Media

 

Links to sections below:

Science Outreach

Research

Canyoning

Caving

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Science Outreach

I have a strong passion for communicating geology to the general public, whether through lectures, hands-on
activities or through media. People often forget what an important role geology plays in their lives until a natural
disaster like an earthquake or volcanic eruption has a devastating and personal impact. The wake of such a disaster
is a particularly important time to empower the public and news media with the science behind the disaster, and
particularly to motivate young people (the next generation of scientists) to take an interest.

Since the dawn of man, geology has played a central role in human evolution by controlling the distribution of
landmasses and resources. Many may not think the study of geology is particularly relevant in our current
technological age, but in truth society has never relied on geological knowledge more heavily- we use it to find fresh
groundwater, rare elements necessary to build our modern technologies, and natural hydrocarbons upon which our
modern society is wholly reliant. In our increasingly crowded world, an understanding of past climates and of
natural disasters has never been more pertinent.

I believe scientists have a responsibility to communicate the importance of their (and their colleagues) work to the
general public. Science needs to be perceived as the vehicle through which our society can progress.

 

"Exploring Earthquakes" - Science Notes podcast

Science Notes is a radio program/podcast put on by Dave McMorran at the University of Otago and
Otago Access Radio to provide a forum for students to communicate their research to a general audience.
In this podcast I talk with Dave about my research into Alpine Fault-related earthquakes and rock avalanches.

 

Alpine Fault in the Hollyford Valley poster

Hokuri Creek in the Hollyford Valley provides one of the scientifically most important outcrops of the Alpine Fault
(or indeed of any major plate boundary fault in the world). It is one of the few places I know of in the world where
you can put your finger on the main slip surface of a major plate boundary fault. Despite its remote location on the
boundary of Fiordland and the West Coast, hundreds of people a year obliviously cross the Alpine Fault at a swing
bridge over Hokuri Creek (only 500 meters away from the main fault exposure) while hiking the Hollyford Track,
one of the finest 4-7 day hikes in New Zealand. A fantastic network of Department of Conservation-administered
huts along the Hollyford and Pyke valleys provide not only shelter, but well-designed and informative placards on
local flora, fauna, Maori history and lore, and early European settler history. An unintentional oversight is a total lack
of information on the region's dramatic geology. With the help of Ursula Cochran at GNS Science, I sought to
remedy this by providing DOC with an informative and easy-to-follow poster that could be installed in Hokuri Hut
(located 500 meters from the trace of the Alpine Fault!). In addition to background information on the Alpine Fault
and NZ tectonics, the Alpine Fault in the Hollyford Valley poster provides explanation on how shells were used to
determine local uplift rates, how rocks exposed in the nearby fault zone exposure improve our understanding of fault
mechanics, and how the miraculous geomorphic history of Hokuri Creek provides us with one of the longest and
most continuous records of past earthquakes anywhere in the world. Thanks to Ursula Cochran and GNS Science.

 

Earthquakes and You poster

The poster was created primarily to educate Dunedin locals about earthquake risk in the wake of the devastating
2011 Christchurch earthquakes
(300 km to the northeast) at various University of Otago science outreach events.
It intends to illustrate that earthquakes occur on faults all over New Zealand and that there are many known active
faults near Dunedin. It points out a well-known positive correlation between the moment magnitude of a earthquake
and the length of the associated surface rupture. Dunedin is in close proximity to several faults of similar length to the
one that ruptured in the Darfield and Christchurch earthquakes. The underlying message of this poster is that sooner
or later it is very likely to expect a similar magnitude earthquake near Dunedin and adequate preparation for such a
disaster is paramount.

 

What Time Looks Like poster

Because we humans only have direct memories over timespans of decades, we are fundamentally ill-suited to
comprehend the deep time involved in geology. What can happen in a hundred years? A thousand? A million? A billion?
Geologically speaking, a hundred years is very little time. What if a major disaster such as the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake happened today?
One of my hobbies is trying to take photographs that show some sort of juxtaposition
that helps convey a relatable sense of geologic time or change. This just-for-fun poster shows how a glacier can lose
200 meters of its thickness in 50 years, a species can change its landscape in 1000 years, a seashell can come to sit
on a mountaintop in 300,000 years, and questions what immense history is missing from a 1,000,000,000 year
unconformity. Many of the world's greatest problems (climate change, overpopulation, deforestation) cannot be
effectively solved in a single generation- it is crucial that humans develop an appreciation of timescales beyond the
narrow limits of their life, as this is the first step towards sacrificing personal comfort for the sake of the planet's future.

 

Cathedral Cave handout

Cathedral Cave is a popular tourist destination in the Catlins, south of Dunedin. Visitors pay a small fee to a Maori
trust to use the parking lot and trail to access the beach where several impressive sea caves are located. I created
this handout
(including a detailed survey of the main cave) for the trust so that tourists received some information
on the caves during their visit.

 

Caves of Waikouaiti poster

The Waikouaiti Museum, a small local museum north of Dunedin, has a wonderful display of historical photos and
human history but very little on the area's fascinating natural history. The Caves of Waikouaiti poster was created to
accompany a stalagmite and a couple historical photos in the museum. It discusses the geological history and scientific
significance of these local caves, especially highlighting research in progress at the University of Otago (by myself and
others).

 

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Research

Alpine Fault Virtual Tour and data

The Geology Department at the University of Otago maintains a great webpage on the Alpine Fault. Here you can take
a photographic tour of locations along the fault and also access GIS data of the mapped fault traces. I contributed
geospatial data of mapped fault traces along the southernmost 80 km of the Alpine Fault, which can be downloaded
for research or educational use.

 

Anatomy of a Plate Boundary at Shallow Crustal Levels poster

This poster includes observations and preliminary data from the first complete composite section through the Alpine Fault.
It was presented at the 2010 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

 

Central Alpine Fault LiDAR poster

This poster highlights results from the first airborne LiDAR survey of the Alpine Fault and reveals how the structure
differs from regional and fault-wide scales. It was presented at the 2011 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
in San Francisco.

 

Managing Landslide Hazard - The Landslide Blog

Prof. Dave Petley maintains The Landslide Blog, a very informative and relevant blog on landslides hosted by the
American Geophysical Union. In response to my Landslide paper Barth (2013), he devoted a blog post, Managing
landslide hazard- an example from Franz Josef in New Zealand
, to the worrisome bulging slope above the town of
Franz Josef that I call to attention in the paper. He adds his own personal observations and photographs which greatly
contribute to an important discussion.

 

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Canyoning

Exploring canyons is one of my greatest passions and joys. Canyon exploration is unlike any other activity I know of.
The narrowest and deepest canyons obscure the features within such that exploring a canyon for a first time is done
nearly "blind," more like exploring a cave than anything else. However, unlike exploring a cave (where the return is by
default the way you came from), once the rope is pulled after the first drop in a canyon, the team is wholly commited to
go down through the bottom of the canyon, no matter what. The team must be prepared for anything. I was fortunate to
be a part of several first descents while in New Zealand. One easily stands above all the rest.

Recently a few friends and I received some international press for the successful first full descent of Gloomy Gorge,
New Zealand's hardest descended canyon and one of more significant canyons in the world. The descent took our
team of four an exhausting 20 hours to complete. It is without a doubt one of the most terrifying and amazing places
I have been. It is easily one of the boldest and challenging trips I have undertaken.

Gloomy Gorge blog post

Gloomy Gorge video

New Zealand Geographic Sept-Oct 2013 cover article

 

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Caving

Cave exploration is probably my greatest passion. Forget the moon and the sea, I would argue caving is the purest
form of exploration available to us in modern times. Despite our technological age, there is still no real way of knowing
what lies beyond the next bend in a passage or down a seemingly bottomless drop. I have been fortunate enough to
participate in or lead expeditions in California, Kentucky, Borneo and New Zealand. While working on my PhD in
New Zealand, I took it upon myself to explore caves in the surrounding area. A lack of limestone focused my energy
on the coast where I miraculously stumbled upon some of the world's most significant sea caves. Exploring these caves
was an incalculable joy to me. To date I have logged over 50 trips exploring, mapping and studying these caves, often
alone. The principal result of my efforts so far has been completing the mapping of Matainaka Cave, the longest sea cave
in the world with a total length of 1540 m. This was almost four times longer than the present record holder at the time,
Sea Lion Caves in Oregon at 401 m! Although exploration is essentially complete, mapping and research is ongoing.

Matainaka Cave press

World's Longest Sea Cave List

NSS News Otago sea caves cover article

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Nicolas C. Barth. All Rights Reserved.

Nicolas C. Barth

 

 

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Scientists prepare and examine rock core drilled through the
Alpine Fault as part of the Deep Fault Drilling Project.