Research Geophysicist, Avinash Kumar Chouhan @sciencekaree: A Day in the GeoLife Series

NAME: Avinash Kumar Chouhan

CURRENT STUDY: The geophysical field in the epicentral zone of the 1819 Allah-Bund earthquake

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Gravity and magnetic method to understand the geodynamics of continental rifts


EDUCATION: B.Sc. (Physics Hons.) from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India in 2011.
M.Sc. in Applied Geophysics from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India in 2013.
Ph.D. from Indian Institute of Technology- Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India is ongoing.

TWITTER NAME: @sciencekaree

What’s your job like?

Currently, I am working on the lithospheric structure of the seismically active northwestern Deccan volcanic province of India using gravity data.

What’s a typical day like?

While in the field, we are acquiring gravity data using the CG5 AutoGrav gravity meter. The position and elevation of each gravity observation are acquired using a Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS). 

Normally, we record gravity observations while traveling along the road. But there are some field areas like Kachchh rift where connectivity is not good. So, we have to travel without a vehicle along with the instrument. In the Kachchh rift, temperatures are usually very high, and the area is very arid. During this journey, we meet and travel in different parts of the area. We enjoy the people’s food and come to know their lifestyle. This is the beauty of the geophysical field. 


What’s fun?

Gravity surveying is teamwork where you can enjoy your day with your colleagues. During fieldwork, you can go to many places that are almost never touched by humans. You can explore many new areas. 


What’s challenging?

The 1819 Allah-Bund earthquake was very devastating. Its epicenter is in the northwestern part of the Kachchh rift. To study the subsurface architecture, we have carried out the geophysical survey. During the geophysical fieldwork, I have faced the following challenges:

1) First of all, you have to get a permission letter from the Border security forces (BSF) official to go into that area because this is no man’s land in the Indian territory. So, in this part of the area, there is only a very slight chance of human interaction. The only interaction you get is with the BSF, but they are very helpful and cooperative.

2) Food and water is the biggest issue in this area. You have to carry food and water with you all the time.

3) You can go into this area in the summer season only. The temperature is usually 45 to 51 centigrade. Also, in the afternoon (after 1 PM), dusty winds blow. This causes very low visibility in this part and creates difficulty in the field.

4) Beware of swampy land. During our fieldwork, our vehicle got stuck in this part. For help, my vehicle driver and I had to travel 15 km to the nearest BSF office.

What’s your advice to students?

If you are going into the field in this part of India, please go fully prepared. Preparation includes:

1) Getting a permission letter from the BSF office (BSF Bhuj city office).
2) Always keeping extra water and food for emergency situations.
3) Always keeping in touch with BSF officials.
4) Always going in a group of more than 3 people.

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