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JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Geoscientist, Katherine Kelly Ellins, is working with the Earthquake Unit of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona to establish a network across the country that will allow persons to have greater access to information regarding earthquakes.
  • Trained in Geochemistry, she is the Programme Director of Outreach and Diversity in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas, in the United States of America (USA).
  • Dr. Ellins, who is Jamaican, has been a researcher at the university for the past 15 years.

Geoscientist, Katherine Kelly Ellins, is working with the Earthquake Unit of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona to establish a network across the country that will allow persons to have greater access to information regarding earthquakes.

Trained in Geochemistry, she is the Programme Director of Outreach and Diversity in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas, in the United States of America (USA).

Dr. Ellins, who is Jamaican, has been a researcher at the university for the past 15 years. She is currently in Jamaica for six months (January to June), as a Fulbright Core Scholar, based at the UWI, Mona, in the Department of Geography, Geology and the Earthquake Unit.

The Immaculate Conception High School past student tells JIS News that she decided to bring her expertise back to the country, as “Jamaica is in a seismically active area.”

“I thought that it would be a great citizen Science project, because Jamaicans, especially young people, should be aware of seismic hazards. They need to understand the earthquake risks in Jamaica and how to prepare for them, as well as how to respond,” she says.

While in Jamaica, Dr. Ellins will be coordinating the establishment of the Jamaica Educational Seismic Network (JAESN) and making connections between JAESN and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS).

She will also be seeking schools to be a part of the project and assisting with the set-up of the project.

When the network becomes operational, she along with her team will assist in teaching students and teachers how to use the equipment.

Dr. Ellins explains that her work will enhance the capabilities that the Earthquake Unit has, while serving to educate and encourage students to become interested in seismic hazards.

“The project will be a useful vehicle for teaching certain concepts that students need to learn in Physics and in Math, and the technology that goes with it,” she notes.

She believes that the students will be excited about learning some of these concepts in the core subjects through the project, and that they will also get exposed to much internet technology and computational applications.

The machines placed in schools will not be able to predict earthquakes; however, they will allow students to be able to measure the earthquakes felt around the world. This, she says, is not in an effort to replace the system that the Earthquake Unit currently has, but to promote awareness at the local level.

The Geoscientist says that the aim is for schools and students to involve their communities, so that there can be a better understanding of what is going on.

Students will be able to download a picture of the actual seismogram, which is the record of an earthquake that is recorded in the stations (schools with the seismographs).

“If an earthquake occurs in another country, Jamaicans can check and report directly from their own station’s recording instead of trying to get the information from the Earthquake Unit or from an international source,” she explains.

The schools involved in the programme will purchase the units, which she says is relatively inexpensive at US$600. Dr. Ellins and her team will assist in the set up and training for the use of the apparatus.

The Fulbright scholar is also counting on partnerships with other organisations in the project. “Teachers will need to know how to set up, operate and maintain the instruments, as well as they will have to be exposed to good curriculum materials, so that it can be implemented,” she says.

Dr. Ellins explains that the ‘Seismographs in Schools’ initiative is being undertaken by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS).The network in Jamaica will become a part of it and will be known as the Jamaican Educational Seismic Network (JAESN).

Other countries that are part of the programme include the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Dr. Ellins’  work will be supported through federal grants, primarily the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and state agencies, and carried out in collaboration with geoscientists and leading scientists at the universities of Texas in Austin, Tyler  and El Paso.

Support will also come from Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University, the Science Education Resource Centre (SERC) at Careleton College in Minnesota, and Technical Education Research Centre (TERC), a not-for-profit organization in Massachusetts.