CWU News

New Grant Funding Helps CWU Geology Continue Its Legacy of Excellence

Associate Professor of Geology Walter Szeliga inspects a geodesic research station.

Central Washington University’s Department of Geological Sciences has a long-standing reputation of passion for the field and boundless innovation that benefits the global good. Thanks to this record of excellence, the University NAVSTAR Consortium (UNAVCO) and National Science Foundation (NSF) have awarded CWU an additional $122,039 to continue our work on the Geodetic Facility for the Advancement of Geoscience (GAGE). CWU Associate Professor of Geology and Principal Investigator of the grant Walter Szeliga says this work is made possible through continued research and development.

“We have a long pedigree of doing this work, ever since Megan Miller was a faculty member here over 20 years ago,” he said. “She started off when this technology was brand new, and the department has brought in people who specialize in the cutting edge of this type of processing to carry her work forward.”

The ongoing research involves the collection and processing of GPS position data from more than 1,800 research stations in Antarctica, North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. The data is made available to researchers across the globe and allows them to measure the constant changes the surface of our planet goes through. Scientists then apply this knowledge in a variety of ways.

“This data gets used in everything from earthquakes and tectonics to groundwater studies to research into the upper atmosphere and ionosphere,” Szeliga said. “The variety of uses it has makes this a very important undertaking whose data feeds both CWU master’s degree students, as well as innumerable PhD theses at universities around the country.”

Szeliga’s work also plays into CWU’s real-time analysis center that records and processes data from the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array (PANGA), a collection of around 220 high-precision GPS stations located throughout the Cascadia Subduction Zone, as well as an estimated 1,500 others from around the world. This analysis allows near-instant characterization of earthquakes and, for coastal regions, tsunamis. CWU Professor of Geology and Director of PANGA Tim Melbourne notes this project is also unique to Central.

“We’ve built the world’s only system for using satellite navigation to characterize earthquakes and tsunamis,” Melbourne said. “It’s all thanks to this work that started a long time ago at CWU, and it’s all very intertwined. But you have to have people who know how to do it, which is where the CWU group comes in.”

The real-time GPS measurements produced by the PANGA group at CWU are used by the United States Geological Survey’s ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system, as well as the NOAA global tsunami warning system. Through CWU’s Department of Geological Sciences, students are able to work with groundbreaking equipment and analysis systems, allowing them to explore the gathered data alongside global experts in the field.

Media Contact: Rune Torgersen, Department of Public Affairs,,