PhD Research Scholarship: Building thriving residential communities using citizen scienceinformation to inform earthquake engineering

The Joint Centre for Disaster Research (JCDR) is awarding a three-year PhD Scholarship from mid to late 2022 – 2025 as part of the Interdisciplinary Programme 2: Thriving Residential Communities in the QuakeCoRE Te Hiranga Rū research programme. The scholarship is available to students of all nationalities. The starting date is any time from mid-late 2022.

Closing Date for Applications: 15 May 2022

Subject area:
This scholarship is for a 3-year PhD research project, analyzing GeoNet’s “Felt Detailed” felt report data, to extract information on human behavior following moderate-to-large earthquakes in New Zealand, as well as information on different damage thresholds for various shaking intensity levels.

GeoNet is New Zealand’s Geohazards Monitoring System (, a collaboration between the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and GNS Science, responsible for providing the public
with information about natural hazards in New Zealand. As part of this service, GeoNet has an online questionnaire (called “Felt Detailed”) where members of the public can report their experiences in the event of an earthquake. These are “felt reports” are an important source of information since they can be processed to calculate the intensity of shaking experienced by the public in each event,
providing a geographical distribution of the shaking that can be used by emergency responders to understand post-earthquake damage and prioritise interventions

A large dataset of more than 1,000,000 online felt reports has been gathered by GeoNet since 2004, being a popular way of citizens to contribute to science. While intensity data is currently being extracted from “Felt Detailed” reports, there is a great need to carry out further research using the large dataset gathered. Four main topics need further investigation: 1) analysis of the macroseismic intensity thresholds at which non-structural damage occurs; 2) intensity level differences per floor level; 3) differences in behavioural response throughout time over long earthquake sequences (e.g. Canterbury 2010-2011), for events with similar intensity levels; and 4) analysis of how well the New Zealand population is represented in these online questionnaires.

Results from this research will help improve the New Zealand macroseismic scale, provide better understanding of the non-structural damage caused at different intensity levels, provide guidelines towards improvements in the online questionnaires, and leverage a better understanding of human behaviour in different types of earthquakes which can then be utilised to improve public education
programmes. The results from this PhD project will help improve community resilience and contribute to thriving residential communities.

While several subject areas of interest are outlined in the above paragraph, the exact topic and approach to this PhD can be adjusted according to the student’s qualifications and area of research interest.

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