New global earthquake monitor arrives in Gardiner Hall

While New Mexico isn’t known for its intense seismic activity, New Mexico State University students will now be able to monitor earthquake occurrences all around the world thanks to a new monitoring system in Gardiner Hall.

The earthquake monitoring system is designed to track seismic activity in real time by using color coordinated graphics that categorize the size and age of the earthquake event down to the hour. For NMSU professor of geological sciences, Jeff Amato, the monitor is a valuable tool in observing all seismic events, not just the large ones.

The EarthScope Consortium seismic monitor, which displays all seismic activity around the world in real time, appears in the Gardiner Hall lobby May 11, 2023. NMSU geological sciences professor Jeff Amato was instrumental in getting the system installed earlier this year. (Kokopelli photo)

“Earthquakes happen around the world, pretty much every hour, but people really only hear about them if they’re really big and destructive,” Amato said. “There are a variety of organizations that got together to put together this visual display.” 

The display was installed by the NMSU Department of Geological Sciences with assistance from the College of Arts and Sciences. According to Amato, getting the system approved and installed was about a three-month process from proposal to installation. It cost around one thousand dollars.

The software that the system uses imports data from earthquake monitors that are placed around different regions of the world. Amato mentioned that The National Science Foundation EarthScope Consortium is the institution that manages the data distribution. In fact, the software is available to the public for free.

For NMSU students, Viewing a Wider World courses are part of the collegiate-level experience, and the inspiration and idea to install the monitor came to Amato while teaching a natural hazard course.

NMSU geological sciences Professor Jeff Amato (Photo courtesy of Jeff Amato)

“When I’m talking about the earthquakes, I thought it would be good for the students to see them in real time,” Amato said. “I just thought it would be a cool little display that we could see in the hallway.”

NMSU graduate student Amit Millo also took note of the system and mentioned that it’s a nice addition to the department, and provides a more detailed look into the movement within the Earth.

“For somebody that is curious about this stuff, there’s no better visualization for this,” Millo said. 

The installation also helps the department in advertising and recruitment efforts. Some students who are not geology majors may be intrigued by the monitor, thus leading students to take courses within the department and potentially change their major. 

For Amato, the display is a fascinating addition to the department, as it allows people to witness what is happening within the world seismically. He said that every time he passes the display, he glances over with a feeling of appreciation to all involved with the project.

“It was a good use of these kinds of funds to figure out a different way to educate students about science, hopefully in a fun way,” Amato said. 

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