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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 - October 2018

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 in Universitas Bengkulu. The PI instructs members of the project team on data collection (photos courtesy of Dr. Lubis).

Summary of Recent Activities

During the second quarter of 2017, Dr. Lubis and his colleagues focused on capacity-building efforts for teachers and students in Padang, West Sumatra. They conducted a two-day workshop during April 2017 at four elementary schools in Padang. Forty-seven teachers have been involved and trained in the workshop. Dr. Lubis and his team trained school teachers and heads of schools on how they should prepare if an earthquake and tsunami happen in their region. They started from theoretical material for earthquake and tsunami mitigation at schools, asking them to understand the school’s environment (root, bridge, hospital, police station), and they asked them to create a map for natural hazard preparedness at schools. Dr. Lubis and his team taught attendees how to coordinate between teachers, heads of schools, students and local communities, including local NGOs, police and the local natural hazard agency, during an earthquake and tsunami event. His team found that, mostly, teachers can understand the material of the workshop based on what they explained to their students about taking action during drill events at schools.

During student drills on how to self-evacuate from the classroom and to an evacuation area, the researchers trained more than 500 students from four elementary schools at Padang city. In this activity, they collaborated not only with schools but also with local NGOs and members of the community (parents and local police stations). They found that mostly students took well to the drill activity and that they understood very well their teachers’ explanations about what action to take during an earthquake event. Dr. Lubis and his colleagues also trained and explained to the local NGOs and communities about earthquake and tsunami mitigation, so that these local stakeholders could assist the researchers during drilling on student evacuation. Police units also helped this activity, making sure that evacuation routes were clear from traffic and that students were generally safe during the evacuation process.

During this period, the researchers attended the Sumatra scientists’ annual meeting in Jambi on May 2017. More than 700 participants from science faculties of various universities in Sumatra gave a talk. In that meeting, Dr. Lubis, his colleagues, and students presented two talks promoting current results from the project, eliciting interest from some scientists for research collaboration in this area. In the next four months, Dr. Lubis’ team plans to conduct a workshop on GPS for mapping areas that potentially have impact from hazards, providing training on data acquisition, processing, and analysis. After that,  with students, his team will conduct again GPS surveys in the West Sumatra region. Dr. Lubis will try to estimate the vector deformations for new sites if enough GPS data is present. One problem that Dr. Lubis identifies is the lack of new GPS receivers in the face of an expanding GPS network. The researchers’ U.S.-based partner will visit them in Bengkulu around August. During her visit, a seminar with other geoscientists is planned in Bengkulu. Dr. Lubis and his colleagues plan to have a seminar with their students in order to improve their capacity to model GPS data.

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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