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20-15. Applying modern computational techniques to the detection, identification, and location of volcanic seismicity


Closing Date: January 6, 2022

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.



Approximately half of the Nation's 161 active or potentially active volcanoes are considered hazardous because of the manner in which they erupt and the communities within their reach (Ewert 2018). Despite the threat these volcanoes would pose if they erupted, the detection of impending volcanic unrest at most of the Nation’s moderate to high threat volcanoes is compromised because many of these volcanoes have insufficient monitoring systems. Seismology is a fundamental tool used for monitoring volcanic unrest, as volcanic processes involving magmatic and hydrothermal fluids and their interaction with the solid Earth generate a broad range of seismic waves. Typical event types include brittle failure earthquakes induced by stress changes, long period events and seismic tremor due to the dynamics of liquid and gas motion in conduits and cracks, and a variety of signal types due to magma fracturing and fragmentation. The oscillatory behavior of magmatic and hydrothermal systems causes the bulk of volcanic seismicity and the location of these sources, the quantification of their source mechanisms, and the interpretation of the complex and nonlinear characteristics of this behavior forms the basis of modern volcano seismology. This Research Opportunity is targeted toward the development and improvement of algorithms to efficiently detect volcanic seismicity in real time, identify the best approaches to classify, locate, and determine source mechanisms for this seismicity, and to implement the developed tools at the USGS volcano observatories.

Proposed work should be aligned with the USGS Natural Hazards Priority Goals and Actions including the Core Responsibility to “increase understanding of … underlying physical processes … and determine where and under what conditions hazards occur,” as well as Strategic Actions to “promote targeted research on physical hazard initiation processes,” and “encourage interchange of ideas in research about the role of fluids in physical processes.” Improved understanding of the seismic behavior of U.S. volcanoes is a fundamental component of both the Next Generation Hazards Assessments (in progress), and the forthcoming work to comply with the National Volcano Early Warning System requirements.

There are many possible approaches available to help meet the long-term goal of automatic volcano-seismic event detection, identification, location, and determination of source properties. We invite proposals that target the development of algorithms that address one or more of these individual problems or type(s) of seismicity, which can then be built upon and applied at multiple volcanic centers. Detection and location of emergent seismicity such as long period earthquakes and volcanic tremor are of particular interest as targets. An emphasis on using all available seismic components and assessing the algorithms’ usefulness with sparse networks is particularly important given the small number of seismic stations currently available at many volcanoes. Considering classical techniques such as network covariance or applying modern Machine Learning techniques in the development of new tools, leading an effort to implement and standardize the routine analysis of continuous seismic data streams across the volcano observatories, and to look back in time at archived data streams to test the proposed algorithms and enhance our understanding of past volcanic behavior provides an excellent opportunity to develop a valuable research program.

The successful candidate will have a unique opportunity to work with seismologists from each USGS volcano observatory and to learn from the combined experience of the mentoring team. The team has wide experience in the development of volcano-seismic analytical tools, real-time seismic systems, and detailed knowledge of the datasets that will be analyzed and interpreted. Discussions regarding monitoring efforts at the observatories should help clarify the possible approaches and use of both classical and Machine Learning techniques to meet the goals of this proposal over the term of the appointment. Filling this position at the California Volcano Observatory would provide an excellent opportunity to interact with researchers in the USGS Earthquake Science Center and to explore the computational and research resources provided by the proximity to the NASA/Ames Research Center

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Ewert, J. W., Diefenbach, A. K., and Ramsey, D. W. (2018). 2018 Update to the U.S. Geological Survey National Volcanic Threat Assessment. USGS Scientific Investigations Report, 2018-5140.

Proposed Duty Station: Moffett Field, California

Areas of PhD: Computer science, seismology, geophysics, applied mathematics, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the qualifications for one of the following: Research Computer Scientist, Research Geophysicist, Research Mathematician.

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Human Resources Office Contact:  Veronica Guerrero-Nunez, 916-278-9405,