Sunday, March 9, 2014

Our agreement and a thirst for knowledge

A critical part of the engagement between USC and the Timor Leste Institute of Petroleum and Geology is a formal declaration of our involvement.  In past deployments, we have developed such agreements in a much more casual manner.  I met with the president of IPG to review our proposed agreement – ultimately to formalize our Memorandum of Understanding – but came away with a much better understanding what motivates IPG to welcome us to the country.

Beyond the tweaking of verbage and clarification of language, the primary update to our MoU was the inclusion of statements about training and transfer of knowledge.  Everyone is impressed by the proposed lot of research that will be carried out over the upcoming years, but these findings will be only remotely practical for Timor Leste.  IPG sees the opportunity to accumulate permanent knowledge that can be applied to long-term efforts to grow the country's infrastructure.  Accordingly, we included specific plans to train staff members on the techniques of seismic instrument installation, maintenance, and data processing.  I've got plenty of experience with installation and maintenance, and USC hosts the Southern California Earthquake Center that has world-class expertise with all phases of seismic let's all consider this a perfect match.

Some important background: There has never been a seismometer (that I am aware of) deployed in this country.  Before gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002, there were no efforts to monitor this portion of Timor.  Without local seismometers, no local earthquakes can be detected. 
There are also no personnel trained in geophysics here, let alone seismology.  All have backgrounds in the glorious discipline of geology, which has only peripheral relevance to seismology.  I am taking every possible opportunity to pass along what I know about seismic phenomena, and expect to do much more.  Before I leave, I will give a presentation of the basics of seismology.  And, speaking from experience, all of the information will need to be restated multiple times before it sets in...good thing we will be visiting many times over the next few years!

So, let the work and training begin.  We need to find locations to put equipment.  We REALLY need to get our equipment out of customs...

Coconuts, nature's thirst quencher

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