Global and Field Experience

Assessing the scope of Earthquake Early Warning System (EEWS) in Nepal

Supervisor: Dr. Henri P. Gavin

Date: May 2019 to July 2019 (Summer)

Total hours: 250 hours

During summer 2019, I travelled to Nepal for 6 weeks to assess the scope of the earthquake early warning system and establish possible partnership with local educational institutions if there’s any interest from the local community. The summer project stemmed from an initiative taken by a Duke Nepali student who was interested in developing an earthquake early warning system after the Gorkha earthquake in 2015. Although she had graduated, a team of three consisting of my professor, my classmate and myself decided to continue her work and started developing plans to carry out the project from the beginning of October 2018. 

Our visit to Nepal was after a year long of remote research to connect with local institutions and understand the landscape of the disaster space by reaching out to experts at GeoHazards International and RTI International. Over the course of six weeks, we met up with our initial contacts and further developed our partnership. One of our key contacts is the head of the Civil Engineering Department at Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk campus, an engineering college part of the Tribhuvan University. From the first few meetings he had with my classmate and friend Rachael (she was on the ground earlier), three groups of students were formed to carry out research in developing earthquake early warning systems. When I joined, Rachael and I gave a crash course to the Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Analysis (PSHA) to the students as we learnt those concepts from our professor during the preparation and research months prior to the trip. Additionally, I headed the hazard analysis group whose aim is to develop an earthquake hazard map for the entire Nepal in the near future. Our weekly meetings included reading hazard analysis papers, understanding them and developing friendship with the IOE students so that we can continue our research work online. That’s how we developed our relationship with the academic institution and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to begin our research partnership.

Collaborative team of students and faculty from Duke University and Tribhuvan University

While our research partnership was getting solidified, we also reached out to key players in the earthquake risk and resiliency space in Nepal. NSET (National Society for Engineering Technology) is one such organization and our meeting with them helped us understand the risk involved in establishing an earthquake early warning system for the community. We also met with members of USAID Disaster Risk Reduction, Reconstruction and Resilience and gained their insights. Learning from the head of National Seismological Centre regarding the effort was also valuable to determine our positioning in pursuing this research collaboration further. 

In the end, we learnt that approaching the earthquake early warning system project through the lens of academic partnership with heavy student research collaboration is the key. That’s how we are currently pursuing our collaboration by developing the capacities of both Duke and Nepali students in this research endeavor. 

Through this experience, I gained skills in cross cultural communication, partnership development with an international academic institution, evaluation of disaster management space in Nepal and project development.

To learn more about the project, please find the Duke news article here.

Update: The project has expanded to become a Bass Connections project, a flagship interdisciplinary project at Duke for the 2020-2021 academic year.