Facilitator: So, [Marianne], I understand

that you’re studying tsunami warning systems. Tell me about that.

Marianne: Well, we did write a paper as a class in 2009 led by our lecturer, Dr Layna

Groen. The objective of our research was to maximise the warning potential in some of

the coastal regions in the Mediterranean region. We were very inspired by the fact that there

is currently no tsunami warning system in place, so it did give the project a sense

of importance. Facilitator: We’ve all seen that tsunamis

can really be devastating. Can you tell me a little bit more about how they form?

Marianne: A tsunami forms as a series of water waves and this is caused by a large displacement

in the body of the water. Common causes of this can be things such as underwater volcanoes,

earthquakes and landslides. So as the large water waves get closer and closer to a shoreline,

the speed and the height of the wave keep getting larger and larger, so you can only

imagine how devastating the effects can be if a proper tsunami warning system wasn’t

in place. Facilitator: So, specifically, what did your

research involve? Marianne: It involved looking at current data

in the Mediterranean, analysing that data and the outcome being if we needed to add

any more warning buoys in the Mediterranean in order to give an effective warning to the

population. Facilitator: How do you study them? I mean,

surely you’re not out there on a surfboard? Marianne: I wish we were, but the way we did

it, we had to calculate a warning potential value and that’s how many people are effectively

warned. The way we did that, we had to calculate three times. The times were the time taken

for a tsunami to travel from its generation point to the population centre and the time

taken for it to travel from its generation point to the detector and then the time taken

for the detector to transmit this data to a warning centre and for the population to

react. Facilitator: So am I right in thinking that

specifically what you’re doing is using statistics to predict tsunamis?

Marianne: That’s right. We used a lot of statistics and mathematics in our model, and the model

we used to calculate the warning potential had a lot of mathematical formulas in it.

So it is very reassuring in a way to have a calculation predict whether or not we would

put a certain buoy in a specific location. I, myself, didn’t realise how versatile mathematics

and statistics could be. It is spread across various disciplines and to use it so applied

in this research was quite amazing to see the outcome.

Facilitator: What did you discover? Marianne: It did take a whole six months to

finish the project from collecting the data, analysing the methods and just bringing everything

together, creating our model. In the end we did find that, if we placed a few tsunami

warning buoys and sea level monitoring stations in different locations around the Mediterranean,

it did end up that we’d get a pretty good outcome on the warning potential. So effectively,

we can be saving lives, which is a great feeling. We had our paper published in an international

journal, which felt amazing for all of us and as undergraduate students we definitely

don’t expect to get a publication from our degree but that was definitely a very big

upside to the project.