Exploring Plate Boundaries with Seismic Data


In this exercise, students will learn about the various types of plate boundaries, investigate well-known examples of some of these boundaries, and then apply what you've learned to East Africa to determine the most likely cause of seismicity in this area of the world.


Grades 5 to 12


50 - 60 Minutes


 By the end of the exercise, students should be able to:
-    Describe the basic properties of crustal rocks
    •    Predict how these properties affect interactions at plate boundaries
    •    Predict relative ages of crust based on rock properties and boundary interactions
-    Use the IRIS Earthquake Browser to
    •    Explore current seismicity of the planet
    •    Explore the earthquake patterns at convergent and divergent plate boundaries
    •    Identify geomorphological features associated with plate boundaries
-    Apply knowledge to identify a developing plate boundary
    •    Identify and describe earthquake pattern in East Africa
    •    Use evidence (seismicity and geomorphology) to determine the type of boundary in East Africa   
    •    Make predictions about future geomorphology in the region

Supporting Resources

Full description of the activity (.pdf version - 4 MB) (.doc version - 4.3MB)

IRIS Earthquake Broswer (IEB) - The IEB is an interactive google-based mapping service for viewing Earthquake Epicenters superimposed on a map of the world.  This webtool works best in Firefox.