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About the GREAT Project


The Geoscience REsearch At the Cordillera Talamanca (GREAT) Project will use a diverse array of geoscience methods to investigate the origins, the current state, and the hazard potential of the Cordillera Talamanca in southern Costa Rica. This region is unique in Central America because of its lack of active volcanism, its extreme (and geologically recent) high elevations, and its history of unusually distributed large earthquakes.


The project will use resources of the University of Costa Rica: The School of Geology and the civil engineering research center (Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales, LanammeUCR), and also the research facilities of the national power company of Costa Rica (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, ICE)


Project Goals

The primary objective of this project is to introduce undergraduate students to the fundamentals of primary data acquisition and long-term data preservation.  For most participants, this will be their first encounter with authentic scientific research. Students will be paired with mentors from Costa Rica and Rutgers whose objective is to guide them into understanding their role as aspiring scientists and researchers. The students will establish and maintain enduring connections with their mentors who will become a great asset to                                  students as they wrestle for the first time with preliminary data preparation

                                         Students will also be faced with a challenge unique to this project. They will -                                    frequently and independently collaborate with mentors from a foreign country. This                             presents the students with cultural obstacles such as communication, integration, and adaptation. We are preparing students for the interconnected world of the 21st century; being able to note cultural differences and overcome them to harmonize in a diverse environment is a skill that can be utilized in any field of work, not just research.

In addition to the character development of the students, this project will tackle

important research topics associated with the Cordillera Talamanca, included hazard

assessment and prevention. Students will strive to resolve purely academic issues,

evaluate models, and analyze landslide hazards and earthquake related dangers as well.

This multifaceted program will continue to aid and assist students with continual mentorship and resources, not only through the project itself, but through the Aresty program, which hosts hundreds of students just like these every year.

Cordillera Talamanca

The Cordillera Talamanca (CT) is a region of interest for

this project for several reasons. The CT contains extremely

high peaks (2 km height on average and 3 km max height)

which are incredibly young, geologically speaking. In

addition to being on a thin strip of land, sandwiched

between two difference plates, the CT also sits on top of a

strange culmination of faults which causes the rocks

underneath to twist and turn in awkward directions.This

is partly what causes the devastating earthquakes that

rattle the region periodically. More intriguing, however,

is the anomalous volcanic activity. The CT cuts through an arc of active volcanoes. The triangles in the image above represent active volcanoes. We noticed that there are volcanoes to the left and right of the CT but not at the CT itself. We believe this might have something to do with the Coco's Ridge which is impacting that area.

This leaves us with a lot of questions: Why did these mountains grow so large? What is the internal structure of these rocks and how does it support such tall mountains? What happened to all the volcanoes? What is the Cocos Ridge really doing? How do all the different plate boundaries and web of faults interact with one another? Why are the earthquakes so unpredictable? And more importantly: Is it safe?

Map of costa rica
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