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Two new GNS Science projects win funding


8 November 2018

Two new GNS Science projects win funding from the prestigious Marsden Fund

Research projects at GNS Science that will investigate rupture processes on the Alpine Fault and the emission of greenhouse gases from volcanic areas in the North Island have won funding in this year’s round of the prestigious Marsden Fund.

They were among 136 research projects from across New Zealand that were successful in the annual Marsden funding round. The Fund supports high quality research in science, engineering, maths, social sciences, and humanities. The total amount awarded this year was $85.6 million.

The earthquake rupture project, which has been awarded $300,000, will focus on finding out what controls how much of the Alpine Fault ruptures in a particular earthquake. Scientists have observed from geological records of previous Alpine Fault earthquakes that some localities on the West Coast frequently act as barriers to rupture.

Project leader and seismologist, Emily Warren-Smith, said the aim of her team was to find out why some locations were so influential in putting the brakes on ruptures.

“To do this, we will acquire and analyse recordings of small earthquakes occurring close to two of the most persistent rupture barriers,” Dr Warren-Smith said.

This will enable scientists to build a high-resolution three-dimensional image of the physical properties of these complex rupture barrier regions. They will use this information to build computer models that will simulate a range of rupture scenarios on the Alpine Fault.

This will help to give scientists a better feel for the length and style of rupture that could occur on the Alpine Fault in the future.

The second GNS Science project will investigate the origin and amount of greenhouse gases being emitted from the volcanic region in the central North Island.

This project has been awarded $958,000 over three years to test a hypothesis that geothermal gases, which comprise many gases but mainly carbon dioxide, originate from eight or more kilometres below the ground and find their way to the surface via weaknesses in the Earth’s crust.

Such a finding would overturn the view that these gases come from much shallower geological features.

It is well established that about 1000 tonnes of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere from the Rotorua geothermal field every day. But there is little understanding of where the gas comes from or the pathways used to get to the surface.

Project leader Isabelle Chambefort said her team will use a combination of isotope analysis of gases and measurements of gas flows at the surface to trace the origin, transport, and interaction of gases in the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

“This will enable us to develop a new definitive model of magmatic degassing and natural greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand’s volcanic region. It will also offer greater understanding of where these gases come from at depth and how they travel to the surface,” Dr Chambefort said.

The overall success rate for applicants to the Marsden Fund was 12.4% this year. The amount of funding awarded this year was an all-time high due to ongoing government support.

The grants are distributed over three years and are fully costed, paying for salaries, students and postdoctoral positions, institutional overheads and research consumables.

The Marsden Fund is managed by the Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the government.

END

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