This project supports a two-week planning visit for faculty from the University of Missouri-Columbia (Eric Sandvol), Michigan State University (Kevin Mackey) and Oregon State University (John Nabelek) to meet with scientists at the Russian Geophysical Survey in Obninsk and with scientists of the seismic surveys in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. The primary goal of the visit is to lay the foundations for a major multi-national seismic experiment that will help address fundamental questions about the nature of continental deformation in this poorly understood region. The Caucasus is a tectonically and structurally complex region. It is perhaps the best example of a very young continent-continent collision zone. Due to a lack of quality data, the region has largely been unexplored in terms of the detailed lithospheric seismic structure. These researchers will begin to remedy this problem by establishing a series of collaborations that will take advantage of the many newly deployed seismic stations that form the various national seismic networks in the region. The broader impacts of this project include improving seismic hazard assessment in an area where thousands of lives and billions of dollars are at risk from recurrent devastating earthquakes.
The Caucasus are a logistically and politically challenging region to conduct any kind of research, however, it is located in a very important part of the world both in terms of geopolitics and the global econonomy since the Caspian Sea has become a very important producer of oil and gas for the world. This region, however, is prone to large earhquakes and many wars between the nations of the Caucasus. In the spring of 2012 all three P.I.â€™s visited Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Russia in order to learn how to overcome these challenges. During this trip we established a series of collaborative agreements across the region, something that is necessary to be able to understand earthquakes since active faults to not terminate at the borders of countries. We will use these agreements to work toward conducting a major multi-national seismic experiment across the Greater Caucasus that would address fundamental questions about the nature of continental deformation in this poorly understood region. In addition to the regional agreements, this planning visit help to facilitate research on the mechanisms uplifting the Greater Caucasus. This is important since the Greater Caucasus are most likely one of the world's youngest mountain belts and has the highest peak in all of Europe. The Greater Caucasus is a very important natural laboratory to study the early stages of mountain building that can be applied across the planet.