Citizen seismologists track earthquakes in Haiti

Haiti remains politically unstable, suffers from widespread poverty and is prone to natural disasters. President Jovenel Moise was assassinated a month before the August earthquake. A few days after the earthquake, a tropical storm called Grace passed over the island.

In 2018, at a seismology conference in Malta, Dr. Calais met Branden Christensen, CEO of Raspberry Shake, a Panama-based company that combines a small, inexpensive computer called the Raspberry Pi with a small, inexpensive device widely used by petroleum. . and natural gas industries to measure small ground motions, and creating a seismometer costs a few hundred dollars instead of tens of thousands of dollars.

Smaller than a breadbox, Raspberry Shake devices can measure small ground motions, albeit at a smaller frequency range than modern conventional seismographs. But they do not need to be installed on the ground and only need a power outlet and internet connection.

“I immediately thought that the level of simplicity of the device would have had a better chance of long-term survival in Haiti, which means that it requires no maintenance,” Dr. Calais recalls. He used some of the remaining grant money to buy five, and he and his colleagues in Haiti began looking for volunteers who would like to install one in their home or office. Since then, the network has grown to about 15 devices.

Dr Calais said the data from Haiti show that while the raspberry’s vibrations weren’t as capable as conventional seismometers, they made scientifically valid measurements. “They are able to get the job done when it comes to recording even small aftershocks,” he said.

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