High School Students to Assist in Monitoring Earthquakes

Photo: Donald Delahaye Principal of the Ardenne High School, Nadine Molloy, (left) is assisted by Geoscientist and Fulbright Core Scholar, Dr. Katherine Ellins (2nd left), in cutting the ribbon to open the school’s seismograph station. Others (from third left) are Director of Urban and Regional Planning in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Marsha Henry Martin; Head of the Department of Geography and Geology at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Simon Mitchell; and Counselor for Public Affairs at the United States Embassy, Joshua Polacheck. The station, which is the first of six to be installed in high schools across the island, forms part of the Jamaican Educational Seismic Network (JAESN) which was launched during a recent ceremony at the school’s St. Andrew location.

Story Highlights

  • The country’s ability to detect, monitor and prepare for earthquakes is being strengthened through the input of secondary-school students.
  • The project was officially launched at Ardenne High School in St. Andrew recently, where the first station was also opened.
  • JAESN is being established as part of the global Seismographs in Schools Programme, managed by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), based in the United States.

The country’s ability to detect, monitor and prepare for earthquakes is being strengthened through the input of secondary-school students.

This is being facilitated under the Jamaican Educational Seismic Network (JAESN), which involves collaboration between the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Earthquake Unit and Geoscientist and Fulbright Core Scholar, Dr. Katherine Ellins.

Under JAESN, seismograph stations are to be installed at six institutions across Jamaica, which will allow students, teachers and community members to get details about the force and duration of earthquakes as they occur.

The project was officially launched at Ardenne High School in St. Andrew recently, where the first station was also opened.

Others will be established at Jamaica College, Immaculate Conception High, Hillel Academy and the Jamaica American International School of Kingston (AISK) in St. Andrew; and Mount Alvernia High, St. James.

Speaking at the ceremony at Ardenne, Director of Urban and Regional Planning in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Marsha Henry Martin, welcomed the project.

“It is preparing our young minds for the realities of earthquakes and helping them in research and development. This will build capacity within the educational sector and enhance Jamaica’s ability to treat with earthquakes,” she pointed out.

She said the Government is committed to research, policy development, as well as creating the legislative framework “that supports and enhances the country’s ability to measure, cope with, respond to, rehabilitate and recover from a seismic event”.

Head of the UWI’s Department of Geography and Geology, Professor Simon Mitchell, noted that Jamaica experiences between 80 and 120 small earthquakes annually and “will undoubtedly have a big earthquake”.

“Therefore, citizens ought to be prepared, including students, who need to be aware of what to do in the event of an earthquake,” he said.

“It is very fitting that we have the JAESN network being set up because it shows the interest and importance people are placing on making Jamaica a safer place,” he added.

Dr. Ellins, in her address, explained that JAESN aims to improve the scientific understanding of earthquake risk among pre-college and undergraduate students and promotes preparedness and community resilience.

“The way this would work, we hope, is that students who participate in JAESN are then going to take the knowledge that they have gained, go back, share that with their parents and families and with their communities,” she said.

She informed that a seismograph station will be housed within the Geology Museum at the UWI.

Dr. Ellins said the hope is for JAESN to be a model for a Caribbean-wide seismographic educational network.

JAESN involves learners in gathering, analysing and sharing earthquake event data from their seismograph stations with other network institutions. It also connects high school science classrooms to researchers at UWI by encouraging collaboration on local research in seismology and related geo-hazards.

In addition, it promotes earthquake preparation and response through drills and community outreach.

Ultimately, the initiative seeks to build Jamaica’s resilience to earthquakes through education.

JAESN is being established as part of the global Seismographs in Schools Programme, managed by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), based in the United States.

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