Picking Up Speed
Things are slowly beginning to settle down for Mariya and I at ICE. After spending some time with our mentor Krista and deliberating about what we should base our project on we have a clearer focus and plan for the future.
We've mostly spent the last week with Krista doing what she does day to day; picking P and S waves, locating earthquakes, determining focal mechanisms, and deciding whether a specific event was seismically induced by a nearby reservoir or not. I think the most important thing we have learned from this process is how tedious and inefficient it is. It takes so long to do these things by hand that we are working with events from 3 months ago.
Krista also discussed with us what it takes to extract the data from the stations and the many hands that it passes through before it reaches her desk. Essentially the technician and his assistant has to go out into the field for a few days to pull out the SD cards and maintain the equipment. After that, the data finds its way to another gentleman, Luis Madrigal, who reads the data and interprets whether it is valid or not. There are three folders he has to look at, folder '0' is the health status of the equipment, so that's the first thing he verifies is alright. Then he takes a look at folder '1', which should contain 24 one-hour segments of data for each day of the acquisition period, usually 20-30 days. After he makes sure that no information is missing, he looks at folder '2'. Folder '2' contains all the instances of seismic events which the equipment thinks it recorded. This process is automatic and sometimes faulty, so the seismologist has to validate each event to be sure that the equipment did not just record a car passing by or some thunder. I sympathize with Luis for doing this work. As a matter of fact, at ICE, they call him 'el gato negro', the black cat, because of his bad luck. I'd say with a job like that that his life must be rather unfortunate indeed.
Once the black cat ensures that the data is workable, he distributes it to other seismologists like Krista to analyze and pick at. The process is rather mechanical since its strictly for monitoring purposes; ICE worries about protecting its infrastructure and dams more than anything else. However, they share the same data with RSN, which has a greater focus on research and development. Tomorrow we will spend the day at RSN talking with people to discuss their research, equipment, capacities, etc to gather a bigger picture of the role of a seismologists in Costa Rica.