News Release

CENTER NEWS RELEASE / November 12, 2008

Boise State Humanitarian Geophysics Project Selected for New Geoscientists without Borders Program

A team of scientists and students from Boise State University and their collaborators at Chiang Mai University in Thailand have been selected to participate in the first round of the brand new Geoscientists Without Borders program.

Launched earlier this year by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Foundation, the program’s mission is to apply geophysical technology to the pressing needs of communities around the world. Boise State’s proposal, written by research scientist Lee Liberty, builds on existing connections to Chiang Mai University made by emeritus professor Spencer Wood and long-term work done by the university’s Center for the Geophysical Investigation of the Shallow Subsurface.

Titled “The advancement of humanitarian geophysics in Southeast Asia: a student-based approach,” the project will offer a two-week field training series in January 2010 to students, professionals and educators in Thailand and nearby countries from China to Cambodia, Malaysia to Myanmar. The hope is that hands-on experience with geophysical data will help the next generation of geoscientists address environmental and engineering problems specific to the places they live.

“The whole purpose of field training is to take a theory and see some of the products that come from collecting, processing and interpreting data. It’s a critical component in geophysics because it’s so field-based,” Liberty said.

Wood, a visiting professor at Chiang Mai University, will travel there with Liberty this January to make sure the training sites are ideal for examination of three Southeast Asian humanitarian issues: geological hazards, groundwater contamination and preservation of important archaeological sites.

Earthquakes are a serious threat in Southeast Asia, so project participants will map fault lines and try to anticipate how the ground will shake locally and regionally in order to make appropriate suggestions to engineers and influence building codes for the better.

Clean water is a basic necessity, and while participants won’t track contaminants, they will learn how to locate good water sources and assess physical properties to determine quality.

Tourism is vital to supporting life in Thailand, but more needs to be done to identify valuable archaeological sites and properly maintain and develop them so more money and attention can be brought to the surrounding communities.

Using radar, seismic, electrical, gravity and magnetic methods, students involved with Boise State’s project will learn about these environmental, geologic and historic conservation problems and how geophysical techniques can address them.

“Eventually, we want Chiang Mai University to take over the trainings so that Southeast Asia can stand on its own two feet with this work,” Liberty said, adding that his team will use existing resources and offer $10,000 in scholarships to help students lay the foundation for a self-sustaining field camp. “One direction I can see us going is taking these trainings all over the world.”

In addition to Liberty and Wood, the team includes Boise State assistant professor of geosciences and director of the Physical Acoustics Laboratory, Kaspar Van Wijk. At least three students will accompany them to Thailand, including graduate students Emily Hinz and Dylan Mikesell. Professors Fongsaward Singharajwarapan and Siriporn Chaisri of Chiang Mai University also are involved.

The SEG, an international group of applied geophysics, has 30,000 members in 130 countries. Its charitable foundation plans to award project grants for Geoscientists Without Borders twice a year. To learn more about Boise State’s project, visit


Media Contact: Erin Ryan, University Communications, (208) 426-4910,

Boise State University is “The New U Rising” with record student enrollment, new academic buildings, additional degree programs and a growing research agenda. Learn more at


The Office of Communications and Marketing - Boise State University
1910 University Drive - Boise Idaho 83725-1030
Located in Capitol Village, 2225 W. University Drive

Last reviewed on Wednesday, November 19, 2008