Documenting and learning from observations after "extreme events" is central to advancing the state-of-art in multi-hazards infrastructure engineering. Recorded observations serve as benchmarks of the effects of these events, their underlying causative mechanisms, and for validation of design procedures. Capturing key lessons learned from extreme events constitutes an important task for advancing research in geotechnical engineering since many design procedures are based on empirical methods that require continuous re-evaluation as important new case histories emerge. The NSF-sponsored Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) Association organizes and supports the reconnaissance efforts of geotechnical researchers and develops techniques to capture perishable data to learn from these events. The scope of GEER reconnaissance activities includes earthquakes, landslides, and debris flows, and associated impacts such as liquefaction, and fault rupture, building and bridge foundation failures, as well as dam, levee and retaining structure collapses. The primary objectives of GEER include: documenting geotechnical effects of important extreme events to identify important topics in need of research; employing innovative technologies for post-event reconnaissance; and advancing the capabilities of individuals performing research based on field observations. Much of the data generated during extreme events is perishable and therefore must be collected soon after the event. The challenge is to develop the most effective approaches for documenting the results of "full-scale experiments" that often occur with limited advance warning, if any. Since 2015, GEER has successfully documented the geotechnical effects of 18 extreme events, including hurricanes Irma and Harvey, floods in South Carolina, Illinois, and Texas, and earthquakes in Mexico, New Zealand, Equador, Nepal and USA, amongst others. Many GEER efforts have led to follow-on funded projects, reflecting that GEER reconnaissance efforts are identifying important research issues that can lead to advancements in science and engineering. Many of the innovative techniques employed in reconnaissance efforts over the past decade or so, such as the utilization of GoogleEarthTM, GPS devices, remote sensing, and LIDAR, were initiated by GEER members. GEER is well positioned to continue making similar advancements with respect to the use of new technology and data communication and sharing approaches for field reconnaissance.

This award provides funds for continuation of GEER activities to enable rapid, responsive geotechnical investigations after natural and human-induced disasters. It is expected that two to four investigations after moderate-sized events will be conducted each year. An important aspect of the work is to leverage the benefits of the recently established NSF NHERI initiative and to enhance the interactions between GEER and the other existing and future elements of the NHERI initiative. In particular, a strong focus to coordinate interactions between GEER and the NSF RAPID facility at the University of Washington has been identified as a priority. To ensure that this important interaction is accomplished, the PI will assume direct responsibility for coordinating these critical activities including development and delivery of training efforts. If a larger event occurs, GEER will recommend submission of a RAPID proposal to NSF by an identified GEER team leader to respond effectively to the event. Unfortunately, extreme events will continue to happen. It would be even more unfortunate if the engineering profession did not capture the perishable data that enables it to understand which design procedures result in good engineering performance and which procedures still need improvement. GEER with its engaged and expert geo-professional participants will continue to help "turn disasters into knowledge".

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI)
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Giovanna Biscontin
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Georgia Tech Research Corporation
United States
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