Monitoring Earthquakes from in the Classroom

This year, at the Irish Geological Research Meeting (IGRM) in Derry, I saw a presentation which quite amazed me. It was about the Seismology in Schools project, made by Emily Neenan of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). This is an international programme, which in Ireland is run by DIAS. Following this presentation, I found out more about the scheme:

What is the Seismology in Schools project?

The Seismology in Schools project is an outreach programme introduced by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies to schools around Ireland. School children have the opportunity to make real measurements of earthquakes happening around the world from their own classroom. Students monitor the performance of the seismometer daily and consolidate the learning and data collection techniques outlined in the training days. Students upload the recorded earthquake data to the “IRIS Seismographs in Schools” website to share with other schools in Ireland, UK and USA.

The experience of the project has been that learners become more engaged when they see how earthquakes happen in reality and also learn about them through the media. They gain an understanding of earthquake hazards around the world and reflect upon what can be done by scientists and engineers to mitigate the devastating effects of big earthquakes.

What is a seismometer and how does it measure earthquakes?

A seismometer is a very sensitive instrument that can detect movements of the Earth’s surface. The type of seismometer used in the scheme is an SEP seismometer, available from Mindset instruments (for UK and Ireland). The SEP Seismometer System uses the same basic principle underlying all seismometers, which is that of inertia. Seismic waves from an earthquake make the ground move relative to the recording device. In the case of the SEP seismometer, there is a large mass on the end of a boom: this stays where it is as the ground moves beneath the seismometer, and this relative movement is recorded.
Please would you give us a quick example of a recently recorded earthquake.

For example, there was a recent earthquake of 6.2 on the Richter scale at Mindanao, Philippines in February, which was recorded by a school in Ireland, using their seismometer. The school processed these data and subsequently uploaded to the IRIS website:


How many schools are involved in the scheme?

Currently there are 55 Irish primary and secondary schools in the programme and this has now been extended to include colleges, universities and geo-parks. Internationally, there are over 448 schools participating in this scheme, in UK, USA and Ireland. If you know a school which would like to get involved or are a teacher or educator please see the useful links below and get in touch with IRIS (USA), DIAS (Ireland) or the BGS (UK) via their “Contact forms”.

A map of the schools participating in the Seismology for schools project in Ireland.
A map of the schools participating in the Seismology in Schools project in Ireland.

Useful Links

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies Seismology In Schools website (Ireland) with IRIS Contact form or by emailing Emily Neenan (eneenan*atsign*
IRIS Seismographs In Schools  website (USA) with IRIS Contact form
British Geological Survey School Seismology project website  (UK) with  BGS Contact form
Mindset seismometers  website


Thank you to Emily Neenan of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, Ireland, for information used as part of this blog post. It has helped us learn about a unique outreach programme, which can potentially inspire the younger generation to study the geosciences plus make us all more earthquake aware!! Happy St Patrick’s Day.

Strange world of hydrothermal vents

A hydrothermal vent is a fissure in a planet’s surface from which geothermally heated water issues. Hydrothermal vents are commonly found near volcanically active places, areas where tectonic plates are moving apart, ocean basins, and hotspots. Hydrothermal vents exist because the earth is both geologically active and has large amounts of water on its surface and within its crust. Common land types include hot springs, fumaroles and geysers. Under the sea, hydrothermal vents may form features called black smokers. Relative to the majority of the deep sea, the areas around submarine hydrothermal vents are biologically more productive, often hosting complex communities fueled by the chemicals dissolved in the vent fluids. Chemosynthetic archaea form the base of the food chain, supporting diverse organisms, including giant tube worms, clams, limpets and shrimp.

The Endeavour Mid-ocean Ridge is an exciting study location because it is a place where new volcanic seafloor is constantly created at the spreading boundary between the Juan de Fuca and Pacific plates. The region (approximately 300 km off the British Columbia coast), has been the site of intensive investigation for more than 20 years.The Ocean Networks Canada Observatory, comprising VENUS and NEPTUNE Canada cabled networks, supports transformative coastal to deep ocean research and technology. It enables real-time interactive experiments, focused on ocean health, ecosystems, resources, natural hazards, and marine conservation. The Observatory is a national facility led by the University of Victoria for a pan-Canadian consortium of universities and partners.

NEPTUNE Canada’s real-time monitoring capability will benefit both ongoing and new experiments. Continuous data gathered before, during and after events like earthquakes and intrusions will be recorded across a coordinated suite of instruments both at the hydrothermal vents on the seafloor and within moorings extending 250m up into the 2,200m water column. A network of seismometers here and at other sites will provide high resolution information on tectonic processes such as earthquakes and strain across the Juan de Fuca plate.

via NEPTUNE Canada: Endeavour and Wikipedia.

Some more footage of the Endeavour ridge hot vents acquired using the ROPOS ROV. See also the BBC news report about a recent British expedition to the Cayman Trough to the deepest undersea vents.

Welcome to Seabed Habitats

Welcome to Seabed Habitats- The newest blog about everything to do with marine habitats.The marine realm is such a dynamic system and is very much an “unexplored wilderness.” Being a relatively new science (with most sub-disciplines being only 50-120 years old), a lot of work is being done to gain a thorough understanding. With technological advances happening rapidly, there are always new methods to try out and new equipment to test. With research being so interdisciplinary in nature, spanning a range of areas such as marine ecology, marine geology, coastal processes, geophysics, oceanography, hydrography, remote sensing, surveying, GIS.. This blog attempts to keep you up to date on the latest developments in the field. From new research ideas to images to the latest technology- all can be discussed here.