A team from the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) Association, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and with partial support from the Applied Technology Council (ATC) has been mobilized to investigate the potential impacts of the widespread earthquake-induced geotechnical and subsurface infrastructure failures as a result of the April 16, 2016 M7.8 earthquake, offshore of the west coast of northern Ecuador. The event and its aftershocks have led to several hundred casualties, tens of thousands homeless, and significant destruction.

Based on the US Geological Survey (USGS), the main earthquake was caused by shallow thrust faulting on or near the plate boundary between the Nazca and South America plates where the Nazca subducts beneath the South America plate at 61 mm/yr. Subduction along the Ecuador Trench and the Peru-Chile Trench farther south, has led to uplift of the Andes mountains and has produced some of the largest earthquakes in the world, including the 1960 M9.5 earthquake in southern Chile the largest ever recorded event.

The US-Ecuador GEER team will be led by Dr. Sissy Nikolaou of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff and Dr. Xavier Vera-Grunauer of the Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil and of the Geoestudios consulting firm. The NSF-funded US GEER team members include Prof. Kyle Rollins (Bingham Young University), Prof. Adda Athanasopoulos-Zekkos (University of Michigan), Prof. Clint Wood (University of Arkansas), Mr. Daniel Alzamora (Federal Highway Administration), and Ms. Gabriela Martinez Lyvers (US Army Corp of Engineers). The team also includes structural engineers Mr. Ramon Gilsanz and Ms. Virginia Diaz of Gilsanz Murray Steficek LLP, who are funded by the ATC. We are also working with other self-funded engineers who have traveled to Ecuador, which include Prof. Eduardo Miranda (Stanford University), Mr. Enrique Abel Morales (University at Buffalo), and Mr. Roberto Luque (UC Berkeley).

The Ecuador GEER team includes geotechnical and structural engineers from regional universities, agencies, and private firms: Dr. Fabricio Yepez (San Francisco of Quito University), Mr. Juan Vera-Grunauer (structural engineer), Mr. Adolfo Caicedo (geotechnical engineer researcher, Catholic University of Guayaquil), Mr. Guillermo Ponce (structural engineer), Dr. Walter Mera (structural engineer and vice president of Catholic Univ. of Guayaquil, structural engineer), Prof. Francisco Ripalda and Claudio Luque (geotechnical engineer, Catholic University of Guayaquil), Mr. Gonzalo Vela (structural engineer, logistic leader of Corps of Engineers-COE technical team, PNUD, United Nations), Ms. Carolina Salcedo (regional coordinator of COE technical team, Ministry of Housing), and Dr. Alexandra Alvarado (National Geophysics Institute).

The GEER team will focus on documenting the geo-effects of the event, with special emphasis on soil-structure interaction and lifeline performance, as well as ground motions, liquefaction effects, and landslides. US GEER members are interacting with top Ecuadorian government officials through their collaboration with the top Ecuadorian earthquake professionals.

The US-Ecuador GEER team will share their findings in a report posted at the GEER website: http://www.geerassociation.org/.