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  • Writer's pictureJesus Rodriguez

The Summit

On Thursday everyone got a day off from work to celebrate a national holiday. Over 2 million Costa Ricans walk from their homes to Cartago to visit "La Virgen de los Angeles." Some come from as far Nicaragua or even Guanacaste, spending weeks walking just to reach Cartago. Though we thought about taking the 3-4 hour walk from San Pedro to Cartago, we decided it would be more interesting to go on a hike with our friends from ICE, Krista and Isaac.

The hike was long, arduous, and challenging for a lot of us; a total of 12km and a 1km ascent, the whole trip took 6.5 hours to complete. Even though the hike kicked our butts it was very much worthwhile due to its fantastical views and breath-taking moments. That's how we spent our day off. Most of us were in bed by 8 pm that night.

One of the many gorgeous views that day

Mariya and I have been spending more time at RSN than ICE recently. We have a small field project with Krista that we have to do together, but with RSN we both have independent projects. Mariya will be revising RSN's velocity model while I will be identifying focal mechanisms to create a model of the internal structure of the Panama fracture zone. This is a project that both Dr. Ivonne Arroyo and Dr. Lepolt Linkimer have been working on for years, but haven't been able to put the man hours into since they are so busy at RSN. Ivonne is trusting me to look through her data and adjust her picks as needed so that I can identify the movement and forces underneath Costa Rica and Panama.

Working with the data from RSN was a big change after getting used to ICE's data. For starters, RSN, since it is a research based institution, is organized and has a lot more stations than ICE does. RSN is very careful with their P and S wave picks and has specific ways of identifying error in their picks. ICE on the other hand, has half as many stations and their criteria is a little looser. ICE focuses primarily on practical application of seismic monitoring, so they don't care so much about finding out new information, rather they gravitate towards monitoring changes which could spell danger for their dams and telecommunication infrastructure. There are very smart people at both offices who are more than ready to teach you something new at every moment.

At ICE we spoke with an engineer/designer, Alvaro Climent, who told us about the many elements that need to be investigated in order to build a dam. For each project, there has to be a pre-report, an active report, and a post report, detailing everything from lithography to finances. Alvaro spoke to Mariya and me about all the different ways that dam building can go wrong and all the things that need to be taken into account once monitoring begins. The process is long, complicated, and multifaceted. It has to be this way, if a single dam were to burst, the could mean the loss of hundreds of lives, like what happened in Laos. Next week Krista will be taking us to a few of ICE's seismic stations so we can see how they operate. This will help us identify possible sources of error, equipment capacity and limitations, and will provide us with the ability to objectively observe the step by step procedure of data acquisition.

Headline about Laos' dam breaking

The people at RSN are also brilliant and are helpful in different ways. I didn't realize how valuable an understanding of basic coding logic would have been before the trip. It makes sense that all sciences are looking for programmers. Ivonne and Lepolt both work really well with Seisan and know the program front and back. At ICE, Seisan is used more technically, so a deep understanding of Seisan isn't exactly helpful. Since I've starting working with RSN's data, I have run into a few technical issues and it is a delight watching Ivonne and Lepolt use their problem solving capacities. They both try to recall file names and paths to reach a certain waveform, or they will run search algorithms in clever ways, or they will alter lines of code to be slightly more fitting for their particular project. They both genuinely love the work they do and it's fun seeing them identify problems and solve them as they go. I look forward to working closely with them.

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