Guest blog: Srisharan Shreedharan

My pathway into Geology

My formal undergraduate training is in geological engineering. This included learning about everything from building tunnels in rock to figuring out whether a certain type of slope is prone to landslides. It was during this period that I got hooked on geology and more specifically, geomechanics – essentially the study of how rocks slide, bend and break. I decided that I wanted to learn more about this and went on to do my masters in rock mechanics. During my masters, I had the chance to explore more courses in the earth sciences and the sheer scale of every single process inside our planet fascinated me. While I wanted to study the earth on a much larger scale than I used to, I also did not want to let go of my roots in geomechanics.

This is how I discovered the field of experimental fault mechanics – specifically rock friction, which studies how rocks slide past each other. Once we know this we apply it to better understand earthquakes. Right now, I’m working on my PhD in rock friction with Prof. Chris Marone at the Pennsylvania State University Rock and Sediment Mechanics Laboratory.

Explaining how rocks stick and slide to create earthquakes to fifth graders at a Pennsylvania State outreach event


In my line of work, it is rare to be able to study earthquakes by collecting samples from the actual fault and running friction experiments on them. Expedition 375 offered exactly this. And not just any earthquake, this expedition gave me a chance to study the enigmatic slow slip earthquakes that we’ve only known about for under 15 years now.

So I jumped at the opportunity and here I am. Not only is this my first time on a drillship, this is also my first time working in such a diverse environment of scientists specializing in different topics and yet working tirelessly towards a single purpose. I think one of the most surprising things about doing science on a drill ship is how stable the ground (steel?) under my feet is. I expected to be a lot more wobbly all the time!

Srisharan making core strength measurements during Exp 375
Aliki Weststrate
Tēnā koutou katoa – greetings. Ko Aliki Weststrate tōku ingoa. My name is Aliki and I’m the NZ based outreach officer and educator on this expedition to study the Hikurangi Subduction Margin. I am a science communicator and trained teacher. I love to connect science organisations to the education sector and general public. Lately I’ve been spending my days communicating the science of the Hikurangi Subduction Zone – NZ’s largest fault. On board Expedition #375 we’re drilling cores to study past earthquakes here and understand the fault properties. And, for the first time in NZ, we will install two sub-seafloor earthquake observatories. Follow the JR blog, FB, Instagram and Twitter to see how we’re going!
More articles by: Aliki Weststrate