SSBW - IRIS DMC Tutorial 3: Web Services

Mike Brudzinski, Miami University-Oxford
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Initial Publication Date: August 18, 2021


In this interactive tutorial built for a learning management system, students generate and interpret IRIS web service requests for 1) station metadata and availability, 2) information about the 2002 Magnitude 7.9 Denali earthquake, 3) calculations of source-to-receiver distance and predicted arrival times, 4) raw and filtered seismogram plots to highlight both larger earthquakes and the small seismicity they can trigger.

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The IRIS Seismology Skill Building Workshop (SSBW), which is a free, online, open-access, large-enrollment, 12-week summer workshop for upper level undergraduates.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

This assignment builds on prior knowledge of seismic station metadata, an understanding of what typical earthquake seismograms look like, and the ability to retrieve relevant information about programming and seismology from internet research or help pages

How the activity is situated in the course

This is assignment number 16 of 35 in the Seismology Skill Building Workshop (SSBW).


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Proficiency with IRIS Web Services, data vs. metadata, calculating source-to-receiver distances, frequency content, filtering, earthquake triggering.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Retrieving relevant information from digital sources to accomplish tasks, using correct programming syntax, evaluating and describing computing output in the context of science concepts.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

Students will:
1. Learn what IRIS web services are , why they are advantageous, and how to make requests using the URL builder
2. Use the station web service request for stations in Ohio associated with induced seismicity
3. Use the availability web service to identity when data from a seismic station is available
4. Use the event web service to get the details of the 2002 Magnitude 7.9 Denali earthquake
5. Use the distaz web service to calculate the source-to-receiver distance to station in Idaho
6. Use the traveltime web service to predict the P-wave arrival times at a given distance
7. Use the timeseries web service to view and interpret the Denali earthquake seismogram
8. Apply a filter with timeseries to reveal the high frequency seismicity triggered in Idaho by the passing surface waves from the Denali earthquake


Teaching Notes and Tips

This assignment was constructed in the Moodle learning management system, and has been exported in the GIFT format. More information about the syntax of this format can be found here:


This assignment is automatically graded by the learning management system. The number of questions of each type used are:
4 multiple choice questions
3 multiple answer question
8 numeric questions (mostly reading earthquake latitude/longitude/depth)
13 short answer (auto-graded) question

References and Resources

During the Seismology Skill Building Workshop, students are provided with a virtual Linux machine that was tailored to include the software specifically needed to complete the assignments. This software is all freely available on the internet, but interested parties are encouraged to contact the instructor for access to this tailored virtual machine.