SSBW - IRIS DMC Tutorial 1: IRIS Earthquake Browser

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 will use the IRIS Earthquake Browser to 1) explore global geographic earthquake patterns, particularly in relation to plate boundaries, 2) calculate the frequency-magnitude distribution from the retrieved earthquake catalogs, and 3) estimate the likelihood of a larger earthquake using the frequency-magnitude distribution.

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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 understanding of earthquake catalogs, earthquake magnitudes, plate boundaries, earthquake rates,.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 14 of 35 in the Seismology Skill Building Workshop (SSBW).


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Proficiency with earthquake catalogs, relationships to plate boundaries, frequency-magnitude distributions, and estimating earthquake recurrence rates.

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. Explore global geographic earthquake patterns with the IRIS Earthquake Browser (IEB)
2. Examine seismicity in California in relation to depth and plate boundaries
3. Use the IEB to calculate the frequency-magnitude distribution for each region of interest
4. Plot the frequency-magnitude distribution using the GMT psxy command
5. Estimate the likelihood of a larger earthquake using the frequency-magnitude distribution
6. Examine seismicity in Mexico, Hawaii, and the Red Sea in similar ways and calculate the corresponding frequency-magnitude distributions to estimate likelihood of larger events
7. Compare and contrast the differences between the 4 study regions


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:
15 multiple choice questions
10 multiple answer question
19 numeric questions (output values, quantifying output, plot measurement, calculation)
1 free response (all accepted) 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.