Young Kodiak Researchers Off to Italy for Conference

installing_sensor.jpgFrom left to right, John Dunlop, Kyle Ruotsalainen, and Levi Purdy install GEFS sensor platform. Photo by Anna McDonald

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A group of five Kodiak students are working with NASA  to gather data on earthquakes and will present their research in Italy this July.

Ron Fortunado from Trillium Learning guides the students in their various projects, which includes the global earthquake forecast service project.

“Which is in partnership with NASA Ames research center and other organizations around the world, actually, that are participating in this project to see if we can determine and test this hypothesis that electro-magnetic signals and other pre-earthquake signals can actual align to seismic events and give us some earlier warning as to when an event will occur,” says Fortunado.

Junior Levi Purdy says they started out using two of their sponsor’s sensors, which were designed to collect various pieces of information.

“We’ve later on found that the magnetic field data was the one that we wanted to focus on the most, so then in an effort to get more data and have more finite control over it, we built our own sensor platforms, and currently we have two of those installed around Kodiak,” says Purdy.
Kyle Ruotsalainen is a senior and says they collected data on the earthquake in Kodiak a few weeks ago, although he says they can’t determine much without a baseline.

“We were lucky and we got it up about two or three days before that happened. Since we just got our stations up, we don’t have enough data to really be definitive of whether or not we’d be able to detect it if we had known or anything, because we’ve only had a few days of data,” says Ruotsalainen. “But the data prior to that earthquake is fairly inconsistent, so we need basically a lot more data before we can really make very many conclusions from that.”

Fortunado says they’re at the very beginning of the process.

“When those earthquakes do hit and the seismic equipment feels that, it lets us know where exactly it is and how deep it is and then what we do is we take a look at the data we’re getting from our pre-earthquake sensors and then backtrack and say ‘Is there any data that shows we’ve seen something?’ And if we do see an anomaly off of baseline, then we develop a report and send that report into NASA,” says Fortunado.

Now the students are off to Como, Italy for the Europa Challenge. Fortunado says NASA co-chairs the conference and tasks researchers to come up with open-source, shareable solutions that help the planet.

“And, so, what the students were challenged to do is in order to take this data, this live data that’s coming off of their pre-earthquake sensors, to actually visualize that data near real-time on this global system so anyone can go and look and determine from the sensors what direction and strength the signals are coming from,” says Fortunado.

Fortunado says they’ll be in Italy for a few days in July to present their research alongside businesses and universities.

He says his group in Kodiak is also working on nanotechnology and agriculture.

You can also hear the full conversation with the students Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. on Talk of the Rock. And if you want to help fund the students’ trip to Italy, you can visit their gofundme page.

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