Choice of geophone layout in a simple near-surface seismics setting

Alain Plattner
California State University-Fresno,
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We use MATLAB functions available from to simulate the superimposition of different seismic waves recorded in a simple near-surface geophysics setting. The choice of the geophone layout influences how easy it is to discern the different wave types, which is crucial for the success of a near-surface seismics survey. Students learn which parameters they should try to estimate before the survey, why these parameters are crucial, and how they influence the setup of the survey.

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Learning Goals

Context for Use

This classroom activity is part of an undergraduate-level introduction to near-surface geophysics course. No prior knowledge of MATLAB is needed but a basic understanding of seismic wave theory is recommended.

Description and Teaching Materials

Student Handout (Acrobat (PDF) 160kB Sep28 16)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students with little or no prior training in MATLAB can simply use the functions as described in the handout. Students with MATLAB experience can edit the functions to create shot gathers for larger numbers of geophones, or geophones with irregular spacing.


In our small classroom setting (~15 students), I had each student independently solve the exercises in the handout and then have each student explain their choice and resulting figures. For larger classrooms this could be handed in as a written answer. To avoid cheating, each student could be given an automatically randomly generated list of parameters V1, V2(>V1), h.

References and Resources

There are plenty of textbooks for introduction to near-surface geophysics. I use "Introduction to Applied Geophysics" by H. R. Burger, A. F. Sheehan, and C. H. Jones.