Studying Earthquakes in Ohio II: Video Transcript

Max Leveridge [senior major in Environmental Earth Science, Geographic Information Science certificate, Class of 2018]: Mike Brudzinski's lab largely looked at earthquakes from a bunch of different causes, so I was looking at wastewater injection.

He spoke at our orientation; so then I started talking to him afterwards, got interested in his research, went home, researched his papers, got more interested, and I emailed him with something like, "Hey, when I get to campus in the fall, can I join your lab?" He was like, "Yeah, of course, here's some papers, start reading."

Fracking is injecting water that has a bunch of chemicals, sand, basically to break the rocks, fracture the rocks, which is why it is called fracking. But then, the water that comes back from that, because they pump all that out to get all the gas, oil, and whatnot. That has a bunch of stuff that you can’t just dispose of on the surface somewhere. So, wastewater injection, which happens for a bunch of different industries — basically any water that you can’t just dispose of, that's just injecting it deep into the ground so that it doesn't get into the water, like groundwater, surface water.

When I would come in each day I'd just sit down at the computer, pull up a bunch of earthquakes from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources seismological record and our own record, and kind of just — we have a software that goes through and picks out what might be an earthquake, so then we go through and say, "This is either an earthquake, it's not an earthquake," and kind of just refine it to find when the first wave starts and when the second wave starts.

So the way that the seismometers work, which measure the earthquake waves, they have a component that goes basically left, right, forward, backwards, and up and down, and based off of that you can get the different kind of waves that result from earthquakes that travel a fair distance.

The area I was looking at was southeast Ohio, so Washington county specifically kind of a little bit east of Marietta, Ohio. There weren't huge earthquakes like in Oklahoma. They were kind of around the magnitude 3ish at most. Most around 2 or 1.

Earthquakes that are too small kind of to be recognized, or that would just be glossed over, and using a thing called template matching, which is kind of how fingerprints work, when you go to like a police station and they scan your fingerprint and matches it with the whole database. We basically did that to try to find even smaller earthquakes that would have just been completely overlooked, and from there we made more maps, more graphs, also magnitudes, locations, how the earthquakes kind of moved over time.

From what I can tell from the data that we have, the earthquakes are being caused by injecting the wastewater, depending on the volume and the pressures of the water being injected. So we’re trying to figure out kind of where the threshold is that increases the efficiency of the industries injecting the water, while trying to reduce the number and size of the earthquakes.

Coming in as a freshman, I enjoyed research in the first place, but going through more intensive research that I have, getting funding, doing presentations, publishing papers, it's basically I appreciate and enjoy research a lot more than I did initially, which kind of helps me solidify the fact that I do want to do research as a career, and that I'll probably go and do my PhD, post-docs, maybe be a professor, maybe do research for some intergovernmental organization, governmental organization, nonprofit, something like that. It's basically just reinforcing what I kind of knew coming in here.

[May 2018]