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PBO Futures Workshop Final Report
  • Major Project: Plate Boundary Observatory
  • UNAVCO staff: Multiple
  • Dates: September 22 - 24, 2014
  • Location(s): Breckenridge, Colorado
  • Funding Source: NSF

Summarized from the PBO Futures Workshop Final Report written by Glen Mattioli, U. Texas at Arlington & UNAVCO; Rebecca Bendick, U. Montana; James Foster, U. Hawaii; and Jeff Freymueller, U. Alaksa, Fairbanks
Edited by Beth Bartel
10 April 2015


The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored a Community Workshop entitled “The future of PBO in the GAGE Facility (2013-2018) and after EarthScope,” which was held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Breckenridge, Colorado from September 22nd through 24th, 2014. The 69 participants included 42 scientists at academic institutions; five USGS staff, including the Program Officer for Volcano Hazards; the NSF EarthScope and SAGE Facility Program Officer; four representatives from state departments of transportation or the state spatial reference networks; and 15 UNAVCO technical and 2 UNAVCO support staff. The objectives for the workshop were to initiate community discussion into how best to position PBO to support priority science topics and education and outreach within the context of current and likely future budgetary scenarios.

Presentations Invited speakers made two keynote presentations. The first, by Prof. Paul Segall of Stanford University, was entitled “Looking back: Scientific discoveries, novel applications, and lessons learned.” The second, by Prof. Michael Bevis of Ohio State University, was entitled “Looking forward: Challenges and questions for the future.” Both presentations are available on the workshop webpage. Additionally, UNAVCO staff gave several brief presentations related to current status of the EarthScope PBO.

Breakout Sessions The bulk of the workshop was organized around scientific and technical breakout sessions. Resulting recommendations were divided into immediate and longer-term strategies, with the former intended to guide UNAVCO actions and policies during the current funding period, and the latter intended to position UNAVCO and the PBO facility for research innovation in subsequent funding periods.

Workshop Conclusions and Recommendations

PBO was recognized by workshop participants as a critical national geodetic resource in addition to being a world-class scientific research facility. PBO is now viewed as a “utility” by many critical stakeholders, who do not directly support its ongoing operation and maintenance or any costs for new capital equipment. These stakeholders need upgrades to PBO sites to make fuller use of this utility; however, partial replacement and upgradingthe of aging PBO infrastructure as planned in GAGE is not possible under current budget scenarios. In order to meet current budget constraints, PBO management has mandated that operationa and maintenance costs be reduced, which means possible loss of data and likely decrease of sensor uptime in the long run.

Stakeholders who depend on the continued operation of parts of the PBO include the USGS (Earthquake Hazards Program and Volcano Hazards Program), NOAA (both the National Geodetic Survey and National Weather Service), NASA (ARIA project, earthquake early warning pilot projects, future mission calibration and validation), state Departments of Transportation and/or Natural Resources, and the land surveying community in most western states. Currently or in the longer term, some of these stakeholders require enhancement to the current PBO stations, because they require real-time or near-real-time data and/or observations from additional GNSS systems like Galileo or GLONASS. This highlights the need for high-rate and real-time data streams and archived products to position UNAVCO for future funding and relevance for both NSF and non-NSF projects. The need for sustaining partners remains paramount through the end of the EarthScope project in September 2018 and beyond.

The immediate action recommendations optimize the current PBO operations to balance efficiency, data return, and the sensor network’s ability to capture signals of greatest scientific interest. The longer-term action recommendations build a foundation for future groundbreaking scientific techniques and applications. Both are specifically designed to address the very broad range of purposes for which present-day data streams are used, from more traditional tectonics studies to hazard monitoring to atmospheric and surface processes detection.

Recommendations for immediate action include:

  1. Regularize maintenance and service schedules in regions where deformation transients are “less likely” (resulting in fewer field visits and reduced uptime).
  2. Identify key regions (e.g. Cascadia) for immediate maintenance response where deformation transients are “more likely.”
  3. Identify PBO GPS and BSM sites with the worst data quality and move to these to another location or decommission (or do not renew permits).
  4. Otherwise, do not decommission GPS sites prior to 2018.
  5. Defer all maintenance of low-value borehole installations, or divest the sites only producing seismic data to regional seismic networks; prioritization would need to occur based on additional community input.
  6. Encourage NSF staff to aggressively pursue federal agency cooperation at the highest possible level.
  7. Explore all avenues for “upreach,” or interaction with a range of stakeholders with broad interests or authority related to geodetic data streams.
  8. Seek partnerships with other state and federal agencies to meet additional costs for earthquake early warning and other GNSS-enabled, high-rate, real-time applications.
  9. Explore adoption of O&M costs or collaborative sponsorship of some sensors or sets of sensors by other entities.
  10. Leverage education and outreach (ECE) efforts to better engage the public and stakeholders in UNAVCO activities.
  11. Upgrade stations to real-time where cost-effective communications and adequate power are already available.
  12. Upgrade a limited number of GPS stations to full GNSS in strategic target areas of high scientific value, those that support large user communities, and for collection of data for UNAVCO and community-driven development and testing efforts.
  13. Make immediate investments in the data management work flow to allow more data integration and sharing.
  14. Expand UNAVCO’s ability to ingest and fully integrate or serve as a portal for data from non-PBO sources.

Recommendations to position PBO for the future include:

  1. Develop a strong GNSS (i.e. GLONASS) + real-time streaming pilot project.
  2. Develop a strong multi-timescale data products pilot (e.g. Mount St. Helens).
  3. Explore and test alternative methods of GPS (GNSS) data transmission.
  4. Develop a pilot project to stream multiple sensor outputs and develop a flexible, generic data stream hardware + software system (leverage existing systems developed by Ocean Observing Initiative).
  5. Develop new pilot data products for nontraditional users.
  6. Build a management framework for institutionalizing adoption and sponsorship of sensors.
  7. Collaborate with NASA for optimization and validation of NISAR and calibration and validation for SMAP.
  8. Adopt a community-developed prioritization for BSM and LSM stations.
  9. Explore alternative models for funding the BSM and LSM networks.

For the full report, follow the link below.

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