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ASU initiative to help geologically active Indonesia

Student working in lab
June 29, 2011

Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration has teamed up with the Indonesian-based Bakrie Group to develop an international initiative called the Bakrie Initiative in Geological Hazards to support and promote research in Indonesia on the core geologic topics of volcanoes, earthquakes and hydrothermal systems.

The goal of the initiative is to advance research, teaching and outreach aimed at helping mitigate the potentially disastrous effects of Indonesia’s geologically dangerous landscape, while deepening the global scientific community’s understanding of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and hydrothermal systems. This joint philanthropic partnership will provide leadership and serve as a focal point for Indonesian earth science research. One of the broader aims of the Bakrie Initiative is to cultivate strong partnerships with Indonesian universities, institutions and communities, as well as with international organizations conducting related research.

Indonesia is no stranger to the devastating effects of tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. As more and more people live, work, play and travel in volcanically and tectonically active regions, the risks to life, property, infrastructure and global commerce are constantly escalating.

“Indonesia, as a densely-populated emerging nation with a high-concentration of geologic hazards, is an ideal location for testing scientific theories and protocols aimed at ensuring the successful co-evolution of modern societies with an active and sometimes dangerous natural world,” says Amanda Clarke, volcanology professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Our school’s unique approach to discovery and knowledge melds the creative strengths of both science and engineering, which uniquely positions us to advance understanding of geologic hazards and the environment from a multidisciplinary perspective.”

SESE’s educational and research programs are designed explicitly to emphasize the importance of technology in scientific exploration. This multidisciplinary approach is particularly important in the struggle to reduce global risk from geologic hazards in an increasingly densely populated world and positions SESE perfectly to advance and deepen understanding of geologic hazards and the environment from both a scientific and engineering perspective.

Special emphasis will be placed on hazards and the interaction between a dynamic Earth and modern cities. Although largely conducted in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, this research will increase fundamental understanding of geologic systems that ultimately may be important to many nations around the globe.

“As a university designed for the express purpose of solving problems of global significance, ASU is well-equipped to carry out projects like this,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Substantial investments from private sector partners like the Bakrie group are instrumental to making socially beneficial research initiatives possible. We are optimistic that the work facilitated by the Bakrie Group’s generosity will have far-reaching, positive impacts on the quality of life on people around the world.”

Christopher Fong, senior vice president of international affairs at The Bakrie Group, commented: “The ASU Bakrie Initiative is part of our commitment to engendering a deeper understanding of Indonesia’s unique, and highly volatile, geology,” he said. “This critical research will drive the development of technologies to assist scientists more accurately monitor and predict geological hazards in the future.

“The partnership with Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, one of the world’s leading geological research institutes, will provide significant opportunities to promising Indonesian scientists, and cultivate stronger ties with Indonesian universities. We congratulate Gadjah Mada University’s Gayatri Marliyani, recipient of the first Bakrie PhD fellowship.”

Marliyani, the first Bakrie Fellow, comes from one of Indonesia’s most impoverished regions, Gunungkidul. As a child, she was fascinated with the topography of her region’s mountainous areas, especially the majestic Merapi Volcano. But it was the Yogyakarta earthquake of 2006, which she personally experienced that caused her to want to study and understand earthquakes and active faults.

The Bakrie Initiative will be launched by three initial projects for which the ASU teams have already conducted preliminary research and planning. The results of these projects should significantly improve understanding and provide quantification of regional shallow earthquake hazards and improve the scientific community’s understanding of the relationship between tectonic seismic activity, volcanic eruptions, and hydrothermal systems, which could have positive impact on hazards mitigation efforts.

“I am pleased and excited to be selected as the recipient of the Bakrie fellowship through the Bakrie Initiative in Geological Hazard at ASU,” says Marliyani. “By conducting this type of research in Indonesia, I believe it will create great and long-lasting benefits for people living not only in Indonesia, but in geologically dangerous settings all over the world.”