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The COAST cruise: Cascadia Open-Access Seismic Transects

By Steve Holbrook

(Active blog at:

The RV Langseth is continuing work in the Cascadia subduction zone region with the COAST (Cascadia Open Access Seismic Transects) project. We are a scientific team of 20 scientists currently aboard the R/V Langseth, acquiring seismic images of the Cascadia subduction zone. Through our work we hope to provide new insights on the position and structure of the plate boundary between the downgoing Juan de Fuca plate and the overlying North American plate.

This plate boundary is unusually enigmatic, because it produces fewer regular earthquakes than most subduction zones. Tsunami and paleoseismic data suggest that this subduction zone is capable of generating earthquakes up to magnitude ~9, so understanding the position and morphology of the plate boundary is important for obvious reasons. In addition, we’ll produce images of the mechanical structure and fluid pathways in the subduction system – all of which provides important information on seismic hazards and subduction processes. You can read more about the science on our blog at …But here I’d like to introduce you to our team and a few of the unique aspects of our project.

This project was originally conceived at a community workshop held in Incline Village, Nevada, two years ago. At that meeting, the marine seismic community brainstormed on ways to make our data more open and accessible to a broader range of stakeholders (students, researchers, teachers, and the public at large). One part of the strategy adopted at that workshop was to support open-access data sets, acquired on open-participation cruises. This cruise is a first step in that direction. What’s unique about our project is (1) cruise participants were selected from open applications, and (2) both the raw and processed data we produce will be immediately publicly released, so that anyone can use the data (including writing proposals to work on the data). The shipboard science team consists of three of the PI’s (Steve, Katie, and Graham), plus a crack squad of 17 students, postdocs, and young faculty from around the country. (The PI’s have taken to calling these participants the BYT’s, or Bright Young Things.) Those folks will be introducing themselves to you through this blog, but I can tell you that we have participants from fourteen different organizations (twelve universities and two different USGS offices), comprising 13 graduate students, 2 postdocs, and 5 faculty. The Lamont folks tell us, with feigned enthusiasm, that we have set a record for the number of cruise participants (55 in all): we’ve filled every bunk on the ship. Fortunately it’s a short cruise (12 days)!

On our blog we’ll talk about the science we’re doing, introduce the Langseth, show some initial results, and hear from our BYT’s. Give it a visit!

The science team an hour before sailing, July 12, 2012. Left to right: Mike Martello (NCS Subsea), Jay Johnstone (LDEO), Graham Kent (Univ. of Nevada), Danielle Sumy (USGS-Pasadena), Janine Buehler (Scripps), Shahar Barak (Stanford Univ.), Brady Finchum (Univ. of Nevada), Annie Kell (Univ. of Nevada), Jackie Caplan-Auerbach (Western Washington Univ.), Will Fortin (Univ. of Wyoming), Marie Salmi (Univ. of Washington), Kate Allstadt (Univ. of Washington), Jeff Beeson (Oregon State Univ.), Dara Merz (Western Washington Univ.), Rob Anthony (New Mexico Tech), Katie Keranen (Univ. of Oklahoma), Steve Holbrook (Univ. of Wyoming), Emily Roland (USGS-Anchorage), Brian Covellone (Univ. of Rhode Island), Dalton Hawkins (Univ. of Oklahoma), Harold Tobin (Univ. of Wisconsin), and Ashton Flinders (Univ. of New Hampshire).
Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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Paul Keranen
11 years ago

Looking to read more on this research in the future!

Mark Reimers
11 years ago

Research like this is really important and made more so when it becomes readily accessible to the academic community at large. Good work!