Outreach and Educational Activities


The BSL is involved in a variety of outreach activities ranging from lectures to lab tours and educational displays. Commemorating the centennial of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake on April 18 provided the focus for many of them during this year. The BSL's earthquake information tape (510-642-2160) and an extensive set of web pages continue to provide basic information on earthquakes and seismic hazards for northern and central California.

Highlights of 2005-2006

Many of the BSL's outreach activities in this year were related to the centennial of the 1906 earthquake. In addition to organizing a special lecture series with Stanford University, the BSL contributed to museum exhibits and brochures. It also co-hosted the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Seismological Society of America, which took place within the framework of the 100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference Commemorating the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Many of the BSL tours, lectures, school visits and media interactions which occurred during the course of the year were related to or inspired by the earthquake's anniversary.

2006 SSA

In November of 1906, after the San Francisco earthquake, the Seismological Society of America (SSA) was founded here to study earthquakes and promote public safety. Thus, it was fitting that the meeting in the year of the centennials of the earthquake and the society's founding take place in San Francisco. Together with the USGS, the BSL co-hosted the society's annual meeting, from 4/18/2006 - 4/22/2006 in San Francisco's Moscone Center. The meeting was co-convened with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and California Governor's Office of Emergency Services as the 100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference, and more than 3500 particpants from all over the world attended. While offering a venue for interactions between the three professional groups who work with earthquakes, the seismologists, engineers and emergency managers, one goal of the meeting was to engender more communications between the professionals and policy makers on ``Managing Risk in Earthquake Country''. Thus, it was important that politicians were represented by such notables as Diane Feinstein, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gavin Newsome. The 1906 earthquake, naturally a primary topic, was highlighted in plenary sessions each day, on ``The Day of the Quake'', ``Learning from the Past'', ``Assessing the Present'' and ``Preparing for the Future''. These sessions focused on what has been accomplished during the past century in terms of best practices and research results in science, engineering, and emergency management, as well as providing a view toward the future. The meeting also featured a Gala Reception and Banquet in honor of the society's centennial.

In the months leading up to the anniversary conference, first Lind Gee and later Peggy Hellweg represented the BSL on the Steering Committee participating in monthly conference calls and planning meetings, as well as in many of the other committees necessary to ensure the meeting ran well. Both contributed to the development of the overall meeting program, coordinating presentations of seismologists, engineers and emergency managers. They were also members of the SSA's program committee, along with Doug Dreger and USGS representatives.

1906 Lectures, Exhibits and Presentations

Members of the 1906 UC Berkeley community both felt the 1906 earthquake and were engaged in the response. University cadets were sent to support the police and troops in San Francisco, refugees were housed and fed on campus, and Professor Andrew Lawson chaired the State Earthquake Investigation Commission, which produced the first definitive earthquake report.

Together with Stanford University, the BSL organized the Quake '06 Centennial Lecture Series, a series of 8 public lectures, most held on both campuses. In the Fall of 2005, three lecturers introduced their audiences a historical view of what happened in 1906. The presentations in January - March 2006 covered a modern view of earth science, earthquake engineering, preparedness and disaster response.

Following an exhibit of 1906-related documents and pictures from the Bancroft Library's collection in the Brown Gallery of the Doe Library, the BSL and other campus units presented material on 1906: The Great Quake - Legacy of a Disaster. This exhibit explored UC Berkeley's participation in advancing society's understanding of the seismological, engineering, social, and political implications of seismic events, and highlighted ongoing efforts to prepare the campus to withstand another big quake. The BSL's cases displayed the seismic hazard in the Bay Area as represented by the faults and seismicity, as well as both historical and modern instruments used to record earthquakes and some of the scientific contributions made by Berkeley professors to understanding them.

The BSL also contributed to the Oakland Museum's exhibit Aftershock! Voices from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. In addition to the loan of a Wood-Anderson seismometer, we developed a sequence of webpages including maps of current earthquake activity in the Bay Area, California and the world. It also featured a very popular ''Make Your Own Seismogram'' demonstration.

The earthquake centennial also engendered more artistic efforts, to which the BSL contributed. Following several years the Momento Mori has been an alternative way of viewing seismic data from BSL's station BKS in the Berkeley Hills. In honor of the 1906 centennial, Ken Goldberg and the San Francisco Ballet produced Ballet Mori. Ballerina Muriel Maffre danced to music created in realtime from the seismic data. The Pacific Film Archive prepared a film festival entitled 65 Seconds that Shook the Earth: Commemorating the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Peggy Hellweg commented on the science in the final film of the series, The Night the World Exploded.

Putting Down Roots

One of the major activities associated with the 1906 Centennial is the publication of a booklet on earthquake preparedness. The last publication of this type in the Bay Area followed the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country is a collaborative effort among the American Red Cross, Association of Bay Area Governments, California Earthquake Authority, California Geological Survey, California Office of Emergency Services, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, San Francisco Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security, Southern California Earthquake Center, Structural Engineers Association of Northern California, UC Berkeley, US Department of Homeland Security (FEMA), and the USGS. Publication of the booklet is expected in later this year, with additional releases scheduled for 2006. (Putting Down Roots was released in September and is available on the Web at

On-Going Activities

Tours and Presentations

As every year, tours and presentations formed an important part of BSL's public relations activities. Each month several groups, ranging from middle-school students to scientists and engineers tour our laboratory under the guidance of a graduate student or a member of the staff.

The BSL hosted several special groups during 2005-2006. The geology class from Bishop Stopford School in England for made its annual stop for a tour of the laboratory and the Hayward Fault. Several classes at different grade levels received tours. In addition, BSL graduate students visited local elementary, middle and high schools to talk about earthquakes and how we measure them. In addition to the tours, Drs. Romanowicz, Allen, Dreger, Hellweg, and Uhrhammer presented talks on earthquakes and related phenomena to public groups and the media.

Open House

The BSL participated in CalDay this year on the weekend after the 1906 centennial anniversary. The attendance for the open house was good - visitors showed up before we opened the doors! The visitors learned about UC Berkeley's role in earthquake monitoring, watched a streaming feed of earthquake data, jumped up and down to ``make a quake" played with the earthquake machine, made P and S-waves with springs, learned about earthquake preparedness, and were given sample seismograms. In addition, visitors had the opportunity to view several of the lectures from the Quake '06 series.

Educational Displays

The BSL continues to make REDI earthquake data available to certain schools, universities, colleges, and museums for educational displays. Participating organizations receive a REDI pager and the Qpager software to display the earthquake information. The Qpager program maps the previous seven days of seismicity, with earthquakes shown as a dot. The size of the dot indicates the magnitude of the event, while the color of the dot indicates its age. These educational displays have been installed at UC Berkeley (McCone Hall, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, LHS), California Academy of Sciences, CSU Fresno, CSU Northridge, CSU Sacramento, Caltech, College of the Redwoods, Fresno City College, Humboldt State University, San Diego State University, Sonoma State University, Stanford University (Blume Engineering Center, Department of Geophysics), UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, and USC. For the past three years, middle schools of the San Francisco Unified School District have participated in the program.

In addition to the seismicity displays, the BSL provides local waveform feeds for helicorders at visitor centers associated with BDSN stations (CMB and MHC). Organizations such as LHS, KRON, and KPIX receive feeds from BKS via dedicated phone lines for display, while the USGS Menlo Park uses data from CMB for display in the lobby of the seismology building. The BSL has also loaned a seismometer and helicorder display to the San Leandro Unified School District for their use in science classes.


We continue to maintain and update our presence on the WWW. The webpages are intended to provide a source of earthquake information for the public. They also present information about the networks we operate, including station profiles. This benefits the research community as well. The BSL web pages publicize seminar schedules, advertize courses, and describe our research, as well as our operations. They offer updates on recent earthquake activity, details on Bay Area seismicity and hazards, and links to other earthquake and earth science servers. We also use the WWW server to distribute information internally among BSL personnel, with such details as the computing and operational resources, rosters, and schedules for various purposes.

Earthquake Research Affiliates

The UC Berkeley Earthquake Research Affiliates (ERA) Program is an outreach project of the BSL, the Department of Earth and Planetary Science, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Center. The purpose is to promote the support of earthquake research while involving corporations and governmental agencies in academic investigation and education activities such as conferences and field trips. The ERA program provides an interface between the academic investigation and practical application of earthquake studies.


Peggy Hellweg oversees the outreach activities at the BSL. Barbara Romanowicz, Bob Uhrhammer, Rick McKenzie, and many other faculty, staff, and students at the BSL contribute to the outreach activities. Peggy Hellweg contributed to the preparation of this chapter.

Berkeley Seismological Laboratory
215 McCone Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-4760
Questions or comments? Send e-mail:
© 2006, The Regents of the University of California