Prof. Richard Walker wins MPLS Social Impact Award

Prof. Richard Walker wins MPLS Social Impact Award

Our congratulations go to Professor Richard Walker on being awarded this years MPLS Social Impact Award. The awards celebrate the work of MPLS researchers who have made significant contributions to the economy or wider society at large, through their research.

Professor Sam Howison, Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Science Division, said: ‘The MPLS Impact Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding research impact of MPLS researchers. They raise awareness of the important areas in which MPLS researchers are leading the way, and they also help to identify examples of impact excellence we can use to prepare for future REF submissions and similar exercises. Congratulations to each of this year’s winners and those who are commended, on the impact they are making in the world around us.’

Building earthquake resilience in Asia

Working with colleagues in the UK and overseas, Professor Richard Walker’s research group have devoted the last two decades to improving understanding of large earthquakes in continental interiors, with a particular focus on central Asia, where long recurrence times between seismic events mean that such risks are rarely on the minds or in the cultural memories of local communities and civic leaders. By utilising historic records from past disasters and a pristine landscape where earthquake ruptures have been preserved into the prehistoric period, the team have been able to map where active faults lie and analyse the types, sizes, and intervals between large earthquakes along them. These datasets have been used to develop officially recognised hazard maps that are now relied on for future planning decisions around urban expansion and future infrastructure development.

One of the group’s local studies in China conducted with colleagues including a team led by Professor Philip England, led to this approach being widely adopted across the country. More recent studies have focused on fault lines in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, with a significant impact on policy direction. Further work is now underway to carry out similar analyses for various major cities. As well as contributing to an improved understanding of hazards and hazard modelling, Richard and his colleagues are committed to strengthening capacity and training by working with partner institutes across central Asia, including through education and policy interaction, so that local agencies can continue to build and apply these datasets in future.

Professor Mike Kendall, Head of the Department of Earth Sciences said: ‘For many years, Richard and co-workers have led novel programmes studying earthquake risk in central Asia. Through his engagement with both local scientists and policymakers, this research is having a significant impact in many regions, informing hazard programmes, changing policy and building urban resilience.

‘The societal benefits of the earthquake hazard maps produced from Professor Walker’s research include better planning decisions being made in earthquake-prone central Asia, which has the potential to save many lives in the event of a large earthquake.’

Azerbaijan. Trenching the West Kura fault, to determine earthquake histories on this poorly characterised fault (with Ian Pierce and Neill Marshall, Oxford, and Sabina Kazimova of the Republican Seismic Survey)