Investments in new facilities and human capital are improving measurements of satellite heights and Earth deformations in Crete. Scientists have already discovered important movements in the region as a result.
The Laboratory of Geodesy & Geomatics Engineering (GeoMatLab) at The Technical University of Crete (TUC) in Greece conducts world-class research related to satellite technology, in particular regarding tectonic deformation monitoring and satellite altimetry (altitude measurement). GeoMatLab operates a network of global positioning system (GPS) reference stations in western Crete and on the neighbouring island of Gavdos, among the most seismically active regions in Europe. In addition, the lab has important expertise in calibration and validation (CAL/VAL) of satellite altimeters.
Despite its progress, the remote location of the lab has impeded its ability to attract scientists. In addition, equipment was in need of modernisation and up-scaling. Scientists initiated the EU-funded SOFIA project to enhance facilities and attract qualified personnel.
To date, malfunctioning instruments have been replaced and 11 permanent Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) sites are now operational. Two new satellite receivers have been installed at the TUC, one for a European satellite and one for the Chinese GNSS Beidou. A new instrument for calibrating satellite altimeters was developed and installed in Crete, greatly enhancing research capacity with numerous international organisations expressing interest.
In addition, postdoctoral researchers and other lab personnel have been recruited. Funding enabled GeoMatLab personnel to attend a number of short training events in Italy and the United States. They were also able to participate in summer schools organised by the International Association of Geodesy and the European Space Agency (ESA). Acting as principal investigators on international research projects has enhanced the lab's visibility and a number of strategic international partnerships have emerged as a result.
The SOFIA project also identified a problem with settling of land in eastern Crete due to excessive groundwater pumping for irrigation. Scientists discovered a mathematical relationship between two deformation signals observed at GNSS sites that may be important to earthquake research in the area.
SOFIA funding facilitated an important upgrade in facilities and personnel of the GeoMatLab at the TUC in Greece. Resulting increased participation in European research projects has enabled the lab to form lasting partnerships.