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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

A better understanding future seismic and tsunami hazards due to the Mentawai seismic gap, West Sumatra, Indonesia, through dense geodetic networks and capacity building efforts

PI: Ashar Muda Lubis (, Bengkulu University
U.S. Partner: Louise Comfort, University of Pittsburgh
Project Dates: November 2015 - January 2019

Project Overview

4-309 GPS Map
Project GPS locations.

The Mentawai patch of the Sumatra subduction zone is locked and likely to produce a large earthquake in the near future (Chlieh et. al., 2008). The potential for this patch to rupture makes it very important to estimate future seismic and tsunami hazards that may ensue as a result. To get a better idea of future hazards, a better understanding of historical earthquakes on this patch is needed. To this end, the project team will use the earthquake cycle model to estimate the historical slip distributions though inversion of the paleogeodetic data. To better understand future tsunami hazards, we need to know how the patch will rupture in the future. The low-lying coastal Sumatran city of Padang has been the object of many research and outreach efforts, especially since the tsunami of 2004. However, there remain significant barriers to linking science to risk reduction: hazard information is sometimes contradictory or confusing for non-scientists and critical misunderstandings remain.

This three-year project aims to investigate and re-locate the source of earthquakes of the Mentawai seismic gap by densify the GPS network in West Sumatra. This will include training students from Bengkulu University in collecting and processing GPS data to model historical earthquakes in this region and simulate crustal deformation for earthquake cycles. They will also investigate tsunami height based on various models. To help prepare for potential future disasters, they will build partnerships among scientists, outreach workers, NGOs, and government officials in order to link science to risk-reduction practice. They will be leveraging the experience of their U.S. Government-supported partner, who has experience in methods of developing community resilience to disaster and policies for earthquake and tsunami hazards mitigation.

These researchers also plan to integrate earthquake education and curriculum development into their Global Positioning System (GPS) field surveys. Most of the GPS stations they will install will be in schoolyards. Undergraduate faculty-in-training from Bengkulu University will join the GPS field teams to develop, test, and refine lessons about earthquakes and ways to reduce risk. The project team will supervise undergraduate students in designing and implementing “go school” efforts and will also provide science and teaching examples for an NGO-led program to integrate disaster-risk reduction into the Padang city schools’ curriculum. This provides an excellent opportunity for educating local communities about earthquakes because the undergraduates will serve as effective role models for the younger school students, inspiring them to stay in school and encouraging them to study science. The project team will work with the Padang government to present and explain their results, including tsunami and hazard maps, as well as an assessment of potential impacts at the district and city levels. This will help local governments in at-risk communities to prepare for natural earthquake and tsunami hazards and will contribute to redefining the science of community resilience.

4-309 GPS Workshop 4-309 Project Team
Attendees of the GPS data acquisition workshop at Bengkulu University. The PI instructs members of the project team on data collection (photos courtesy of Dr. Lubis).

Summary of Recent Activities

Despite facing some bureaucratic delays in receiving their funds for this third year of the project until March 2018, Dr. Lubis and his students nevertheless managed to build a low-cost seismometer using an Arduino Uno and ADXL345 sensor to detect ground motion shaking due to earthquakes. During the first quarter of the year, they also finished calibrating this piece of equipment, running in Raspberry Pi 3, with their previously purchased GPS equipment. Overall, the newly designed system for measuring earthquake-related shaking could work properly like a GPS system. Both devices can measure small shaking in both the x and y directions (horizontal component). In addition, March 22-24 the team attended the SEA Studies Symposium 2018, “What is Southeast Asia? Exploring Uniqueness and Diversity” at the University of Indonesia. They presented their work on earthquake and tsunami mitigation and natural hazard investigation and preparedness in Sumatra. Subsequently, from March 29 through April 12, the PI and his group were also involved in the 2018 Pacific Partnership visit by the U.S. Navy to Bengkulu Province, including the associated engineering symposium and workshop. In this event, they discussed with U.S. experts topics related to natural hazard assessment, disaster-resistant structural design and construction practices, and post-event building damage assessment. The event provided an opportunity to initiate a new potential collaboration with a counterpart from the University of Hawaii as well.

Currently, the PI and his group are conducting field observations in West Sumatra in order to obtain more GPS data. During the spring and summer of 2018 they plan to hold a capacity building workshop on earthquake and tsunami mitigation in Padang city, and they will also work with senior high schools to provide teachers and students with training on disaster preparedness in schools. During this same period, they will also be providing training to undergraduate students on seismometers and GPS at Bengkulu University. After this training is complete, they will conduct additional field work. In early May 2018, Dr. Lubis will attend a scientific conference in Medan, during which he will make presentations on potential tsunami risks in Sumatra related to the Sunda Megathrust, as well as on his new system for calibrating a low cost seismometer for detecting earthquakes.

4-309 NGO Evacuation4-309 Teachers Evacuation4-309 Students Evacuation 
Explaining evacuation procedures to local NGO and community representativesTeachers recognize their local school environment and develop evacuation maps Students instructed to assemble in school yard upon hearing evacuation sirens  

 Photos courtesy of Dr. Lubis

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