Kate for a quick Q&A:

What do you hope attendees of your Surviving Disaster lecture walk away with?

“Attendees may be inspired to hear how people respond in pro-social ways to disaster events and about the role social media platforms are now playing in these activities. In recent disaster events, again and again, we see people—including those affected by the event as well as members of the remote crowd—appropriate social media platforms and other online tools to help themselves and help others.”

Why is this issue area especially important to focus on in 2015 and beyond?

“People all over the world are adopting mobile and internet-enabled devices that allow them to connect to others and seek and share information in new ways. These technologies are quickly becoming part of the critical infrastructure of disaster response. Amongst members of the public, these technologies open up new channels of communication and enable new kinds of collaborations to take shape after disaster events. They also present new challenges for emergency responders, who must develop new protocols for crisis-communication and collaboration in the age of peer production and many-to-many communication.”

What aspect of this issue rarely gets the attention it deserves?

“I think this issue—or rather this potential of social media use during disaster—has gotten considerable attention in recent years (but maybe I just don’t get out of my bubble much).”

What aspect of this issue is largely misunderstood by the general public?

“I think the question I get the most is: “Won’t social media be useless when the “big one” comes, because the phones won’t work?” Yet again and again, we see social media being used after events, facilitating collaborations between those affected and members of the remote crowd who can provide various kinds of assistance. Yes, for some events, there will be a time when the phones won’t work. Maybe a few hours or days. But re-establishing communication infrastructure is a priority for disaster response, and as soon as people can connect, they will start using online tools (often in new and creative ways) to meet the dynamic needs of a large-scale disaster event.”

What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

“I’ve been a bit over-exposed in my life—I’m pretty sure 15 minutes with Google would reveal just about everything there is to know about me.”

What are the three most important personality traits for someone in your line of work?

“This is tough. I think empathy is really important for doing research—especially qualitative research—on disaster events. We really have to approach each study with recognition that the events we are studying had (in many cases) catastrophic effects on people’s lives. Even though we tend to focus on the more positive aspects of disaster, i.e. people working together to survive and thrive afterwards, the context of this work is always quite sad. At every point in the study—data collection (especially interviews), data analysis, writing up papers, and giving presentations—we have to balance our enthusiasm for the research with the weight of the event and its impacts. So being able to empathize with those who are affected, even with folks who were not directly affected but who spent considerable time trying to help and are therefore emotionally impacted, is extremely important.”

What’s something you can’t believe you’re still up against?

“I feel like I’m just getting started as a researcher, so this question is tough. Ask me again in 10 years.”

What is the most exciting aspect of your current research?

“For my first few years in this space, we were documenting all the cool things every day people were doing with social media after disaster events, but formal emergency responders were still pretty reluctant (for good reasons) to adopt social media into their work. Only a few very early adopter responders had tiptoed into the space. But more recently, formal responders are recognizing that they need be on social media, and they’re reaching out to learn more about our research and actively trying to incorporate some of what we have learned into their strategies and protocols. This opens up whole new research areas, including questions around how formal responders can collaborate in new ways with the online crowd during events. All of this is very exciting.”

Written by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu


Simulating path of ‘magma mush’ inside an active volcano

UW doctoral student Jillian Schleicher and UW professor of Earth and space sciences George Bergantz with a Mauna Loa basalt samples they will compare with the simulation results.

Dennis Wise/UW
UW doctoral student Jillian Schleicher and professor George Bergantz with a Mauna Loa basalt sample they will compare with the simulation results.

Months of warning signs from Mauna Loa, on Hawaii’s Big Island, prompted the U.S. Geological Survey to recently start releasing weekly updates on activity at the world’s largest active volcano.

For now, such warning signs can only rely on external clues, like earthquakes and gas emissions. But a University of Washington simulation has managed to demonstrate what’s happening deep inside the volcano. The study, published Sept. 7 in Nature Geoscience, is the first to simulate the individual crystals’ movement in the magma chamber to better understand the motion of the magma and buildup of pressure.

Developed by a team that includes UW doctoral student in Earth and Space Sciences Jillian Schleicher and professor of Earth and Space Sciences George Bergantz, the idealized UW computer simulation could help volcanologists better understand how energy builds up inside a system like Mauna Loa to predict when it will erupt.

Read more at UW Today »


Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities: Q&A with UW’s David Montgomery

David R. Montgomery
David R. Montgomery

UW’s David R. Montgomery, professor of Earth & Space Sciences, knows there’s more to our planet’s surface than what’s at surface level.

The geomorphologist studies the ground beneath our feet; both its propensity to shift and evolve and how those processes might affect ecological systems and human societies past and present.

During the past year, Montgomery and other UW scientists have been developing and analyzing critical data in the aftermath of the 2014 Oso landslide. In the wake of that disaster—the deadliest landslide in American history—Montgomery has been adamant in his calls for strengthened ties between science and the practical applications of its findings. In particular, Montgomery and UW associate professor of civil engineering Joseph Wartman call for a national effort to provide useful landslide data through high-resolution landslide hazard maps.

As part of the Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities speakers series from the College of the Environment, UW Alumni Association, and the UW Graduate School, Montgomery gave a free public lecture on Tuesday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m. The lecture was a smashing success! Many, many pre-ordered an autographed copy of Montgomery’s latest book, The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health, which will hit store shelves in November.

The Surviving Disaster series will include lectures from Earth and Space Sciences' David R. Montgomery and other experts!
The Surviving Disaster series will include lectures from Earth and Space Sciences’ David R. Montgomery and other experts!

In advance of that lecture, we caught up with David for a quick Q&A:

What do you hope attendees of your Surviving Disaster lecture walk away with?

“I hope that attendees gain insight into how some disasters can happen quickly enough that simply we must plan for them in advance, even if they only occur infrequently. And how others happen so slowly that it is hard to motivate people to prevent them from happening.”

Why is this issue area especially important to focus on in 2015 and beyond?

“The recent tragedy in Oso reminds us all of the potential for danger in our own backyards and across the region. Where the Oso landslide occurred in minutes, was vast in scale, and highly visible, there are slower scale disasters occurring all around us every day. Disasters at the slow end of the spectrum still impact individuals and societies enormously. Because they are less visible, though, people tend to be unaware of or ignore them altogether.”

What aspect of this issue rarely gets the attention it deserves?

“The value of understanding the local geological and geomorphological (topographic) context in setting landslide risk, and that so-called ancient or dormant landslides can actually prove quite dangerous.”

What aspect of this issue is largely misunderstood by the general public?

“The concept of risk is not very well integrated into disaster management for landslides or soil conservation.”

What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

“I’m the guitarist for the band Big Dirt. Check out our new live album on iTunes!”

What are the three most important personality traits for someone in your line of work?

“Curiosity, creativity, and persistance.”

What is the most exciting aspect of your current research?

“Finding that adoption of the same set of farming principles can reverse the problem of soil degradation in an economically viable way on small scale subsistence farms in Africa and large North American farms.”

Written by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu