We are now officially past the learning stage and into the research assignment stage! As Lea mentioned in her last post, we have spent most of our sessions learning about landslides and how they relate to earthquakes as well as learning how to use the software QGIS. Now that we know what we need to know, our group is going to start mapping landslides from the Limon earthquake in 1991. Since the earthquake was a while ago, we have to use an older map of the landslides while they were fresh and overlay it onto our map of Costa Rica on QGIS. We will then trace out the shape of each landslide that we see on the map so we can add up the total area affected as well as a number of other factors. If we were in Costa Rica, we would most likely be doing landslide site surveys so we could make maps like the one we are using for the Limon earthquake. We would probably be using drones and satellite imagery to accurately map out where landslides occurred after a particular earthquake. Once this information is all gathered, we could then use it against the landslide predicting model to see if we can better refine the algorithm to determine where landslides are most likely to occur. It's a really cool concept, and hopefully something we will get to do should we be able to go to Costa Rica!
While I have no official experience with field work, the concept is very familiar to me and something I think I will enjoy very much. I have spent a fair amount of time doing wildlife surveys (mostly for birds), where we have to record what species we see, how many we saw, as well as the distance we traveled and how the birds were observed. These observations then go into a database where population trends can be analyzed among many other things. Most of these official surveys come in the form of annual Christmas Bird Counts or Breeding Bird Atlases, but casual observations are also accepted as citizen scientist data on the website eBird. It may not necessarily be official research or earthquake related, but I am no stranger to traveling to field sites and conducting observations there. I enjoy it very much, and I am really looking forward to doing this more officially and being more involved with the data analysis part of field work as I will be with this project! Until then we will be doing this from our own homes, which is pretty cool that we can still contribute to a project in Costa Rica from here. Hopefully this will prepare us for if and when we get to do actual field work in Costa Rica!