Monday, November 21, 2016

November 2016 service wrap up

Well, that's it for this service run. The last few days I didn't have much time or a good internet signal for posting, so this post is post-service run. All things considered, the service run went pretty well. We had to pull one station we knew was not working, found two stations that weren't working properly, but have been fixed, and moved one station a few meters to facilitate a land owner's home expansion and that station has a bad vertical channel, but two good independent horizontal channels. So right now we have 18 stations recording, 16 are in perfect condition and 2 Garualp stations have 1 dead channel each. It would be better if we had 20 working stations as originally planned, but this is about as good as things are going to get until we re-capitalize the PASSCAL pool, but that will be very expensive and is effectively impossible in the current and foreseeable funding environment.

We finished our service run on Friday morning, with each team going to separate stations (EC07 and EC12) to check and fix some problems we found when we checked the data. EC07 had been recording flat line data since the past service run, but is now properly recording ground motion. EC12 had a strange error related to the internal timing. I suspect the internal clock on the data acquisition system (DAS) went bad, so they replaced the DAS and GPS cable so hopefully the timing will be ok for the rest of the experiment.

We arrived back in Quito, at the Geophysical Institute, in the afternoon and organized and stored what tools we could. In the evening, Daniel and Mariah took care of backing up and sharing the data while I went out to see some of Quito with Stephen and Hugo from the Institute. I was pretty amazed by it all. They took me to a great craft beer bar and vietnamese restaurant, then we went to a food truck park with amazing food and drink. The whole thing seemed like it would fit perfectly in San Francisco.

Since we finished early, Saturday turned into a free day to kill before heading to the airport at about 6pm. Daniel was down sick, so he stayed in the guest house while Mariah and I explored. First, we went to Teleferico where we took a cable car ride up above the city. It was an amazing view up there, even if it was a bit cloudy. In fact, the clouds made the scene amazing - we could watch as the clouds rolled up the mountain side like waves of air on the beach. After taking an obscene number of photos and selfies, we returned to the guest house to check on Daniel. He was still down, so we went to the vietnamese place I had been Friday night and got vietnamese pho noodle soup. That was something I never expected to find in Ecuador, but it was pretty good. Its interesting how different the soup is in different places; it is a goal of mine to try pho in as many countries as I can. After lunch, we took a taxi to the historic old town of Quito and wandered around a bit. We toured two different churches and then found a little Ecuadorian chocolate shop. Pretty nice place with history and culture and locals just hanging out, enjoying the day.

Well, that's it for me. I'll be heading on to a new institution before the next service run and network removal, so not sure how much I'll be involved. Its been a fun couple of trips and I'm excited about the data we're collecting. I'm very thankful to Susan and Anne for the chance to be a part of this experiment, NSF for finding money to fund this experiment, and the Geophysical Institute for supporting us.

Rob with Stephen and Hugo from the Geophysical Institute.

Some andesitic rocks on pichincha with a USD$1 coin for scale

Vietnamese beef noodle soup in Quito

Rob on the path to the Pichincha summit after the gondola ride up.

Panoramic view of Quito from the top of the gondola ride.

West of Quito from within the clouds

A view from the historic central part of Quito

Looking down on Quito from the gondola

Rob and Mariah on the Pichincha summit trail

Historic central Quito

Station located on a hill upslope from a school. The students were cutting the grass near the station, clearing a path for tsunami evacuation.

The teams met up at EC12 to plan the last push of the service run

Daniel and Xavier finish tying down the truck

Pollo en salsa de PiƱa while working on data transfer

Cutlets of chicken with potato and yuca and beans and rice

Mariah and Daniel at dinner on our last night before returning to Quito

A roadside stand on the way back to Quito

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Full speed ahead!

Day two and wow was this a busy day. We were up by 6:30am to get our truck loaded and hit the road by 7am. Its great to work so early in the day because it doesn't really get too hot until mid-morning or noon. So working early helps minimize our hours under the brightest sun and also maximizes our hours of usable sunlight. We also helped our time by getting breakfast at a bakery in the morning and lunch at a supermarket the night before. In the end, we were able to get five stations serviced. That's pretty great because we were only scheduled to get three today. The other service team also was able to get five today and two yesterday, leaving us just six total. We're going to team up tomorrow afternoon to finish those off and hopefully be back in Quito by mid afternoon Friday.

Since we were so far ahead today, we had a chance to walk down to the beach in Tonsupa. We walked on the sand, saw some shops, and then had a great little traditional Ecuadorian dinner at a small restaurant. 

As we were driving, I was thinking a bit too much about a classic geo101 concept: U vs. V shaped valleys. I grew up, geologically speaking, in Michigan and Yosemite Park. Both of these are dominated by U shaped valleys. U shaped valleys form from slow glacial action wearing away the edges of a valley. Yosemite Valley is probably the most classic example and when I first saw it, my jaw dropped. In Ecuador, however, glaciers are pretty rare and so we see tons of V shaped valleys, everywhere. V shaped valleys form rivers running down hills or mountains. Nature never makes things that are perfectly uniform, but this is a pretty cool, easy to see, and useful geologic process indicator.

Our first station this morning. Love that bamboo fence!

Finished our fifth station on the data!

Nothing like finishing early enough in the day to get to the beach with a little bit of sunshine left

The beaches at Tonsupa are filled with colorful beachside wateringholes.

The beach at night, viewed from an excellent restaurant we enjoyed. 

Stretching our legs

The first day of the service run is coming to a close and it was a long, but successful day. Mariah, Daniel from the Geophysical Institute, and I are heading to the northern half of the array while Daniel and Xavier from the Geophysical Institute are heading south. Both teams serviced one station today, but plan to do 3-4 tomorrow and the day after that. Hopefully we'll then be able to meet up as a big team to move a site that needs to be relocated due to a land owner's request.

Interestingly, both Mariah and I have a common fieldwork friend named Nova. She did a master's degree at BYU where she co-led a field course in Indonesia and she has been absolutely amazing to work with on a deployment I worked on in Indonesia ( It can be pretty amazing how small of a field earth science can seem. We always seem to pop in and out of each others' lives and I think that drives a sense of community amongst many scientists. Arguments could be made whether that's good or bad for the science, but I've generally found it to be a healthy, supportive environment, even if we do have work to do to encourage under-represented groups to get out and play with rocks.

Random view from the road

Looking inside the electronics box of station EC04

Mariah and Daniel from the Instituto

Rob at EC04 (proof that I'm not just taking pictures and writing)

Getting ready for a night of calling landowners and downloading data

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Heading back to the field!

Our first service just ended about a month ago, but we're heading back down this week (13-Nov-2016 to 20-Nov-2016) to prepare the stations for the wet season. On the last service run we found out that many of the stations filled their storage faster than expected, probably due to a large number of aftershocks, which leads to difficulties in the compression algorithm and ends up creating bigger data files. So we're going down with compact flash cards with higher capacity in hopes that they will be able to store all the data through the rainy season. 

The field team this run is Daniel and Rob from Arizona and Mariah from Lehigh. We'll meet in Quito Sunday night, get prepared at the Instituto Monday morning, and head out to start work on Monday afternoon. Hopefully we can get a station done that first day, but it may be tough if road conditions aren't clear. Then we've planned on the service run taking three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) and then we head back to Quito Friday and fly back to the States on a red-eye Saturday night to Sunday. 

Hopefully we'll have some field photos coming up in the next entries this week, but for now, here's a map highlighting the topography of Ecuador with earthquakes from the USGS plotted as black dots and stations in this aftershock deployment plotted as inverted triangles. These stations include stations from the US team, the UK team, and the French team. There's a lot of things we hope will be done with this data, such as improving locations of local earthquakes in Ecuador and helping us better understand the processes involved in active subduction. But, perhaps more importantly, the way seismology catalogs data means that this data will be available to be mined for hopefully decades to come.