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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program

17-5. Bridging the gaps between earthquake monitoring and geodetic seismology

The rapid analysis of earthquake properties, including location, magnitude, source characteristics, and secondary effects (e.g., stress transfer, seismotectonic analyses, postseismic deformation, stress accumulation and release, etc.), is an important component of response and research activities at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC), and a topic of significant interest and research focus in earthquake seismology in general. In the past, analyses at the NEIC have typically taken advantage of the seismic wavefield to provide a detailed characterization of an earthquake. While the use of geodetic observations as either a substitute for or complement to seismic data has become increasingly prevalent over the past decade in the broader seismology community, these advances have not propagated to the earthquake monitoring and response environment at the NEIC, nor have they become a routine component of the NEIC’s post-earthquake analyses.

The integration of geodetic data into a monitoring system can provide key constraints on earthquake properties (e.g., location, size) in areas where regional seismic observations are sparse and facilitate the characterization of the earthquake source and its tectonic setting in finer detail than can teleseismic data alone. More recently, observations from high-rate Global Navigation Satellite Systems (HR-GNSS) stations– i.e., Global Positioning System (GPS) and other satellite navigation constellations– have been used in conjunction with strong motion seismic records to provide near-instantaneous characterizations of earthquake size and source. As these types of data are becoming more easily accessible on increasingly shorter timescales, it is imperative to continue their integration into NEIC's earthquake characterization systems, as well as into regional Advance National Seismic System (ANSS) operations.

The focus of this Mendenhall Research Opportunity is science that will ultimately provide a rapid and more complete characterization of earthquake properties (i.e., location, magnitude, source characteristics, seismotectonic setting) in the minutes, hours and days following major domestic and global events, and that will concurrently improve our longer term understanding of the earthquake process and earthquake cycles. While the monitoring component of this project has direct implications for the rapid characterization and understanding of large earthquakes in real time, the research involved in this project will improve our understanding of the earthquake source and the earthquake nucleation process.

We invite proposals from candidates with experience in geodesy and global seismology and with interest and/or experience in the integration of geodetic and seismic data for elucidating earthquake properties. Candidates are encouraged to explore current methods used in the processing of real-time and/or near real-time geodetic data for evaluating earthquake properties, and the potential to integrate such methodology - and improvements to these techniques - into USGS/NEIC rapid earthquake characterization and related response activities.

In addition to analyses of co-seismic and immediate post-seismic geodetic observations, research can include the use of seismogeodetic datasets to improve our understanding of earthquakes. Specifically, when such data is available in the nearfield of large events, can it be used to accurately characterize magnitude before rupture is complete? This research can be largely exploratory but will be strengthened via the demonstration of implications for Earthquake Early Warning and NEIC.

Proposals that explore the opportunistic use of any and all types of geodetic data (e.g., GNSS, InSAR, optical, surface faulting, etc.), as a complement to or jointly with seismic data, for improving our understanding of earthquake sequence seismotectonics, plate boundary and in particular subduction zone processes, are also invited. 

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisors, below, early in the application process to discuss project ideas.

Proposed Duty Station: Golden, CO

Areas of Ph.D.: Geophysics, geodesy, seismology (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines but with knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the following qualifications: Research Geophysicist (This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above. However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by a Human Resources specialist)

Research Advisor(s): Gavin Hayes, (303) 273-8421,; Jessica Murray, (650) 329-4864,; Benjamin Brooks, (650) 329-5436,; Diego Melgar (U Oregon), (541) 346-3488,; William Barnhart (U Iowa), (319) 384-4732,

Human Resources Office Contact: Melissa Barnhart,, 916-278-9412

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Last modified: 11:07:40 Fri 08 Feb 2019
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