Geophysics humanitarian work

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Geophysics play a vital role in global economics. However, geoscientists use different geophysical methods and techniques to solve humanitarian problems while also solving archaeological problems. Programs like Geoscientists Without Borders fund geophysicists so that they can use their knowledge and expertise to create a positive impact to the world.


Subsurface mapping techniques were used in Greece to help preserve an underground Macedonian grave. Also, underground corridors and cavernous openings were mapped; two early Christian churches uncovered, and the exact location of a tomb were located.[1]

In 2011, US and Thailand scientists and students in Thailand used geophysical technology and methods to map at Wiang Kum Kam which is the site of an abandoned city where buried walls, temples, and related structures that are of important historical significance to Thailand. These techniques include seismic, ground penetrating radar, electrical, electromagnetic, gravity, and magnetic surveys. [2]

Habitat Management

In 2016 ground penetrating radar was used to map the underground burrows of the southern Hairy-Nosed wombat in Australia. This also helped estimate wombat population numbers. The use of near surface geophysics here was important because it replaced methods like using dynamite that would destroy the wombat's habitat. [3]

In another project located at Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, scientists and students used surface sediment and short sediment core surveys, CHIRP sub-bottom surveys, side scan sonar surveys and echo-sounder surveying. These geophysical techniques and equipment were used here to improve fisheries conservation at the lake. [4]

Pollution Mitigation

Shallow reflection seismics, resistivity surveys, GPR and magnetometry were used to determine pollution effects of the mining area of Zlatna, Romania. Also, 2-3 m holes were drilled to gather information about the lithology, in order to properly calibrate the geophysical results. This project also trained Romanian students so they will acquire experience geophysical techniques, theories and equipment. [5]

Water Management

In 2015 seismic imaging as used in the coastal city of Cotonou in Bénin to understand its Godomey aquifer which is its important domestic water supply. Theses surveys helped American scientists and local professors and students understand the complex system and varying salinity levels of the aquifer. Moreover, the seismic imaging to constrain groundwater models for a better understanding and management of water quality. [6]

Near surface geophysical techniques and methods were used to better understand the aquifer systems beneath Milingimbi Island, which is off of the coast of Australia. This project will help the indigenous people on the island have a source of potable water source that would not be contaminated by saltwater intrusion. [7]

Natural Hazards

Earthquake Preparedness

Haiti in the last two decades have been hit with numerous catastrophic earthquakes. Haiti however for some time did not have the infrastructure to detect susceptible areas where earthquakes can occur. This also puts many of its communities at risk. This is why many scientist have done projects to help this country's earthquake preparedness. One such project used subsurface imaging to help build Haiti’s geoscience capability and to search for the 2010 earthquake fault [8]

Landslide Preparedness

Seismic, electrical, GPR and hydraulic conductivity surveys were used in Brazil to assess landslide risks in various local hydrological basins. Scientists, students and government officials also used this project to set up alert systems in the regions. [9]

Tsunami Preparedness

GPR data was used to analyze tsunami deposits in Java, Indonesia in 2016. This information with other surveys and data helped scientists communicate tsunami hazards risks through presentations and practice evacuation drills with Java locals and community-based disaster mitigation organizations. The project also help trained local disaster mitigation agencies how to use tsunami modeling software and develop tsunami inundation maps for their communities.[10]

Volcano Preparedness

Starting in September 2019, scientists in Mexico are using GPR, refraction seismic, HVSR and geoelectrics methods with other scientific techniques and methods to update the geologic hazard maps and to implement an early warning system to safeguard human life in the surrounding areas of the Pico de Orizaba volcano. Most notably, this volcano presents lahar hazards for the villages and natives that use the nearby Jampa river. [11]


  1. "GWB Greek Project".
  2. "The advancement of humanitarian geophysics in Southeast Asia: a student-based approach".
  3. [ "Final Report: Near surface geophysics as a tool to help manage the southern hairy-nosed wombat in South Australia"].
  4. "Tanzania Habitat Final Report".
  5. "Geophysical Investigations in the Polluted Mining Area of Zlatna, Romania".
  6. [ "Seismic imaging to help understand and manage water quality in coastal Bénin, West Africa"].
  7. [ "Near-surface geophysics for water supply investigation for the water constrained aboriginal community of Milingimbi Island, Australia"].
  8. [ "The Haiti Subsurface Imaging (HASI) Project: Helping build Haiti’s geoscience capability and searching for the 2010 earthquake fault"].
  9. [ "Risk Assessment and Advance Warning for Landslides in Brazil"].
  10. "Waves Java report First Year Annual".
  11. [ "Hydrometeorologic and geologic hazards at Pico de Orizaba volcano, Mexico"].

External Links

SEG Geoscientists Without Borders Projects