When a series of earthquakes struck the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles County, California in early 2015, local residents were concerned that the use of hydraulic fracturing and other drilling activities in a nearby oil field might have played a role in triggering the quakes. In response, the community worked with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Thriving Earth Exchange to identify a seismologist who could speak with residents about the relationship between oil drilling activity and earthquakes
Irma R. Muñoz is the Founder/President of Mujeres de la Tierra. She has served as Environmental Affairs Commissioner with the City of Los Angeles and currently serves on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Board of Directors and is the recipient of numerous awards for her leadership. Ms. Muñoz is focused on healing la madre tierra and re-defining the traditional “green” dialogue in Los Angeles, California.
Dr. Jean Paul Ampuero is an Assistant Professor of Seismology in the Seismological Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. His research is primarily aimed at understanding the physics of earthquakes, combining theoretical, computational and observational approaches. Dr. Ampuero is also broadly interested in the assessment, prevention and mitigation of earthquake hazard, in particular in large urban areas close to subduction zones, like in his native country of Peru.
As part of the pilot project, the Thriving Earth Exchange helped UCS identify an academic expert in earthquakes and their relationship to oil drilling. Jean-Paul (Pablo) Ampuero, Ph.D., an assistant professor of seismology at the California Institute of Technology who studies the physics of earthquakes, turned out to be a perfect scientific partner for the community. Ampuero, who is originally from Peru, was particularly interested in helping the community because of its large Hispanic population.
He enthusiastically presented his research, together with the limitations of currently available data and models, to the Baldwin Hills Community Advisory Panel, representatives from the oil field operator, and concerned citizens. After the presentation, he answered questions from attendees.
Muñoz said the community members listened carefully to the presentation and found Ampuero credible because he was presenting independent research without receiving compensation for his time. After the presentation, people felt better because they understood what causes earthquakes. However, Muñoz said, the effort would not likely have been as successful if it had been spearheaded by Ampuero or the oil company, rather than a community organization, such as Mujeres de la Tierra, that has already built trust with people in the community.
Thriving Earth Exchange and the Union of Concerned Scientists work together to promote community science as an important component of scientific solutions to our planet’s most pressing problems.
(c) 2017 Thriving Earth Exchange