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The Earth Observatory of Singapore devoted to the study of earth sciences officially opens

The Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) which aspires to be a leading world institution for understanding and addressing several of civilisation's most serious environmental threats including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and climate change aims to provide invaluable research and data, with a focus on Southeast Asia, that could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Singapore's highly anticipated first Research Centre of Excellence (RCE) devoted to earth sciences, was officially opened today by Dr Francis Yeoh, Chief Executive Officer of the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The setting up of the EOS by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) underlines the urgent need for a more systematic study of natural hazards. This includes natural calamities such as earthquakes and tsunamis, volcanoes and climate change, and their potential effects on billions of people living in the region's cities and villages. In fact, such events threaten not only the Southeast Asian region but much of civilisation.

Among the immediate projects by the EOS is the setting up of an experimental GPS station at NTU which will be a prototype for the next generation of advanced geophysical sensors. Data streaming in from its current, far-flung monitoring network stretching over 1,500 kilometres along the west Sumatran coast, merged with the information from its new sensors, will be collected and analysed both here in Singapore and in its collaborators' laboratories. This valuable resource of earth observation data will soon be made available to researchers through the EOS website.

Another major project already underway at the EOS, working closely with the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, is to refine and scale up an interactive global database, WOVOdat, on volcanic unrest between and leading up to eruptions. The aim will be to reside and manage this valuable database at the EOS. The database is indispensable to volcanologists who forecast volcanic unrest, including its causes and outcomes, in Southeast Asia or around the world.

The EOS also plans to embark on outreach and education programmes to reach out to students in secondary schools and junior colleges to spark their interests in the earth sciences. It looks forward to working closely with schools in helping them develop their curriculum in earth sciences which may include immersion programmes and field excursions jointly organised with the EOS.

Professor Kerry Sieh, one of the world's foremost seismologist and tectonicist, leads the EOS as its Director. "The EOS is well-positioned to answer the challenge of acquiring scientific knowledge of natural processes and utilising it appropriately and in a timely fashion," says Professor Sieh. "Such information will be invaluable for communities living in 'the jaws of a dragon' in Southeast Asia, who are exposed to natural calamities but have little scientific awareness of the tenuousness of their existence. Such was the tragedy of the 2004 tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia which killed hundreds of thousands."

"We will help blaze a new path through the fascinating mysteries of the dangerous, dynamic processes shaping and renewing the thin shell of our planet that we call home," says Professor Sieh. "We also aim to be modern scientific high priests, illuminating those marvelous phenomena and their attendant perils to our fellow sojourners who include civic leaders, engineers and planners, all altruists working to make the world a safer and more enjoyable place."

Dr Su Guaning, NTU President, noted that as Singapore's first Research Centre of Excellence (RCE) devoted to earth sciences, the EOS will be receiving joint funding of up to $150m over 10 years from the Ministry of Education and the National Research Foundation.

"NTU is honoured to set up the Earth Observatory of Singapore which has attracted some of the world's leading earth scientists to carry out their work here and also to collaborate with other NTU faculty and students in related fields. I am very pleased at the progress that has been made in such a short time under the leadership of Professor Kerry Sieh, Director of the EOS, with the guidance of its Governing Board," says Dr Su.

Dr Su is confident that the EOS will inspire and enable new approaches to ensure the stability, prosperity, sustainability and vitality of Southeast Asia through the coming decades and centuries.

Professor Sieh has assembled a group of distinguished international scientists as part of the EOS' inception team. They include Paul Taponnier of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, one of the most influential neotectonicist of his generation and Chris Newhall, formerly of the US Geological Survey, one of the world's foremost authority on volcanism of Southeast Asia.


Contact: Hisham Hambari
Nanyang Technological University

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