UCM's new seismograph detects earthquake

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(Photo by Anna Jones) Sally Zellers discusses UCM's new seismograph.
(Photo by Anna Jones) Sally Zellers discusses UCM’s new seismograph.

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – In the early morning hours of Feb. 14, a series of tremors were detected by a small, bright-green device on the bottom floor of the University of Central Missouri’s W. C. Morris Building.
The device is a new seismograph, recently acquired by UCM’s Department of Biology and Earth Sciences, which had picked up a 6.6 magnitude earthquake. The series of tremors detected by the seismograph were the result of an earthquake near Druzhina, Russia.
The department recently purchased the vertical seismograph, a device used to measure and read the energy produced when an earthquake occurs, to enhance student learning within their teaching program and aid in classes.
Associate Professor of Earth Science Sally Zellers said the device was originally obtained after being requested to aid in the earthquakes and volcanoes class offered on campus.
Zellers hopes that it will be utilized across a broad spectrum of classes.
“Hopefully they will be able to incorporate it into physics classes, and I will be able to incorporate it into the geology classes, alongside the science teaching methods classes, and of course the earthquakes and volcanoes class,” Zellers said.
The idea is that the seismograph will become an important tool for student innovation, and will be shared not only within the University but also with local high schools.
“My hope with the science teaching methods is that maybe the students will use this to come up with an exercise, and then they can bring that to a high school and educate the students,” Zellers said. “I really feel it is important to share the equipment the University has.”
Seismographs recognize earthquake activity when a shift upward occurs in the ground causing a horizontal bar to hit a magnet and coil, signaling the seismograph box, which then amplifies the activity through a computer program.
Locally, the small device can record earthquakes above a 3.5 magnitude within approximately a 100-mile radius. However, if the magnitude of the earthquake is high enough, above 6.5 on the Richter scale, this particular seismograph can pick up earthquakes worldwide, such as the one in Russia.
Zellers said what was so interesting was that the small device could register a higher magnitude earthquake so far away.
“What is exciting about it is this very simple machine recorded the earthquake in Russia,” Zellers said.
An exact location of the earthquake can only be found utilizing the readings from two other separate seismographs.
Zellers said that despite not having two other seismographic readings at the time, she knew the earthquake was in Russia due to data already logged in to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which maintains the earthquake watch program worldwide.
“If we have three seismograph readings, you can locate where the earthquake is,” Zellers said. “But because we have the Internet, I knew it was the Russian earthquake by looking at USGS.”