$800,000 for earthquake research

A Christchurch earthquake engineer has been awarded an $800,000 grant to continue his research into the Canterbury earthquakes.

University of Canterbury civil and natural resources engineering lecturer Brendon Bradley has been awarded the money as part of a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship.

Bradley, currently at Stanford University as part of an Erskine Fellowship, said the Canterbury earthquakes had produced a wealth of data for engineers.

“In the Christchurch earthquakes we had a lot of destruction and damage and a lot of emotional heartbreak,” Bradley said. “But those earthquakes produced a whole lot of scientific data which was recorded extremely well.”

The goal of Bradley’s research was to provide a better understanding of why the earthquakes were so powerful.

“If we better understand why the shaking was so damaging, then we can better understand what could happen in other places in New Zealand,” he said.

Like most Cantabrians, Bradley had experienced the local earthquakes first-hand. He was also in Japan when the magnitude 9 earthquake struck in March 2011.

“As an earthquake engineer, being able to experience those first-hand was pretty special.”

“You can study these things your whole life but until you actually experience them it’s not quite the same,” he said. “There’s a huge amount you can learn just by feeling it.”

Bradley said the fellowship, which was awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand, would allow him to devote more time to his research. The funding was spread over the next five years.

Fewer teaching and administration responsibilities would allow him to spend up to 85 per cent of the time researching, he said.

On it’s website, the Royal Society of New Zealand said the Rutherford Discover Fellowships “support the development of future research leaders, and assist with the retention and repatriation of New Zealand’s talented early to mid-career researchers”.

Only 10 fellowships are awarded per year.

_ Ben Irwin