Unit 1: Introducing shallow seismology to explore our subsurface environment

Introduction to the importance and relevance of geophysics. Andy Parsekian, University of Wyoming, aparseki@uwyo.edu


This introductory unit is designed to provide stand-alone introduction to geophysical imaging of the shallow subsurface, motivate students to become invested in the topic, provide career context for these scientific subjects, and build enthusiasm for the following units. The shallow seismic refraction module (Measuring Depth to Bedrock using Seismic Refraction) is designed to fill the need to expose students to geophysical concepts and surrounding earth science principles so that students begin to know why geophysics is important to geoscience and how these concepts are related to future careers and day-to-day life.

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Learning Goals

Unit 1 Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to...

  • explain what practitioners in the field of geophysics do,
  • use concepts related to waves to calculate the speed of sound in the Earth,
  • give examples of how seismic refraction is used by science and industry,
  • describe the importance of seismic refraction measurements to geoscience explorations of urban and wildland environments
  • describe the relationship of seismic wave frequency content to the distance from a source.

Unit 1 Teaching Objectives

  • Affective: Motivate students interest in geophysics with examples relevant to urban and environmental geophysics
  • Cognitive: Empower students to use place their geoscience and geophysics learning in the context of a classification hierarchy

Context for Use

This first unit is intended for students without exposure to geosciences or geophysics and may be a first exposure to the concept of measuring Earth's subsurface environment to support research, industry, and management tasks in the context of daily life.

Description and Teaching Materials

Part 1: Introduction to geophysics and seismic refraction

This part introduces students to the concepts of geophysics and refraction seismology. Context is given for how seismic refraction may be used in science and industry. Here we focus on examples from the built environment. The importance of seismic refraction is explained, and relevance to daily life is presented.

Materials provided:

Part 2: Speed of sound, waves, and bedrock

This part introduces the parts of a wave related to the speed of sound. The concept of bedrock is explained, along with examples of how bedrock is important for science and engineering applications, and how these are related to seismic geophysical imaging.

Materials provided:

Teaching Notes and Tips

Instructors may provide a review of Microsoft Excel (and analogous free software) to students before Exercise 1.

The excel-based exercise can be completed using a Team-based learning (TBL) or a Jigsaw approach:

  • The students could be divided up into small groups (~3 students per group), with each team calculating the wavelength of one of the waveforms provided.
  • After calculations, all groups could add their results to a large graph for the whole class on the whiteboard. If >3 groups are in the class, differences between calculated results could be plotted together and discussed in the context of uncertainty.
  • Finally, small groups could discuss the possible reasons for the trend in the x-y plot and list ideas on the board for a class-wide discussion.
  • If the students struggle with the exercises, start by providing the "Worked Examples" that break down the work into more explicit steps and do not use Excel. If the students are struggling with the Excel implementation, consider providing the key or "solution" Excel workbook sheets in part or in whole so they can see how to enter the formulas. Alternatively, show the solution sheets to the whole class, and then have the students go back and reproduce the results themselves.


Solutions for instructors

References and Resources