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UNR researchers to install seismic sensing system in west Reno


Seismic sensing equipment is being installed today along a six-mile stretch of existing fiber-optic cables as part of a project by University of Nevada, Reno researchers. The area to be monitored run west from Virginia Street along California Avenue and on to Mayberry Drive.

The equipment being installed includes distributed acoustic sensing equipment, or DAS, which uses fiber optic cables as vibration sensors to monitor sound. With it, researchers can detect sounds such as cars driving, trains and planes passing over, or in this case, ground movements caused by seismic activity.

Similar technology is used along oil and gas pipelines to detect potential leaks or activity nearby that could result in pipeline damage. The use of DAS in seismic research has gained traction over the past several years because it has become both low-cost and low-maintenance.

Small high-resolution seismometers will also be placed in the ground along with the DAS.

The scientists include Scott Tyler, a professor of geological sciences and a leading expert in fiber-optic/laser sensing systems; Elnaz Esmaeilzadeh Seylabi, lead of the project from the University’s civil and environmental engineering department; and Rachel Hatch, a postdoctoral scholar in geological sciences and engineering.

The trio plans to use the equipment to determine how the ground responds during an earthquake and how much damage will occur. “The technology ultimately may also be used in an early-warning system to alert communities seconds or minutes before an earthquake may strike,” university officials said in a statement.

The Nevada Seismological Laboratory at UNR notes that there are thousands of earthquakes each year in Nevada that are too small to feel. There are active earthquake faults at the base of nearly every mountain range in the state, and Nevada’s mountain ranges continue to grow through movement at these faults.

“Everyone in Nevada lives no more than several miles from an earthquake fault,” experts note in an FAQ page on the lab’s website.  

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