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Funding to establish the Underground Eye

Media release
22 February 2008

Funding to establish the Underground Eye

Nearly $9 million has been allocated to bring a renowned team to New Zealand to keep an eye below the surface for volcanic and seismic activity and the location of natural resources.

The Underground Eye project has been awarded $8.84 million through the government’s new Strategic Relocation Fund. The grant allows for the relocation of an international team of researchers to New Zealand, along with establishment of equipment and facilities required to monitor and research seismic, volcanic and other activities below the surface of the Earth.

The Underground Eye team consists of six scientists and engineers, led by Professor Peter Malin, inaugural Director of the Institute of Earth Science and Engineering at The University of Auckland. The team is recognised internationally for its expertise in imaging beneath the Earth’s surface, using combinations of surface and sub-surface techniques.

The Underground Eye project will develop new methods and research into the geophysical landscape of New Zealand, allowing the discovery of geothermal power and fossil fuel resources, monitoring of faults and volcanic fields for signs of impending events, and providing an integrated, 3-dimensional subsurface view of New Zealand.

Professor Malin, previously at Duke University, USA, is a renowned geophysicist, and has been lead investigator on a number of projects globally in the field. Recently, he and his team have been instrumental in establishing the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD), which monitors activity in the fault line at a depth of 3km below the surface, and working with Geopower Basel in the development of a new geothermal power plant.

“New Zealand is a very exciting place for geophysical activity,” says Professor Malin. “Through the Underground Eye project we hope to get a better understanding of the events below the surface, which will ultimately assist in hazard management and exploration for resources. It is also incredibly important, particularly in such a seismically-active area, to build an understanding of the landscape and how human activities, such as mining or harnessing geothermal power, can affect the balance and lead to seismic events, such as earthquakes.”

The Strategic Relocation Fund facilitates world-leading researchers who are working in areas of strategic interest to New Zealand to relocate here and establish research teams. The SRF is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. The ongoing aim of the SRF is that the research will create sustainable wealth creation opportunities for New Zealand.


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