Earth Observatory Blog

Submitted on 25 Jan 2018 by:

The first time Assistant Professor Wei Shengji felt an earthquake, it was in 2008, when he was an exhausted graduate student sound asleep in his room in California. When the 5.5-magnitude earthquake rattled the cups and books off his bedside table, he woke up, wondered what was going on, and then fell promptly back to sleep.

On hindsight, the 35-year-old seismologist thinks he “should have gotten up and taken a picture,” especially since he ended up studying that very earthquake in the lab, later that day.

But the Los Angeles event, now christened the 2008 Chino Hills earthquake, is almost trivial compared to Southeast Asia’s many earthquakes, said Asst. Prof Wei. After five years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Caltech Seismological Laboratory in California, he...

Submitted on 05 Jan 2018 by:

After watching a documentary about volcanoes when he was seven years old, Asst. Prof Benoit Taisne decided that in the future he would become a volcanologist in order to save lives.

“The documentary showed footage of a volcano erupting, which led to many deaths, and I felt that this shouldn’t be the case. Like all my friends who wanted to be firefighters growing up, I also wanted to be a ‘firefighter,’ but for volcanoes,” said the 36-year-old French national, who has been studying volcanoes for the last 20 years. He is now a Principal Investigator at the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) and an Assistant Professor at the Asian School of the Environment in Nanyang Technological University.

Asst. Prof Taisne aims to develop tools that can be used in real-time to...

Submitted on 07 Dec 2017 by:

French volcanologist Caroline Bouvet de Maisonneuve leaves no stone unturned while conducting research.

Whenever a new building is being constructed at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Assistant Professor Bouvet de Maisonneuve assesses its foundations as part of an ongoing research project exploring the risk of volcanic hazards in Singapore. She is looking out for layers of volcanic ash in the soil. 

Asst. Prof Bouvet de Maisonneuve’s research team compiled a database of all known volcanic eruptions in Southeast Asia. They are currently assessing a core from the Kallang River basin for traces of ash.

But safety always comes before curiosity for the 33-year-old whenever she is in the field. “It’s important to put yourself out there and be in the field...

Submitted on 30 Nov 2017 by:

Sedimentation expert Adam Switzer says his years as a professional surfer has shaped much of his research and work.

As a child, Associate Professor Adam Switzer was always on the lookout for the next big wave. At the age of 17, he became a professional surfer.

Juggling between his books and his surfboard, the Australian spent a large part of his next nine years being tossed about by crests and swells, before calling it quits because of a bad shoulder injury.

With the heady days of riding waves behind him, Assoc Prof Switzer decided to study them instead, focusing his research on tsunamis and storms.

“The physical cumulative stress of surfing was something that pushed me to go and get a ‘real’ job,” said Assoc Prof Switzer.  “My surfing career did...

Submitted on 16 Nov 2017 by:


Singaporeans dread the dangerous haze incidents that occur each year. Thick, smoky air dries our throats and irritates our eyes. It makes breathing difficult and can cause lasting damage to our lungs.

During each haze period, atmospheric chemist Mikinori Kuwata and his team of six get down to work. They measure the chemical composition of air particles at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) campus, located in the west of Singapore and thus close to the source of the haze in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Assistant Professor Kuwata and his team cannot prevent transboundary haze, but they are on a mission to provide scientific findings that will help the region combat it. 

“The job of an atmospheric chemist is to understand the atmosphere. The haze...

Submitted on 10 Nov 2017 by:

Call her a nerd, but earthquake scientist Judith Hubbard loves geology, and she is not afraid to admit it.

Geology is all around us, evident to those who care to look, like structural geologist and self-proclaimed nerd, Judith Hubbard.

As a Principal Investigator at the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), the tectonics researcher has covered almost every surface of her office with work.

Both sides of her office door are plastered, top to bottom, with expedition photos, while graphs and metre-long topographical maps of Nepal and Singapore stretch across her walls. A slew of geology books and stacks of paper threaten to engulf her entire desk.

“Well, they say an empty desk is a sign of an empty mind,” says the 33-year-old, who is also an Assistant...

Submitted on 02 Nov 2017 by:

In 2010, Assistant Professor Wang Xianfeng and his Brazilian colleague were in a cave deep in the Amazon jungle, wading through waist-deep water in almost complete darkness. The only sources of light came from the head torches mounted on their foreheads.

They were collecting rock samples from caves to study climate changes in the Amazon during the last ice age 21,000 years ago.

Asst. Prof Wang was leading the way, when his colleague spotted something up ahead and told him to stop.

“I was laughing. I thought he was kidding with me as that’s what we often do to boost morale on field trips,” Asst. Prof Wang said. He waded on. “But my colleague told me to stop again, and this time I could sense he was serious. I immediately stopped and asked him what had...