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Institute of Advanced Study

Dr Sergio Sepúlveda

Cofund Senior Research Fellow at Van Mildert College, Durham University (January - March 2014)

Dr Sergio Sepúlveda, is from the University of Chile and is arguably the leading researcher on seismically-triggered landslides in South America. A mid-career research of high repute, he has a strong track record of highly-cited papers in this area and is a key strategic collaborator for Durham Geography. The proposed research programme during his visit will develop and expand several areas of existing research; strengthen graduate and post-doctoral research; and provide a conduit for potential projects in an area of great importance to the Department and Institute. 

Landslides are one of the most important geological hazards in Latin America causing, together with earthquakes, the largest number of fatalities from natural disasters in both urban and rural communities. They can be induced either by heavy rainfall, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. They can take different forms, from local rock falls and soil slides to long-range, catastrophic debris flows or rock avalanches. During the Fellowship, we will analyze in detail the data from Central and South America of the unique, worldwide fatal landslide database collected in the last ten years by the International Landslide Centre at the IHRR, aiming to correlate and interpret the occurrence of fatal landslides with seismic activity (related to both large subduction earthquakes such as the M8.8, 2010 Chile earthquake and local crustal faults seismic sources), climate (tropical storms, El Niño-La Niña periods, etc.), demographic conditions, etc. This will allow a better understanding of landslide risks in Andean communities and provide guidelines for disaster prevention. Furthermore, landslide triggering mechanics will be studied using the unique IHRR facility, the dynamic back pressured shearbox, undertaking a series of dynamic shear tests on pyroclastic materials from Latin America, known to be most prone to landsliding during earthquake events.

“The fellowship had a strong impact on my research, as it gave me access to data and some unique laboratory equipment that would not be possible to reach otherwise.”

Dr Sergio Sepúlveda, University of Chile