German A. Prieto

Role: Earthquake Seismology Professor
Departmento de Fisica
Universidad de los Andes
Address: Calle 18A # 1 – 10, Bloque IP, Of. 301
Boque, Columbia AA4976
Phone: 57 (1) 339-4949

Fax: 57 (1) 332-4516

About German

German Prieto reports to us from Universidad de los Andes in Colombia where he is a collaborator in the QCN project. Currently in chage of deploying sensors, he is also part of the source physics and hazard assessment groups. His degrees in Geology, graduate work in Geophysics and Seismology at Scripps, and post doc at Stanford prepare him to work with the challenging, dynamic QCN team.

Quakes & Aftershocks

What excites you most about seismology?

It is one of those fields where there are many open questions. And I think I like the challenge. Earthquakes are those events that you can’t control at all. The amount of energy involved is way out of our control. As a seismologist, I feel I can understand why they occur, where they occur, and maybe in the future be able to understand them much better with high-resolution data like QCNs.

Please explain your goals for QCN:

Some of my goals include establishing a reliable network running over a long period of time to gather information on a number of earthquakes and getting the community involved to increase their awareness of earthquakes in general. My scientific goal is to get a clear understanding of the limitations of the sensors, to focus the attention of the manufacturers on possible improvements, without a spike in prices and to be able to show that we can do similar quality science with QCN sensors compared to 25K sensors. Then the entire community will likely invest in the technology at affordable prices.

How are you helping to expand the Quake Catcher Network?

In my daily life at UniAndes we have a small group of students who are going to start deploying the QCN sensors around the capital Bogotá which was constructed above a large sedimentary basin, similar to Los Angeles or Mexico City. It will be helpful to gather infrmation about the response of the city’s foundations and how this could affect lifelines.

What is source physics?

This is probably one of the fundamental questions in geophysics. We don’t necessarily want to predict when an earthquake will occur, but rather understand what could be the potential effects of a large earthquake.

For example, questions like how would the ground move for a very large earthquake in Bogotá? This depends heavily on the characteritics of the earthquake itself and since we don´t have large earthquakes everyday, we need to try and answer this question using otherinformation like small earthquakes. We have many small quakes and if the QCN network is able to allow us to better understand the smaller ones (say a magnitude 4 – 5), we might be able to say something about the larger ones.

Do you recall your first quake?

I was in Popayan, maybe 1983, and a large earthquake struck, destroying part of the city. My family and myself, I was 3 or 4 years old and barely remember we were driving back home from Popayan to Cali, two cities in South-western Colombia, and did not feel the shaking. But I remember an earthquake in Cali, maybe 1990, probably a Magnitude 6. I was at school, and the shaking was very significant. The school had books falling, but no structural damage. Since then, I have felt maybe 5 to 7 earthquakes. The one I was really scared was the Armenia earthquake. I was home alone at the time the shaking started and I ran outside. but on my way out of the apartment the wall clock and some dished fell it was scary. I was in pajamas if I remember correctly.

Talk about collaborating on this international project

I was born in Germany and have lived in Colombia and the United States. I speak fluent English and Spanish, and am capable in German. Working on the international QCN team is both great, with input from very different people, and challenging, since each one of us has their own interests and contributions.