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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

Discovering potential seismic sources in the Caucasus using virtual-reality based data analysis and development of a cyber-enabled geosciences workforce in Georgia  

PI: Mikheil Elashvili, Ilia State University
U.S. Partner: Louise Kellogg, University of California Davis
Project Dates: June 2012 - January 2015

Project Overview

Georgia Partnership Picture
From left to right, Zurab Javakhishvili (Dean of the Ilia State University School of Engineering), Mikheil Elashvili, Mikheil Darjania, Giorgi Sokhadze, and Irakli Gunia (another student from ISU) demonstrate their project at the AGU Fall Meeting, December 2012. Photo courtesy of Dr. Elashvili.

In much of the developing world, including Georgia, active faults with the potential to produce devastating earthquakes have yet to be identified, as illustrated by the frequent occurrence of such events on previously unidentified faults. Discovering and characterizing these potential seismic sources is an essential first step towards increasing disaster resilience. In particular, planning for and managing the impact of earthquake disasters requires knowing the location and three-dimensional (3D) geometry of active faults that may rupture to produce an earthquake, as well as the type, magnitude, and frequency of ruptures they are likely to produce. This project aims to increase disaster resilience and thus promote sustainable development in Georgia by discovering potential seismic sources in the Caucasus through the use of new virtual-reality (VR) based methods of data analysis. In particular, these researchers will use the new virtual-globe application Crusta to map active faults and folds based on their distinctive expression in the landscape. Using the application Visualizer they will also determine the subsurface geometry of potential seismic sources by analyzing the 3D distribution of relocated earthquakes. They will subsequently test their VR-based observations by conducting pilot field studies of active faults near the capital city of Tbilisi to determine fault geometries and slip-directions, as well as preliminary slip rates and earthquake histories.
This project will enhance the skills of Georgian researchers and students through mentor-based education and research in collaboration with their U.S. partners. Faculty and students at Ilia State University will learn how to use the VR-based software tools by receiving training at KeckCAVES (the W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences) at the University of California, Davis. With this training, ISU faculty will incorporate advanced visualization tools in their undergraduate and graduate courses. The project should also facilitate disaster mitigation efforts by improving understanding of potential seismic sources in Georgia, an essential first step towards preparing for such events and reducing their possible impacts.
Summary of Recent Activities
In September 2013, the research team together with their U.S. colleagues from UC Davis conducted two weeks of joint fieldwork. The team studied foothills to the south of the main topographic front of the Greater Caucasus to test the area that may be underlain by an active, gently north-dipping thrust fault. In particular, locations near Tbilisi, Zugdidi, the Enguri high dam, and Tsageri District were investigated. Potential earthquake scarps were identified and studied, and high precession elevation profiles were constructed using a differential GPS station. Geological samples were collected and sent to UC Davis for laboratory analysis. The team has selected a site near Tbilisi with clear expression of active fault in terrain for further detailed analysis. Next, they are planning to construct a detailed 3D model using kite survey and photogrammetric technology. Also during the third quarter of 2013, Dr. Elashvili purchased a second set of eight workstations for the 3D computer lab that has been created with PEER Science funding. Going forward, he and his group are planning to make a project presentation for USAID and U.S. embassy staff members, Georgian government officials, researchers and faculty from local universities, and private sector representatives who may be interested in 3D technologies. PhD students taking part in the project are also planning to visit UC Davis for additional training.