Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Southern Oregon University

“Southern Oregon University invites applications for a tenure-track position at the Assistant Professor level in the Department of Environmental Studies beginning in Fall 2010. Candidates in the geosciences, earth sciences, environmental sciences or related fields are encouraged to apply. We seek a scholar excited by problem-driven field-based research, committed to interdisciplinary undergraduate education, and enthusiastic about joining a diverse department faculty that spans the natural and social sciences. We also seek someone committed to creating and maintaining connections with community partners and conducting research on regional issues. We are looking for a scientist with a comprehensive knowledge of surficial processes: geomorphology, soils, slope stability, hydrology, water quality, and watershed science, with applied skills and facility with geospatial technologies. The successful candidate will teach introductory and advanced earth science classes and labs, integrative environmental studies courses, his/her specialty in geospatial technologies, as well as taking a prominent role in student capstone experiences. Proven teaching ability and demonstrable research potential are essential.”

CyberGIS: Empowering the Synthesis of Computational and Spatial Thinking

The National Science Foundation TeraGrid Workshop on Cyber-GIS, Feb. 2-3, 2010, Washington DC

Shaowen Wang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Spatial thinking and associated geographic approaches, supported by geographic information systems (GIS), play essential roles in solving scientific problems and improving decision-making practices of significant societal impact. Fulfilling such roles is increasingly dependent on the capabilities of synthesizing spatial and computational thinking (Wing 2006) enabled by cyberinfrastructure. Cyberinfrastructure promises to revolutionize how science and engineering are conducted in the 21st century as computation has become the third pillar of science and engineering (along with theory and experiment) (NSF 2003). CyberGIS represent a new GIS modality comprising a seamless blending of cyberinfrastructure, GIS, and spatial analysis capabilities to empower computational and spatial thinking and, thus, promise to transform geospatial problem-solving and decision-making while advancing cyberinfrastructure.”

Satellite Observations Help Assess Future Earthquake Risk in Haiti

Startling images of ground motion in Haiti during the recent earthquake are helping scientists understand the risk of aftershocks and even the possibility of a major new earthquake

According to the new data, the earthquake rupture did not reach the surface—unusual for an earthquake this size. More importantly, the images confirm that only the western half of the fault segment that last ruptured in 1751 actually ruptured in the current earthquake. “We’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop,” says Tim Dixon, professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.

The images reveal other startling facts, “Given the plate tectonic setting scientists expected mainly sideways motion, yet there was a large amount of vertical motion during the earthquake,” says Falk Amelung, professor of geology and geophysics at Rosenstiel School. “This explains how such a relatively small rupture was able to generate such a large earthquake.”

The data shows the earthquake occurred on or near the Enriquillo Fault, where most scientists suspected but until now did not have enough evidence to prove it. “This is a relief, because it shows that our current ideas about the tectonics of the area are correct,” Amelung said.

Dixon is looking at every bit of evidence to try to understand the possibility of another major quake hitting Port au Prince in the near future.  “There’s a reasonable probability of another large quake, similar to the January 12 event, striking Port au Prince within the next 20 to 30 years,” Dixon says. “I’d like to see them re-locate critical infrastructure such as government buildings, schools and hospitals, farther north out of the danger zone.”

In 1986, at the dawn of the GPS age, scientists from the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Lab, including Dixon began, a set of geodetic measurements on the island of Hispaniola.  A decade later, those measurements would reveal that the Enriquillo fault in southern Haiti was a significant earthquake hazard.  “In a very real sense, those early measurements set the stage for our current understanding of this dangerous fault zone.  Scientists have been studying this fault and others on the island, ever since,” Dixon says.

Shimon Wdowinski and Guoqing Lin, professors of geology and geophysics at RSMAS; Fernando Greene, graduate student at RSMAS and Sang-Hoon Hong,  post-doctoral research scientist at RSMAS and at Florida International University also contributed to the analysis of the new images.

The work of RSMAS in active tectonics is supported by NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP). Other institutions involved in the analysis of the images included JAXA (the Japanese Space Exploration Agency) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

[Source: Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami press release]