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QC Scientist Maps Haiti’s Fault Lines; Brings Humanitarian Aid to the Devastated Region

March 31, 2010 | Posts

The efforts of Queens College professor Cecilia McHugh, who is helping to prepare an NSF-sponsored geophysical survey of Haiti continental waters following the catastrophic January 12 earthquake, have come to the attention of the White House. McHugh’s March research expedition–which also accomplished two humanitarian efforts–is featured on the White House’s office of science and tech policy web page. Senior policy analyst Kate Moran blogs about the McHugh team’s “spectacular” science findings—-which include input from two Haitian graduate students whose university is in ruins-—at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/22/hightailing-haiti-scientists-plumb-data-deliver-goods.

Professor McHugh and her colleagues, who returned from Haiti March 13, concentrated on the area along the Baie de Port au Prince and along the southern coast of the Canal de Sud. They examined faults and related structures in the vicinity of the earthquake and aftershocks where a tsunami was generated. On the last day of the trip, the team helped to conduct a geological survey of an area that was being considered as the site for rebuilding a new Port-au-Prince. They found there had been extensive faulting in that area—perhaps saving hundreds of lives from future disaster.

In late March, Professor McHugh participated in an invitation-only workshop to identify and refine key science and engineering information to guide and support rebuilding efforts in Haiti. Organized by the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction (SDR), it was hosted at the University of Miami from March 22-23, 2010.

The Haiti research trip was sponsored as part of a RAPID response by the NSF. Involving young talent from Haiti or Haitian-American earth scientists in collaborations is key. Joining McHugh onboard the research vessel Endeavor were colleagues from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and University of Missouri at Columbia, and the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics at Austin.