Standing Committee Meeting Report PASSCAL

October 2019

Committee Members Present: Beatrice Magnani (chair), Sarah Kruse, Zach Eilon, Wes Thelen, Brandon Schmandt, Rob Evans (via phone), Eric Sandvol, Lee Liberty, Paul Winberry
Ex Officio Members:   Ninfa Bennington (ex-officio EMAC chair)
Board Liaisons:  Susan Schwartz (PASSCAL Board Liaison), Rick Aster (Polar Board Liaison)

IRIS Staff and Observers:  Kent Anderson (IRIS-program manager), Bob Woodward (IRIS-IS Director), Justin Sweet (IRIS- scribe), Bruce Beaudoin (PASSCAL-NMT), Sue Bilek (NMT), Galen Kaip (SSF-UTEP), Andy Frassetto (IRIS-MT Project Lead)

Collected Action Items
1. (Anderson/Sweet) Update the status of the spring 2019 action items
2. (Anderson/Schmandt/Magnani) Draft guidance that outlines the new flexibility in node usage policy
3. (Anderson/Magnani) Draft a letter to the community that reinforces best practices for treating PASSCAL equipment and handling to and from the field.  Also highlight the PIC support benefits that the community may not be aware of (e.g. field support only requires paying PIC staff travel costs, not salary).
4. (Anderson) Request a small (10-20 unit) evaluation set of nodes for testing and evaluation
5. (Sweet) Reach out to Luke Zoet for an outbriefing call to get input from him on his use of nodes
6. (Eilon) Respond to QAAC that Justin will continue to provide an outbrief presentation summarizing QC-related feedback at future QAAC meetings
7. (Anderson/Magnani) Draft a recommendation to the Board emphasizing the importance of community input on the future management structure of a merged facility
8. (Anderson) Organize a call for the new SSFAC prior to Kent’s upcoming visit/discussion with NSF on October 23rd


1. Motion:  PASC moves to approve the spring 2019 PASC meeting minutes [unanimously approved]
2. Motion:  PASC moves to approve the MT carryover spend plan as proposed [unanimously approved]
3. Recommendation: PASC suggests modifying the node usage policy to allow PIs to program HHTs and offload PASSCAL nodes on their own provided that they:
       1. Stick to shipping schedule outlined by PASSCAL
       2. Do not update any firmware on the nodes or HHTs
       3. Commit to following the data archiving policy for node data
4. Recommendation: PASC feels strongly that community input is essential for any changes in the management structure of the facility as we move towards the merging of IRIS and UNAVCO
5. Recommendation: PASC recommends the following names to replace Schmandt who is rotating off this fall: Marianne Karplus, Kevin Ward, Jamie Farrell, Nick Schmerr

Meeting Objectives

  • Review Board responses to PASC motions/recommendations
  • Provide recommendations for any SAGE-II year-2 carryover funds
  • Review new instrumentation evaluation and procurement strategy and provide guidance on alternate node evaluation procurement
  • Provide guidance on next generation telemetry capabilities
  • Provide feedback to QAAC on how best to share “quality of service” metrics
  • Provide suggestions to Board for PASC member rotation in coming years

Welcome and Introductions
PASC Chair Magnani welcomes all to the meeting and outlines meeting objectives.

Action items from last meeting
Program Manager Anderson provided an update on the status of action items from the spring 2019 PASC meeting.  A few of the action items were not completed and the PASC requested that Anderson and Sweet provide them with an update on their status (Action Item).

The PASC reviewed the minutes/summary from the spring 2018 PASC meeting and unanimously voted to approve them without alteration.

Program Management Update
SAGE-II Budget Status
Kent described the current budget status at the conclusion of the first year of SAGE-II.  At this point, all obligations have been met and the SAGE-II year 1 budget has been completely spent down, leaving nothing on the table.  Final spend down of PASSCAL and Wavefield budgets were put towards the purchase of 100 additional nodes to account for an oversubscription in spring 2020.  The facility was also able to purchase a small set of broadband nodes for testing.  The PASSCAL polar budget was also completely spent down, including remaining funds from a supplement received at the end of SAGE-I year 5.  Looking ahead to the SAGE-II year 2 budget, IRIS currently has the first 50% of funding in-hand.  Year 2 is being funded as proposed by NSF.  All year 2 subaward agreements are in place.

MT Update
Andy Frassetto gave an update on the IRIS MT program, which has been busy holding working group calls over the past several months to discuss MT instrumentation and MT software issues.  Currently, OSU is supporting long-period MT deployments and data handling for PIs via a pool of 27 EarthScope NIMS instruments.  The EMAC has decided to migrate these instruments to PASSCAL, which now has a website available for PIs to reserve/request MT instruments.  NASA continues to fund extension/completion of the L48 MT TA footprint.  IRIS has received 2 supplements from NASA thus far to fund 50+ stations in southern California this year, and additional stations to the east in 2020.  A request for information (RFI) was publicly posted in mid-July seeking input from instrument vendors on equipment that might meet required/desired capabilities defined by the MT Instrumentation Working Group.  All previously known MT/EM instrument vendors have responded to the RFI.  SAGE-II year 2 plans include the establishment of a dedicated MT lab at the PIC, continued engagement with MT equipment vendors, as well as procurement/testing/evaluation of various flavors of MT instruments and electrodes in the run up to a larger procurement.  In addition, the MT software WG will be working to develop MT data and metadata standards as well as determining suitable delivery formats for the DMC archive.  The MT program is proposing to carryover ~$284k in unspent funds from SAGE-II year 1 to year 2 and has developed a proposal outlining how those funds intend to be spent for review by the Board and ultimately NSF.  Finally, Andy mentioned a few results from a community questionnaire/survey on MT needs which went out earlier this year.  The survey, which had 47 respondents, was drafted with input from both MT working groups and the responses received are informing approaches to establishing both MT instrumentation and data handling capacities.

EMAC Update
Frassetto and Bennington provided an update on recent activities of the EMAC, which currently has 2 working groups (Instrumentation, and Data Handling) that have collectively held 21 calls so far in 2019!  The MT Data WG is working to draft data/metadata standards as well as identify and develop software resources for MT data workflows.  The MT Instrumentation WG has been soliciting community input on future facility needs, assisting with planning for instrumentation testing and evaluation, and participating in technical interchange between OSU, NMT, and the community.  By the end of FY20, they hope to have settled on a preferred electrodes and MT systems for procurements during FY21-23.

PASSCAL Instrument Center Update
Bruce Beaudoin provided an update on the state of affairs at the PIC, beginning with recent staffing changes.  Next up, Bruce covered the most recent quarterly report, which has recently been changed to refer to fiscal year quarters instead of calendar year quarters.  During FY19, PASSCAL supported 60 new experiments and 62 continuing experiments.  FY19 was also a record year for data delivery to the DMC (>11Tb!).  The PASSCAL Polar team is currently supporting several projects, including POLENET3, several Thwaites experiments, and a new Mt. Erebus backbone network composed of 5 summit stations which will begin installation this Austral summer.  The PASSCAL MT lab is spinning up with new staffer David Goldak starting in early October.  Bruce presented updated instrument usage trend plots which showed broadband and short-period usage continuing at somewhat reduced levels compared to prior years.  Nodes are still heavily oversubscribed.  Current wait time for ~100 nodes is sometime in 2021 (nearly 2 years).  Lastly, Bruce commented on some recent hardware issues including: 1. RT-130s are now officially listed as end-of-life by RefTek/Trimble, 2. Continuing GPS week rollover issues, and 3. Poor condition of recently returned PASSCAL equipment.  Anderson and Magnani were tasked with drafting a letter to the community that reinforces best practices for treating PASSCAL equipment (Action Item).

UTEP Seismic Source Facility Update
Galen Kaip provided an update on UTEP SSF activities since the spring 2019 PASC meeting.  Galen traveled to meetings in Dallas and Oxford while Steve traveled to EGU and SEG.  A new A200 P&S source was delivered to the SSF in March 2019.  SSF staff have been involved with WAIS source testing in Antarctica during the 2018-19 season, as well as poulter shot testing at UTEP in September 2019.  Galen is working with UTEP and Schlumberger to get Omni 3D software to plan/model parameters related to 3D seismic surveys.  The PASC was also briefed on and discussed the development of a cost recovery model for the SSF.  Anderson plans to present this funding model to NSF this fall, and it would be similar to the model currently in place for polar experiments where supplemental funding is requested for funded experiments on an as-needed basis.  The Board recently approved a new charge and membership for the Seismic Source Facility Advisory Council (SSFAC) which will be meeting for the first time this fall (Action Item).

Data Services Update
No Data Services update was provided at this meeting because of concurrent meetings with the IRIS Board and the DSSC.

Polar Program Update
Kent updated the committee on the status of the polar budget, which had a 10% cut restored for SAGE-II year 2.  In addition, the polar program has received several supplements in the past year which have provided funding for a number of projects including: Erebus, Polenet, Thwaites, as well as a set of 200 nodes and ancillary equipment for permanent deployment out of McMurdo.  In governance, the PNSC met recently and has decided to change their name to the Polar Science and Technology Committee (PSTC).  The PSTC hopes to encourage better coordination with Arctic Program Officers at NSF and will be hosting their next meeting in DC.  The PSTC is also considering the development of a long-range science plan, followed by a facility plan to carry out the community’s science needs.  The GEOICE project successfully concluded in spring 2019 with the addition of 200 nodes, 55 compact broadbands, and 10 120s posthole broadbands plus associated next-gen DAS to the PASSCAL Polar pool.  Lastly, the GLISN team is in the final stages of submitting a renewal proposal to NSF for another 5 years of funding for that network in Greenland.  They are seeking to install a few new ice stations and upgrade existing stations with posthole sensors and meteorological packages.

External Funding Discussion
Kent led a discussion of recent efforts to secure external funding for the portable and polar programs.  These included: The Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (MsRI) solicitation, the NMT DoD proposal, and the UTEP MRI, none of which were successful.  The MsRI proposal did receive very positive comments and IRIS is hopeful that a future proposal to that fund will be successful.  On the polar side, IRIS has received supplemental funding to purchase 200 nodes for installation at McMurdo Station to support future Antarctic node deployments.  The MT program has recently received an additional year of funding from NASA to expand the footprint of the MT TA in the southwestern US.

IRIS Board Updates
Board members Aster and Schwartz joined for day 2 of the PASC meeting and kicked things off by summarizing their thoughts on the recent NSF announcement to make a single award for the next seismologic/geodetic facility beginning in 2023.  The IRIS and UNAVCO boards met jointly following SAGE/GAGE and have formed a joint committee to explore various options for merging the two entities.  The goal is for a merged organization to start writing a joint proposal by 2021.

Instrumentation Services Update
Bob Woodward joined for day 2 of the PASC meeting and provided a quick update on activities within IRIS Instrumentation Services.  The GSN continues to work on upgrades to site infrastructure with a goal of optimizing station performance.  They are also in the process of deploying the next generation of very broadband sensors.  The Alaska TA is now fully operational with 280 sites in the ground.  New technology of interest to the PASC which has come out of TA activities includes: a portable posthole drill, lithium battery power systems, and Inmarsat BGAN telemetry.  Telemetry to most AK TA stations will end in May 2020 with 88 stations planned to be demobilized during the 2020 field season.  The remaining 45 stations would be removed the following season (2021).  All other stations are planned to be adopted by the AEC, AVO, and various other groups working in Alaska.  The current expectation is that any non-adopted equipment would go back to PASSCAL.  Infrasound and met sensors are also a possibility.  Bob also mentioned an ongoing effort in Central Asia where IRIS has been engaged in an advisory capacity on a DOE-led effort to enhance seismic networks in a number of countries.  Finally, Bob expressed his view that major flagship projects (like EarthScope) enhance the entire field and have been a successful method for recapitalization of the instrument pool at PASSCAL.  He encouraged the committee to consider future efforts now since the window for major new activities will likely close as we approach a new competitive NSF solicitation.

New Instrumentation Discussion
Kent described recent and planned instrument purchases in line with guidance from the PASC to procure small sets of sensors for testing and evaluation.

Other Topics
Instrumentation Working Group
Bob Woodward informed the PASC of the formation of a new instrumentation working group under the PASC and the GSNSC that will look at specifications and evaluation criteria to assist with upcoming instrument procurements.

Other New Projects
Bob also discussed several other instrumentation-related projects, including the SAGE-II Wavefields Initiative, the Rapid Response to Geohazards Initiative, and a Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) RCN that IRIS is collaborating on with UW-Madison.  The latter would involve a community experiment, a workshop, as well as short courses.  Lastly, Bob mentioned ongoing efforts to run a DAS experiment using dark fiber at the South Pole.  Although IRIS tried to get this funded as an infrastructure project for the South Pole station, it would be best to do this as a science proposal and are looking to team up on an EAGER proposal this Winter.

The committee discussed whether or not PASSCAL should continue to offer telemetry options for portable PIs.  The current telemetry option (3G cellular modems) will become obsolete/inoperable at the end of this year.  The current modems cost approximately $30k/year for IRIS to maintain.  Some of these costs are offset when a PI uses the modems for an experiment and are rebilled for their airtime, but this has been minimally used and adds management burden to recover costs.  Bruce noted that only a handful of PIs have opted to pay and use this capability over the past decade, and that there have been no requests for this capability on future experiments.  The committee also discussed low-bandwidth satellite telemetry which has been widely used in more remote environments like Antarctica.  It may be best to have PI’s request and manage their own telemetry infrastructure specific to their application within their award.  PIC can help with interfacing SAGE equipment with their comm devices.

PASSCAL Outbriefings
Justin provided a report describing recent outbriefs with PASSCAL PIs.  The outbriefs include 2 new questions: 1. Inquiring about approaches to sensor installation and noise-reducing steps, and 2. Inquiring about how PIs are quality-controlling their data.  Currently there have been 56 outbriefs completed out of 85 attempted (67% response rate).  Justin is hoping to increase the number of outbriefs conducted each year by emailing PIs to schedule outbrief calls in advance rather than just cold calling.

QAAC Feedback
The PASC discussed a letter they received from the chair of the Quality Assurance Advisory Council (QAAC) requesting access to information gathered from PIs during outbriefs.  The committee was reluctant to share entire outbrief transcripts for fear that it may discourage PIs from participating or from providing fully candid responses.  The committee decided to respond with an offer to continue to provide the QAAC with summary reports/presentations covering outbrief feedback (Action Item).  The committee also discussed whether or not to require PIs to submit reports with their data when archiving it at the DMC.  

Data Acceptance Policy
The PASC discussed a recent issue encountered when trying to archive SEG-Y data at the DMC.  The user received substantial push-back from the DMC and was encouraged to archive in PH5.  Anderson and Magnani intend to bring this up with DS at CoCom.  This was also discussed at the following IS/DS meeting where DS confirmed that they encourage PI’s to submit in PH5, but that it is not mandatory.

Wrap Up
The committee decided to sort out where the spring meeting will be held at a later time and went into executive session.