UND researcher managing North Dakota portion of Earthscope's USArray

Will Gosnold, professor of geology and geological engineering, is managing the North Dakota component of the USArray project, designed to study the structure of the North American continent and bring clarity to exactly what’s inside the Earth’s interior.

“There is so much that is unknown about the Earth’s interior,” said Gosnold. While scientists do have a general idea about the Earth’s innards, the USArray project is using a group of broadband seismometers, which will be placed in a regular grid pattern around the nation. Gosnold will locate optimal sites for installation of the seismometers in North Dakota.

USArray, made up of many universities and part of a bigger study of the planet called Earthscope, allows for Gosnold and his team of four students to present a North Dakotan seismological “single point of view” within the North American continent. The project, Gosnold says, will bring the additional needed knowledge of the Earth’s interior that “will be used for the next 30 to 40 years.”

During the previous 30 years of the Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor’s research, he has worked at solving riddles in a variety of geophysical fields such as gravity, heat flow, plate tectonics, and climate change. The USArray provides a new opportunity for him to work with the graphs, data sets and maps that depict the world’s seismic signals. These signals, such as the earthquakes caused by planet motions and shifts, continually change the land we live on.

Taking two UND graduate students and two North Dakota State University undergraduate students, who have excelled in both geology and mathematics, Gosnold is giving the budding professionals “an experience of a lifetime.” Both Vladimir Zivkovic and Matthew Burton-Kelly from UND, and Anna Nystrom and Nicholas Low from North Dakota State University started training for the project in Omaha, Neb., May 19. They learned how to identify optimal sites for the 37 seismometers planned for installation in North Dakota, beginning in 2009. The students will contact and work with landowners, who will also participate as hosts for the seismic stations for at least two years.

The project allows the landowners to be part of the team in their role as host for the seismometers. During the following years, many seismologists will work to interpret the data that will be gathered in this project. The people that do help would be part of a national project based in Washington D.C., made of related non-profits and universities. Those people with the appropriate land available will be helping not only Gosnold, but other scientists learn about the secrets of the very ground we walk on and the occasional rumbling it makes.