UNAVCO Plate Boundary Observatory 2007 Student Field Assistant Program in the Alaska Region Abstract


  • The UNAVCO, Inc. Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO) Student Field Assistant Program strives to engage students in further study and careers in the Earth Sciences. Student Field Assistants from a variety of educational backgrounds ranging from high school graduates to master's level students spend a three to five month field season working in tandem with UNAVCO regional Field Engineers. The students work closely with senior staff to reconnaissance, install, and maintain a network of 875 permanent Global Positioning System (GPS) stations in one of the five PBO regions covering the western United States, including Alaska. Practical skills, such as power tool use, drilling, welding, firearms training, and proper field safety procedures, are taught and expected of the students. Installation and maintenance of new and existing GPS stations composes the bulk of the student's responsibilities and duties. When not in the field, students prepare gear and arrange logistics for site installations and maintenance as well as enter metadata and complete installation reports from recently constructed sites. An understanding of the operations of the GPS receivers and the scientific benefit of the network allows for an appreciation and great attention to detail during installation of the sites. Student assistance in the Alaska region during 2007 PBO AK field season was critical to the successful installation of 36 new GPS stations throughout Alaska. Significant benchmarks of the field season included installing six logistically difficult stations in Prince William Sounds, completing the Denali Fault GPS network, four new tiltmeters on Akutan Volcano, completing all installs on the Seward Peninsula as well as several new GPS stations throughout the western interior of the state. Alaska is a prominent area for much movement and deformation as the Pacific Plate subducts beneath the North American Plate resulting in an area of high volcanic activity and heightened crustal deformation. The GPS network that is being constructed aims to better understand much of these earth processes and their effects. To date, the Alaska Region has recently completed its 4th field season and has installed 106 out of a planned 140 stations. During Year 5 of the PBO project, the Alaska PBO regional office will complete the installation of all remaining 34 planned GPS stations including 12 stations on Unimak Island. The 2008 field season will be the last year in the installation phase and will incorporate maintenance of some of the first GPS stations installed in the network during the first and second years of the five year project.

publication date

  • 2007

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