NanTroSEIZE in 3-D

Donald Reed, San Jose State University
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R/V Nordic Explorer at Dock

NanTroSEIZE 3-D is a online virtual voyage based on a seismic survey to study the properties of the plate boundary fault system in the upper limit of the seismogenic zone off Japan. The virtual voyage comes in two versions, one for use in lower division general education geoscience courses and the other in upper division geology courses in tectonics, marine geology and geophysics. NanTroSEIZE in 3-D places undergraduate learning in an experiential framework as students participate (virtually) on the expedition and carry out research on the structure of the plate boundary fault. Students learn the scientific background of the program, especially the critical role of international collaboration, and meet the chief scientists before joining the 3-D seismic imaging expedition to identify the active faults that were the likely sources of devastating earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan in 1944 and 1948. The initial results of phase I ODP drilling that began in 2007 are also reviewed. Students document their research on a worksheet that accompanies the expedition, interpret a slice through the 3-D seismic volume, and compose an "AGU-style" abstract summarizing their work, which is submitted to the instructor for review.

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Learning Goals

Students will learn marine seismic data acquisition and interpretation, leading to ocean drilling. They will also learn how research is shared within the scientific community through publications and synthesize their own research into a publication-quality scientific abstract.

Students will gain an understanding of the international scope of large-scale geoscience programs, as well as linkages between geology, geophysics, tectonics, and geohazards.

Context for Use

This exercise can be used in class, lab or as an out-of-class assignment and takes between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete.

Students should be familiar with the basic elements of convergent plate boundaries.

The exercise requires web-access and includes the install of the free Quicktime Player plug-in.

Description and Teaching Materials

All materials are available for download, including a handout for students to complete as part of the activity.

Geoscience major version at:

General education version at:

The two versions are very similar, except for use of terminology and the description of seismic data processing.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students need broadband access as it involves video, audio, and animations.

Students can work alone and then share their work in classroom or in electronic discussion areas.


Review of handout completed during online activity, including seismic interpretation of data.

Quality of their published "AGU format" abstract and interpretations to support their conclusions.

References and Resources

Geoscience major version at:

General education version at: