Jesse Lawrence leads the Quake Catcher Network’s Stanford team. Holding a lifelong fascination with earthquakes, he studied both economics and geosciences at UC Davis, and spent his senior year learning geophysics at the University of Leeds in England.
His studies took him to Washington University in St Louis for a PhD in Seismology and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for his postdoctoral work. While at Scripps, Dr. Lawrence was introduced to both deep earth seismology- ‘crust to core’- and a fellow student
at the time, Elizabeth Cochran.
Jesse’s past four years at Stanford have been divided between QCN management and collaboration, and teaching in the Stanford geophysics department. The California native felt his first earthquake during first grade, and recalls finding himself standing on top of a desk, rather than diving under it for safety, so that he could better feel the waves.
Since then, Dr. Lawrence has spent his life chasing waves- whether it has been the earth, the ocean, or a guitar string and he looks forward to sharing his interest in earthquakes with the world.
Quakes & Aftershocks
Earthquakes are awe-inspiring. The fact that so much energy can be released so quickly from the earth is amazing. There is so little that we can do to predict when they are going to occur, but with QCN, we will be able to understand earthquakes so much better and mitigate earthquake hazards.
Tell us about the QCN team and the future of the QCN
Currently we have seven institutions and eight principal investigators, spanning from earthquake seismology to education to earthquake engineering, to cyber infrastructure. Over the next three years, our plan is to purchase and disseminate 6,000 sensors.
The first goal is ‘faster, better, cheaper.’ My goal with QCN is to really demonstrate that we can have an advanced alert system at a very low cost. To fulfill that goal, we need to move sensors into countries that can’t afford a traditional network. Our sensors are not designed nor intended to replace scientific sensors, but rather to augment and complement them. Our sensors will have the greatest effect where there are no sensors or where the sensors are decades old. The goal is to develop the QCN infrastructure so we can expand to 60,000 or 600,000. With newer technologies, more international participation, and greater education for everyone, we want to put the earthquake under a microscope.
How has QCN evolved?
When Elizabeth and I were at Scripps, we wrote a code to do ‘proof of concept’ and started writing grants. We received NSF preliminary funding, which allowed us to bring on Carl Christensen to develop the software for use with distributive computing.
Shortly after that we recorded our first earthquake- April 26 2008, a 5.1 in Reno. We actually recorded at multiple stations. That’s when we knew that the Quake Catcher Network was really going to work! The signals looked like seismograms, and they were good signals, farther apart. We could even distinguish between P waves and S waves and we could see multiple frequencies. We were able to compare the amplitude of the main quake and the amplitude of the aftershocks. Now that we are establishing a global network, weâve recorded recent quakes in New Zealand and Japan, and have sent out sensors to Chile, and across the country.