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Yvette Couser, director of the Merrimack Public Library, stands with the library's new seismograph available for citizen use. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/Union Leader Correspondent)

Seeing the Earth move in Merrimack


MERRIMACK — The first seismograph available for public use in New Hampshire has been installed at the local library.

“We want to get children excited about science, and this is a great opportunity for them,” said Yvette Couser, director of the Merrimack Public Library. “There are even adults who have expressed interest in our seismograph project, and want to begin studying this as a hobby.”

A seismograph is an instrument that measures and records details of earthquakes, such as force and duration. Seismic waves are detected on the device installed locally, and then the information is automatically forwarded to Weston Observatory, a science education center at Boston College in Massachusetts.

The Merrimack library recently partnered with the Boston College Educational Seismology Project to house a seismograph at the library.

While there are many libraries and schools within Massachusetts that have the instruments available for public use, there are none in New Hampshire, according to Couser.

“The seismograph project is an exciting and unique way for our library to fulfill its mission to enhance lifelong learning in our community,” said Couser.

Marilyn Bibeau, administrator associate director for the BCESP, said she hopes that other libraries in New Hampshire will become part of the program. Currently, there are more than 35 seismographs participating in the project, with most of them stationed in Massachusetts.

“New Hampshire is seismically active,” she said, adding the expansion of the network is beneficial as it will provide invaluable information about how the Earth is moving throughout the state.

The educational resource will not only encourage Earth studies, but will also incorporate engineering, physics, geology and more, said Bibeau.

The device cost more than $10,000, and was funded solely through donations, said Couser. Local citizens, business owners, library staff and trustees provided financial contributions for the instrument, along with the Merrimack Rotary Club, an IEEE engineering group, BCU Bank and the franchise owner of the local Dunkin’ Donuts shops.

The seismograph is now housed at the Lowell Memorial Room inside of the library. The library staff will be trained on how to use the device.

An invitation-only ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 6:30 tonight to celebrate the seismograph’s installation. The event will be followed by a public meeting titled “Earthquakes and the Environment: Humility in the Face of the Power of Nature,” presented by Alan Kafka, an associate professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Boston College.

The colloquium is open to the public, although seating is limited. To register for the event, call 424-5021.

khoughton@newstote.com




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