From the Director: SCEC Thriving During Challenging Times

Dear SCEC Community,

September was the National Preparedness Month, when communities were reminded of the importance of preparing for disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic puts into perspective just how unpredictable evolving disasters are and how far-reaching their impact can be. This is not news for those of us studying earthquakes. SCEC’s mission is to improve the understanding of earthquakes and to translate that knowledge to useful products so communities can better prepare, survive and recover from damaging earthquakes and related cascading hazards. This year has shown that SCEC continues to accomplish its mission and to thrive during challenging times.

Picture of a tree with green leaves and pink flowers

Transitions with changing seasons

In September we had our first online annual meeting. The highly successful meeting provided another strong demonstration that SCEC remains vibrant, efficient and focused on developing new state-of-the-art results while continuing to build integrated models and products. The success of the online meeting is a big achievement for the entire SCEC community! The excellent plenary talks covered different aspects of earthquake science and were augmented as usual by outstanding poster sessions. This was made possible by the innovative infrastructure developed by Tran Huynh and Edric Pauk to preserve the lively interactions that are hallmarks of the SCEC annual meetings. The many comments in the chat boxes, which added much scientific context to the talks, and the exciting exchanges in the self-organized Zoom rooms of different posters, illustrated the high engagement of the SCEC community that makes the Center so special. 

The plenary session presentations are now available for public viewing along with the searchable SCEC2020 poster archive with their corresponding videos and discussions. The article by Tran and Edric in this newsletter describes how they managed to transform potentially negative aspects of a remote meeting to a great success. I am inspired by the resilience of the SCEC community, and the creativity of the leadership and staff who have adapted our programs and activities for the online platform. They are developing new approaches that extend our capabilities, and will strengthen our collaborations on many different fronts. Some of these capabilities will likely continue long beyond the pandemic.

In the weeks before the annual meeting we had two online workshops that provided additional examples of how SCEC continues to make progress towards our science objectives. The SCEC CVM Workshop (convened by Carl Tape, Cliff Thurber, and myself) was held on September 1 and focused on multi-scale seismic velocity models. A second workshop on SCEC’s Cajon Pass Earthquake Gate Area was held on September 4 (convened by Nate Onderdonk, Julian Lozos, and Craig Nicholson). Both groups identified key research areas for the community to pursue, which have been incorporated into the 2021 SCEC Science Plan. The workshop presentations and recommendations are now available at the workshop websites.

During September we also had several notable earthquakes in Southern California, including a 4.5 event on Sep 18 near El Monte that jolted many of us out of bed, and a 4.9 earthquake on Sep 30 just south of the Salton Sea. We’ve been tracking the seismic activities following these and other M ≥ 4.5 events in SoCal, and are on standby to initiate a webpage for rapid science response in case a large event follows. Thankfully, the large overdue earthquakes that are expected on multiple large faults in SoCal have remained late.

SCEC collaborators from Harvard and Caltech developed a new, statistical method to rapidly identify the most likely fault (or sets of candidate faults) in the SCEC Community Fault Model (CFM) that generated an earthquake. The approach has been applied to the full SCSN catalog (M ≥ 3.0) using CFM (5.2), and probabilities of association between every earthquake in the catalog and each fault in the CFM are available at the Southern California Earthquake Data Center. This information is also available to the SCEC community in near real-time through an automated web-based service with email notifications. See the Know your faults article in this newsletter for more information and how to sign up for the notifications.

Higher Education ShakeOut Intro Slide

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Higher Education Online or In-Person Drills.

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Great Online ShakeOut!

This is a big week for SCEC’s Communication, Education, and Outreach (CEO) Program. Thursday, October 15 is the International ShakeOut Day, when millions of people worldwide will practice earthquake safety. Some may have in-person group drills, but many schools and organizations are planning videoconferencing drills using SCEC-developed resources and guidelines described in the article by Global ShakeOut Coordinators Mark Benthien and Jason Ballmann. No ShakeOut plans yet? Join Mark and Jason on Thursday morning for the “Great Online ShakeOut” on with special guests, videos, and drill instructions leading up to 10:15am in each time zone (ET, CT, MT, & PT) when everyone will Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

Other examples of how SCEC CEO has transitioned this year into a highly effective virtual mode are presented in an article by Sharon Sandow about new webinars and other virtual activities of the SCEC-led Earthquake Country Alliance, and in an article by Gabriela Noriega about SCEC’s Experiential Learning and Career Advancement Program activities including the new SOURCES remotely-mentored internship program and the Transitions Program (which supports career advancement for students and early career scientists). As with the SCEC Annual meeting, CEO’s online workshops and webinars include accessibility features such as closed captioning and sign language interpretation, along with presentations by local, state, and federal advocates for people with disabilities, access or functional needs, who have also been involved in creating a variety of resources for this community.

I want to congratulate Michele Cooke, who is the recipient of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity’s 2020 Inclusive Geoscience Education and Research Award, recognizing her two decades of leadership in accessible and inclusive classroom and fieldwork teaching. Michele has long inspired and encouraged activities on accessibility and inclusion in SCEC and elsewhere. She is a member of SCEC’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee and Science Planning Committee. The newsletter features an interview with Michele, in which she shares key lessons learned from her innovative approaches and gives advice to leaders and organizations. Michele and her colleagues on SCEC’s EDI Committee, chaired by Rowena Lohman, will ensure we continue to improve our inclusion and diversity efforts. A representative from the EDI Committee will also participate in a new Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, recently established by the Seismological Society of America.

I would also like to welcome three new members to the external Advisory Council (AC) of SCEC: Bob Woodward (Director for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology), Gabriel Toro (Senior Principal Engineer at Lettis Consultants International) and Jon Heintz (Executive Director for the Applied Technology Council). They join six other current members of the AC (Arrietta Chakos, Urban Resilience Strategies; Tim Cockerill, TACC; Alan Levander, Rice Univ; Ellen Rathje, UTA; Francois Renard, Univ of Oslo; Heidi Tremayne, EERI). The AC is charged with developing an overview of SCEC activities and advising the Directors and Board on major issues that confront the Center. We will recruit a few more members to strengthen the AC further as we plan for the future earthquake center.

SCEC’s cycle of yearly activities continues to move forward. The new SCEC Science Plan has been updated by the Science Planning Committee led by Greg Beroza and Judi Chester. Your input during the annual meeting and additional feedback since were integrated into research priorities for our collaboration in 2021. The request for proposal was just announced. We look forward to receiving your proposal by the November 16 deadline. November is bound to be a historical month!

Vote early and stay well,

Yehuda Ben-Zion, SCEC Director


In this Newsletter

Communication Education, and Outreach Updates

Researcher Spotlight

Science Highlights