At the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, seismologist Renate Hartog is helping to develop a prototype Cascadia Earthquake Early Warning system.

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Renate Hartog

What do you do? I am a seismologist staff member at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, located at the University of Washington in Seattle. We monitor Washington and Oregon for earthquakes and volcanic activity, and we operate a large network of seismic sensors and other equipment to do so. The seismic data are sent to our lab where they are continuously processed by computers and any detections are reviewed by people.

How did you get started in that field? After [getting] an undergraduate [degree] in geophysics in the Netherlands, I went to graduate school in California, where I got a Ph.D. in earth sciences. I used to study the structure of the earth using recordings of seismic waves, but I prefer my current, much more applied, job.

What’s a typical day like? On a typical day, I sit behind my computer in our windowless office. I might have a conference call or a meeting, and people walk in to ask questions or discuss different options to solve a problem. I configure software and I write computer programs to analyze our data. Once in a blue moon I can be found outside at one of our seismic stations, but usually our technicians do not need the extra hand.

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What’s the best part of the job? The best part of my job is that there are always new challenges to be solved. For example, together with colleagues in California, we are developing a prototype Cascadia Earthquake Early Warning system, which presents a myriad of technical challenges.

What surprises people about your work? I would guess that it surprises people how ordinary my work is and how computer-tech heavy it is.

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