GETSI (GEodesy Tools for Societal Issues): Teaching with the GETSI module "GPS, Strain, and Earthquakes"

Thursday 1:30pm-4:00pm Ritchie Hall: 164
Afternoon Mini Workshop


Vince Cronin, Baylor University

The module GPS, Strain and Earthquakes by the GETSI project (GEodesy Tools for Societal Issues) facilitates learning about high precision GPS data through the lens of earthquake hazards, risk, and preparedness. The module is a particularly good fit for structural geology, geophysics, or tectonics courses. This workshop is designed for anyone (1) who would like to use all or part of the GETSI "GPS, Strain, and Earthquakes" module in an undergraduate geoscience course, and (2) who might want to learn how to use GPS velocity data to measure horizontal strain in the crust. No prior experience with GPS or GETSI modules is needed. All of the resources you need to facilitate student learning about this topic are provided, including PowerPoints, worksheets, access to datasets, and "strain calculators" in Excel, MatLab, or Mathematica.

All participants are asked to bring a laptop that can assess the internet. A tablet would also work okay for some elements but a laptop is preferable. We anticipate participants will be able to access the activities directly from their device via wi-fi, but we will also supply the participants with flash drives that have the GETSI module on it in the event there are any internet issues.


By the end of this workshop, participants will:

  • Have an understanding of how and why we can use GPS velocities to measure how the shape of the crust is changing at the present time. This directly informs our understanding of important geologic hazards (seismicity, volcanism), landscape and coastal issues (uplift, subsidence), and other phenomena related to dynamic change in the crust.
  • Know where to find high-quality GPS velocity/displacement data online in free public repositories
  • Complete at least one GPS strain analysis using a spreadsheet-based calculator that is provided
  • Learn how to interpret the results of a GPS strain analysis and relate them to observable geologic phenomena like fracture trends, faulting, and folding
  • Become familiar with the existing resources available through the GETSI GPS, Strain and Earthquakes set, and learn how these can be customized for different course settings


1:30 Welcome and introductions

1:40 Project background and motivation

1:45 Introduction to GPS technology, UNAVCO, and the Plate Boundary Observatory

2:00 Overview of the GPS, Strain and Earthquakes module

2:10 Unit 1. Using the Tohoku earthquake and the hazard potential of a great Cascade earthquake to engage students in the underlying issues

2:25 Unit 2. Simple physical models of crustal strain built using inexpensive materials

2:45 Units 3 and 4. Two complete cycles through a GPS strain analysis and a look forward -- see an analysis, do an analysis, plan an analysis

3:25 Units 5 and 6. Applying newly acquired knowledge and skills to different situations

3:45 Wrap-up and Workshop evaluation

4:00 Adjourn


GETSI homepage:

GPS, Strain and Earthquakes:

Pedagogy in Action resources available through SERC:

Additional resources from Vince Cronin: