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MCEER Bulletin, Volume 24, Number 2, Fall/Winter 2010

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Volume 24, Number 2, Fall/Winter 2010

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Workshop Focuses on Development of Large-Scale Geological User Facility

Workshop participants examine a large-scale experiment on bridge vulnerability, already under way at the Ashford field station, during a visit to the site.

On September 17-19, 2010, 55 geoscientists from around the world met in Western New York to start the planning and development of an international user facility where researchers will be able to study large-scale geologic hazards. The Workshop on Large-Scale Experiments, organized by Greg Valentine (Director, Center for Geohazards Studies, University at Buffalo), Costanza Bonadonna (Université de Genève, Switzerland), Amanda Clarke (Arizona State University) and Piero Dellino (Università di Bari, Italy), afforded participants an opportunity to define research priorities and infrastructure design for the user facility. The development of the user facility is a joint venture between UB’s Center for GeoHazards Studies and MCEER.

Geohazards that may be simulated at the user facility include volcanic plumes, like the one that brought European air travel to a halt last spring, and pyroclastic flows that can be created using volcanic materials and then released down a hillside to measure their speed and potential for causing damage, based on their physical properties.

The geohazards user facility is being developed as one of several scientific field stations at a campus in Ashford, New York, about 35 miles from Buffalo, through a joint collaboration between MCEER and its partner Calspan Corporation. The campus is being developed as a platform for conducting full-scale tests in a range of extreme events. At present, it is the home of the MCEER-Calspan Bridge Field Station (see p. 3), through which Center researchers will subject two adjacent single lane bridges equipped with state-of-the art isolation technologies to harsh, real-world conditions and earthquake vibrations.

The development of the user facility is part of UB 2020’s Strategic Strength in Extreme Events: Mitigation and Response, a cross-disciplinary effort to foster new scientific ideas throughout different departments and schools at UB and its partner institutions. The university-wide Strategic Strength in Extreme Events focuses on understanding hazards, the response of infrastructure to hazards and ways to mitigate damage.

There are several follow-on actions aimed at allowing input from the broader geohazards community, and at developing specific proposals to move the concept forward. A report summarizing the workshop will be published in various venues and made available both at and In addition, the workshop report and presentations will be posted at the online collaborative site Vhub will also provide a platform for ongoing discussion and input as well as communication about plans and proposals. A first set of experiments that focus on volcanic crater dynamics is being planned to occur within the next year.

The workshop was held at the Beaver Hollow Conference Center, which cosponsored the event along with the National Science Foundation, UB's Center for GeoHazards Studies, MCEER and the Extreme Events Strategic Strength.