Australia, Guatemala, and Cameroon: Geoscientists Without Borders® selects three new projects for continued program expansion
Tulsa, Oklahoma (31 March 2014): Geoscientists Without Borders®, the humanitarian program launched by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) six years ago, will sponsor three projects, the first of 2014. The three new projects use modern earth science theory and technology to ameliorate long-standing problems in some of the world's poorest regions. The three projects, which will have a combined funding from the program of $249,500, were approved by the SEG Foundation at its meeting on 26 February 2014.
Two of the newly approved projects address issues related to water in, respectively, the remote island of Milingimbi in the Arafura Sea off the coast of the Northern Territory of Australia, and in Northern Cameroon in Africa. The third project is concerned with predicting activity at the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala that erupted as recently as 2 March this year.
The project in Milingimbi will be headed by Okke Batelaan, Strategic Professor in Hydrogeologyat Flinders University of South Australia, which will provide much of the project's personnel and equipment. The project team also includes the Flinders-based Australian National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training; the Power and Water Corporation; and the University of Adelaide. The basic goal of the project is to improve, using modern geophysical methods, the conceptual model of the island's hydrogeological system with the hope that this model will ultimately result in a more sustainable water supply to an area which depends totally on groundwater and is very susceptible to saltwater intrusion. "The Society of Exploration Geophysicists via its Geoscientists Without Borders Program offers Flinders University an excellent possibility to help the water constrained Aboriginal community of Milingimbi Island, Australia, by geophysical investigations of the groundwater conditions," Professor Okke Batelaan said.
Under the leadership of Jejung Lee, associate professor of geosciences, the project in Cameroon will be performed by the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Other participating organizations are the Research Institute of Development (IRD) - France, University of Ngaoundere (Cameroon), and University of Maiduguri (Nigeria). The fundamental problem in the area is that limited access to clean freshwater has, over the last decade, led to severe outbreaks of cholera. The project will rely upon electromagnetic surveys to characterize a basement rock aquifer which can subsequently be developed into a freshwater well field, leading to significant community health improvement. "Science can help people live in a better and healthy environment. The Geoscientists Without Borders program gives our international team an opportunity to help Cameroonians find cleaner water resources under the threat of contaminated water and following cholera outbreaks. This project will also promote capacity building for a better use of geophysical techniques in the region." – Jejung Lee.
The Guatemala project will focus on one of three active volcanoes in that country and one which has erupted regularly since 1961, often causing the evacuation of several thousand people living in the area. Michigan Technological University will perform the field work under the leadership of principal investigator Professor Thomas Oommen. The main goal is to improve the ability of local organizations in Guatemala to more accurately monitor the activity of the volcano to facilitate early warning and to improve the quality of the information available to local leaders in crisis situations. "In the past, several faculty and students from the department have contributed to the study of volcanic hazard at Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala. However, lack of data and instrumentation at Pacaya has remained as a challenge. This project provides an opportunity to overcome this challenge and acquire geophysical instrumentation to monitor the hazard at Pacaya. These datasets obtained from this instrumentation will be extremely valuable to build the capacity of local emergency agencies, improve our understanding of volcanic hazards at Pacaya, and validate and advance the remote sensing based research carried. This is, undoubtedly, an exciting opportunity. It brings together a multi-disciplinary team of Geological Engineer (Dr. Thomas Oommen, Assistant Professor), Geologist (Dr. Rudiger Escobar-Wolf, Post-doctoral Fellow), and Geophysicist (Dr. Greg Waite, Associate Professor) to study one of the most active volcanoes in the Central America with long history of eruption and edifice collapse/landslide. The activity at Pacaya also poses a great humanitarian need considering that about 9,000 people live less than 5 km from the active cone and were evacuated 11 times in the past 24 years." – Thomas Oommen. Other participating organizations are Instituto Nacional de Sismologia, Vulcanologia, Meterolocia e Hidrologia (INSIVUMEH), Pacaya Volcano National Park, Centro de Estudios Superiores de Energia y Minsas – San Carlos University, Instituto Geografico Nacional.
Thanks to the passion of donors both corporate and individual, Geoscientists Without Borders has invested $1,600,000 over 20 selected projects in 16 countries. The total value of an individual project is much higher thanks to partnerships and collaborations. Each project has multiple partners and every one involves the local communities or governments to ensure sustainability.
SEG Media Relations