IT News & Events

News about IT at Indiana University and the world


Supercomputing and seismology—IU Research Technologies brings them together

Workshop detailed how geoscientists can use big data effectively

Members of the next generation of geoscientists gathered at Indiana University in August to learn more effective ways to handle big data in the study of earthquake formation and evolution.

An elite group of 29 seismology graduate students and faculty from around the United States met on IU’s Bloomington campus August 7-11 for the IRIS-EarthScope USArray Data Processing and Analysis Short Course. The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, or IRIS, provided scholarships for students to attend.

The advanced course focused specifically on methods of analyzing data gathered in the Oklahoma Wavefields experiment, which targeted an active seismic area in north central Oklahoma in hopes of recording a variety of seismic sources in this seismically active part of the US.

The use of Karst Desktop was a game changer. We also had extensive sessions on visualization using Paraview on the local Macs and the Karst Desktop. It worked really well in this context.

Gary Pavlis, IU professor of geological sciences
Tomorrow's geoscientists
Tomorrow's geoscientists

The group of seismology graduate students and faculty pose for a picture during their stay in Bloomington.

USArray is a traveling network of 400 seismographs studying earthquakes in over 2,000 locations nationwide. It is part of the EarthScope project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), that studies the structure and evolution of North America to learn what causes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The course was developed in 2009 by Gary Pavlis, IU professor of geological sciences, and colleague Suzan van der Lee, Northwestern University professor of computing. Originally held at Northwestern, the course moved to Bloomington in 2015 to take advantage of IU’s supercomputing capabilities.

As the seismology community uses new technology and data collection increases, geoscientists are learning the best ways to work with that information.

“Supercomputers have been essential for the NSF-supported research my students and I have done for USArray over the past decade,” said Pavlis. “This course centered around the processing of a community data set collected in Oklahoma in summer 2016, which was just under a terabyte [1 trillion bytes] in size.”

Pavlis said the week-long course went off without a hitch, thanks to IU’s Pervasive Technology Institute, specifically the UITS Research Technologies staff. He commended the high performance computing staff for their technical help assisting participants in the use of Karst Desktop for working with big data on IU’s “Karst” supercomputer.

“They helped set up the accounts, set up scratch directories on Data Capacitor II, and helped me with testing of software to make sure all the things we planned would work,” he said.

IU’s Data Capacitor II, a large-capacity file system for use with research supercomputers, made it easier for course participants to access and store their data. “It was perfect,” Pavlis said. “A terabyte of data is not easy to stage, so the Data Capacitor was an essential tool to stage and work with it.”

During their week on IU’s campus, students participated in a series of educational lectures and demonstrations to learn how to use the Oklahoma Wavefields data. Topics included data formats and databases; high performance computing and analysis; and template matching, and response calibration.

Pavlis said the project-based nature of the workshop was a perfect fit for working with IU’s supercomputing systems.

“The use of Karst Desktop was a game changer. All of the student projects were done with Karst Desktop and batch submissions to Karst. We also had extensive sessions on visualization using paraview on the local Macs and the Karst Desktop,” Pavlis said. “It worked really well in this context.”