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International researchers visit NZ to study earthquakes

Twenty-four earthquake engineering students and young professionals from around the world will embark on a tour of New Zealand this week to learn more about earthquake recovery. The 6-day program offers members a unique opportunity to interact with local experts in the field, facilitating international knowledge transfer.

The US-based Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) has partnered with QuakeCoRE, New Zealand’s Centre for Earthquake Resilience, to host the 2019 Learning from Earthquakes Travel Study Programme. New Zealand was chosen as this year’s location because of the opportunity to observe both longer-term recovery efforts after the Christchurch earthquakes in 2010-11 as well as the more recent Kaikōura event in 2016. The inaugural programme in 2017 was hosted by CIGIDEN in Chile.

Professor Thalia Anagnos (LFE Travel Study Lead, San Jose State University) says, “New Zealand provides an ideal educational environment to engage participants with creative responses to the challenges of a major natural disaster.”

The programme is designed to foster dialogue and interaction among young researchers from various backgrounds and disciplines. Caroline Orchiston, QuakeCoRE researcher and lead of the New Zealand planning committee, says that the tour is significant because it "builds international connections and creates the opportunity for researchers from different backgrounds and disciplines to discuss disaster recovery."

This year’s participants are from eight countries (Chile, Peru, the US, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Singapore, Japan and New Zealand). They represent a diverse range of disciplines including geotechnical engineers, structural engineers, risk modellers, seismic hazard specialists, recovery modellers, and public policy and social impact researchers.

One of the American participants, Eddie Vega, says, “It is rare to have an opportunity to take part in something so interdisciplinary, with supported learning amongst such an interesting and diverse group of people.”

They will focus on three overarching learning themes: response, recovery, and resilience. Each day will be filled with presentations, site visits, and field activities. These include:
• a visit to Tūranga, the new Christchurch public library;
• a discussion with the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT);
• site visit to learn about tourism recovery in Kaikōura;
• site visit to learn about seismic strengthening of winery infrastructure in Marlborough;
• an exploration of seismic resilience on reclaimed land such as CentrePort in Wellington; and
• a reconnaissance exercise using specialised equipment from the US for rapid assessment of damage after an earthquake.

Participants will be assigned one of three themes on the first day: the natural, built, and socio-economic environments. They will be asked to observe and think about their experiences and activities during the week through this lens and on the final afternoon, to present a short summary of their collective ideas and thoughts.

Ash Gissel, a participant from the Dominican Republic, says, “I work for the government, so it is amazing to be here learning fresh lessons to take back to my country.”

For more information about the Learning From Earthquake Travel Study program visit https://www.eeri.org/projects/learning-from-earthquakes/lfe-travel-study-program/.

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QuakeCoRE is a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission, hosted by the University of Canterbury. QuakeCoRE is transforming the earthquake resilience of New Zealand through innovative worldclass research.

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