Humanitarian Geophysics

Broadly defined, Humanitarian Geophysics focuses on applying the principles of geophysics to improve the lives of disadvantaged communities and the natural environments in which they live.  Over the past 10+ years, individuals working with organizations such as Geoscientists Without Borders (GWB) have been undertaking a number of humanitarian geophysics projects around the world on a wide range of humanitarian topics, including access to groundwater, understanding local seismic hazard, and remediation of abandoned mine sites.

Humanitarian Geophysics, flood victims

Photo credit: Thomas Blum

During 2017-18, CSM Geophysics has undertaken two important initiatives in the area of Humanitarian Geophysics.  First, in collaboration with the Engineering, Design & Society Division, which houses CSM’s successful Humanitarian Engineering program, the Geophysics Department has developed and is seeking final approval for a new MSc degree in Humanitarian Engineering and Science: Geophysics. This new program would be the first MSc Geophysics program in the US to specifically train students for the roles that geophysicists will play in working with a wide variety of stakeholders to develop novel solutions to important geoscience-related challenges faced by human society. Graduates from the proposed program would be well equipped for employment in all levels of government, non-government organizations, industry or continuing on with research training in a related PhD program.  Enrollment for the first cohort of students is expected in Fall 2019.

Humanitarian GeophysicsTo help kickstart the program, four CSM Geophysics Faculty (Shragge, Krahenbuhl, Bradford and Swidinsky) recently were awarded a GWB grant for a two-year Humanitarian Geophysics project entitled “Low-cost Geophysical Instrumentation for Groundwater Management in West Africa”.  This grant will see a number of CSM Geophysics Faculty, MSc and undergraduate students working on developing, testing and validating low-cost geophysical hardware and software (largely based on Raspberry Pi technology) intended for permanent use in hydrogeophysical investigations in Benin and throughout West Africa.  The project also involves running annual hydrogeophysics and instrumentation workshop at University d’Abomey-Calavi (Benin) for a network of West African geoscientists, who are interested in developing the skill set and geoscience network for locating new sources of groundwater in an era of increasing scarcity.