New investment in seismic monitoring facility at University of Leicester

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A University of Leicester facility that has measured tremors from earthquakes, glaciers, and even football matches, has received new funding to continue its work. 

SEIS-UK, based within the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment at the University of Leicester, is one node of the Natural Environmental Research Council’s Geophysical Equipment Facility (GEF). Over the past 23 years it has supported over 150 onshore seismic experiments to deliver research in earth and environmental sciences. This funding award of £2million over 7 years will allow SEIS-UK to continue providing loans of state-of-the-art seismic equipment to UK academics and their worldwide collaborators.

It is part of a network of seven NERC facilities that host environmental analytical facilities and field equipment and expertise that has received an investment of £70 million.

The Natural Environmental Research Council funding will enable UK researchers to continue to access the UK’s pool of field and analytical equipment which underpins environmental science. This recommissioning of scientific support and facilities will continue until March 2031. 

The Geophysical Equipment Facility, located at the University of Edinburgh, University of Leicester, Durham University and Southampton University, supports high-quality, peer-reviewed projects across a broad spectrum of earth and environmental sciences by providing geophysical instrumentation for marine and land-based field experiments.

Dr Victoria Lane, manager of the SEIS-UK facility and member of staff from the University’s School of Geography Geology and the Environment, said: “Seismology has played a crucial role in developing our understanding of Earth structure, tectonics and earthquakes in the past but with advances in technology we are now able to collect seismic data in environments which have previously been off limits, such as on glaciers and ice sheets, and in areas prone to landslides or volcanic unrest. Through SEIS-UK, seismology experiments and resulting data are accessible to a wide range of disciplines, including not only the traditional geoscientists studying things such as Earth structure, geothermal resources, iceberg calving mechanisms or coastal erosion, but also to experts including zoologists and biologists who are able to use seismic data to track animal movements and behaviours.

“It feels like we are entering a new era of Earth observation in seismology and I am thrilled that SEIS-UK will be able to continue facilitating high quality research as we look to solve the major environmental challenges of modern times. There are two aspects of this funding which I am particularly excited about: it will enable us to continue delivering hands-on training the next generation of geophysicists, and with our data management will ensure high quality datasets from our supported projects are permanently archived and freely accessible to everyone.”

Also receiving funding are two facilities led by the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), which has its headquarters at Space Park Leicester, the University of Leicester’s space hub. The funded facilities are the Field Spectroscopy Facility (FSF) located at the University of Edinburgh, which provides spectroscopy measurement instruments to analyse the properties of vegetation, soil, rocks and water bodies; and the NERC Earth Observation Data Analysis and Artificial-Intelligence Service based at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, which provides earth observation data processing and analysis, advice and training, and support for researchers utilising Artificial Intelligence with Earth Observation data. NCEO staff at King’s College London and Leicester support the two operations with scientific advice, co-ordination and expertise.

Professor John Remedios, Director of the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), said: “These Earth Observation facilities are a key support to the UK community and their renewal reinforces the portfolio of environmental instrument and data infrastructures with which we underpin UK scientific excellence. These ground-based operations are a vital complement to the high-quality satellite instruments we support in space, providing comprehensive insights into UK and global change. We are very pleased that NERC has recognised and rewarded the scientific excellence of the facilities and their users.”

The funding has been awarded from NERC’s National Capability portfolio.

Professor Peter Liss, Interim Executive Chair of NERC, said:

“NERC is committed to fostering ambitious world-leading research in environmental sciences, including investing in the UK's national capability in environmental science analytical facilities, plus support and research equipment for fieldwork. 

“This significant investment in NERC’s Scientific Support and Facilities portfolio will ensure that our facilities can continue to provide the expertise and support to continue to meet demand from the environmental science community over the next seven years.”

Facilities will continue to be supporting users during the transition. Researchers interested in using NERC scientific support and facilities should continue to contact to the relevant facility to discuss their research proposal.