Georgia Perimeter College Newton Campus students in Polly Bouker's geology class knew something big had happened in the Virginia-Washington, D.C., corridor before the news of an earthquake hit the airwaves. The campus has a seismometer, an instrument used to detect vibrations in the earth.
"I just happened to look online and showed it to my students," Bouker said. "The seismogram, or printout of the vibrations, was pretty dramatic. The lines clearly showed something dramatic had happened somewhere in the world. We had no idea it would be so close to home."
GPC Newton Campus has had a seismogram for about a year, Bouker says. The instrument can pick up vibrations from around the globe, including those that cause volcano eruptions, landslides and tsunamis. "It's very exciting for students to see earthquakes picked up by the seismometer. We can tell the earth is vibrating but can't tell where it's coming from," she explained.
The seismogram is used mainly by students who major in geology or physics, Bouker said. Seismology, the study of the earth's vibrations, is the meeting of geology and physics, she said. "It's nice for physics students to see the application of their physical concepts, and nice for geology students to see the measurement of an actual event. Seismology pulls our two disciplines together to offer students integrated learning."
Students are surprised by how many earthquakes there are happening all the time, Bouker explained. "We can record events right here from Newton Campus. It adds a little reality to the course. As for the recent earthquake, Bouker said, "It's an interesting way to start the semester off."
To view the seismometer, visit http://www.iris.edu/amaseis/schools/as1imgs/GNGA.png.