Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Introduction to Earthquake Seismology Methods

Introduction to Earthquake Seismology Methods

Bruce Rueger
Colby College
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Apr 30, 2008


This lab introduces students of aspects of earthquake seismology methods. These include analysis of p-wave amplitude, location of an earthquake epicenter and determining the time of occurrence of an earthquake. Additionally students will analyze data using computer software and spreadsheets and use the WWW and seismicity maps to complete the exercise.

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This exercise is used in an introductory physical geology laboratory. I use it in my Earth and the Environment course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The skills that a student will gain from this exercise are the use of maps to think in three-dimensions, how to use and process numerical data and how to obtain and utilize information derived from the internet.

How the activity is situated in the course

It is the last exercise in a twelve week lab sequence.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The goals of this exercise are to reinforce lecture material on earthquakes and seismology. It focuses on the differences in arrival time of P- and S-waves, how to determine the time of earthquake occurrence, how to locate the epicenter of an earthquake, the relationships between type of plate boundaries and earthquakes and volcanoes and the three-dimensional aspects of earthquakes and plate boundaries. They will also learn some map interpretation skills.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The higher order thinking skills goals are analysis of data, synthesis of ideas, and application of concepts to real data.

Other skills goals for this activity

The lab exercise also exposes the students to searching the WWW for information, using math in science, working in groups and using computer programs and spreadsheet for science applications.

Description of the activity/assignment

In this exercise students will consider various aspects of earthquake seismology methods that include p-wave amplitude, location of an earthquake epicenter, determining the time of occurrence of an earthquake and the relationships between type of plate boundary and earthquake focal depth. Students will be exposed to several types of graphing program and spreadsheets to analyze and illustrate the results. They will also use seismicity maps and the WWW to reinforce the concepts presented both in the lab and in lecture.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Lab exercises are graded to determine the level of understanding and the accuracy of their answers and predictions.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Virtual earthquake
IRIS event search tool (more info)
USGS worldwide earthquake listing for the past 7 days

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