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Monitoring a Shifting Earth … In Seattle

  • Project Manager: Shelley Olds
  • Exhibit Unveiling: May, 2018
  • Location(s): Seattle, WA
  • Funding Source(s): NSF; Pacific Science Center

Written by Shelley Olds
1 September 2018


The UNAVCO interactive science exhibit, Monitoring a Shifting Earth, is now on display at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington. PSC receives more than 1 million visitors a year; a significant portion of these visitors are expected to also view the UNAVCO exhibit. This exhibit raises public awareness about earthquake and tsunami hazards of the Pacific Northwest and the geodetic technologies used to measure and monitor them.

Earlier this year, the exhibit had moved from its original installation at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center (HMSC) in Newport, Oregon. During its four years at Hatfield, more than 275,000 visitors interacted with the exhibit. PSC and UNAVCO worked together to update the displays to include text in Spanish, print new panels, and complete basic refurbishment.

In the Exhibit

The exhibit includes actual components of a high-precision GPS station used in the Plate Boundary Observatory, operated by UNAVCO on behalf of the National Science Foundation as part of the EarthScope program.

It also provides multiple hands-on interactives and a touch-screen kiosk. Visitors can explore the slow motions of tectonic plates, how GPS is able to measure this movement, and how the ground under their feet is currently moving. Visitors also learn about important concepts such as how the build-up of energy leads to an earthquake and how an earthquake warning system in the Pacific Northwest will provide warning before the shaking starts. They learn about actions to take before and during an earthquake, such as “Drop, Cover, and Hold-On.”

The Pacific Science Center has added an additional panel to illustrate the connections between the orphan tsunami that struck Japan from the January 26, 1700 Cascadia earthquake, the ghost-forests produced by the in-rush of salty ocean waters, and buried tsunami-sand deposits found along the Pacific Northwest coast.


This work is based on materials provided by the UNAVCO Education and Community Engagement Program with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under NSF Award EAR-1261833.

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Last modified: 2020-01-28  22:54:38  America/Denver