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Iowa Universities – Juggernauts of Discovery

June 10, 2015

With renowned research capabilities at Iowa’s three public universities — the “Interstate 80/35 innovation corridor” generates advanced technologies that impact the world. One such recent discovery will improve the rescue efforts after earthquakes.

The University of Iowa and the U.S. Geological Survey discovered that GPS and satellite data can measure movements of the ground surface within 24 hours of the quake, producing three-dimensional maps that can help rescuers estimate the extent of damages and injuries. The information also will allow rescuers to pinpoint and respond to the hardest hit areas faster or determine the scope of damage in remote or mountainous regions.

William Barnhart, assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the UI, led a research team that used the GPS and satellite data to create a 3D map of the area affected by the Napa, Calif. Earthquake last August. The findings were published in the March/April issue of Seismological Research Letters.

He said the technique should be especially useful in developing countries such as Haiti, where as many as 160,000 people died in the aftermath of a magnitude 7.0 quake in 2010, and where real-time seismographic information was unavailable.

“On an international scale, it dramatically reduces the time between when an earthquake happens, when buildings start to fall down and when aid starts to show up,” Barnhard said in a UI news release.

Iowa's collaborative approach to R&D and technology transfer ensures that discoveries with great societal impact are efficiently leveraged and commercialized. 



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