Meet John Dale Dianala, Newton Fund grant awardee.

Research topic: Remote sensing and field investigations of the earthquake cycle

Host institution / UK university: University of Oxford

Home institution: University of the Philippines Diliman

Degree programme: DPhil in Earth Sciences

Describe your PhD research in simple terms.

My research deals with where, how often, and why earthquakes happen. Earthquakes are the result of sudden, large movement on fractures (or faults) in the Earth's crust.  But the movement of faults can actually vary through time, so we analyse how they move before, during, and after earthquakes, and the factors behind their behaviour. To do this, I primarily use observations from satellite imagery tied with evidence from field investigation.

What is the relevance of your study to the economic development, welfare and poverty issues in the Philippines?

My research leads to better knowledge on earthquake occurrence and seismic hazard, which is important for us to improve our measures against the negative socio-economic impacts of earthquakes.  There’s still no way of predicting earthquakes, but we do know that the Philippines has a lot of faults and a history of devastating earthquakes, and we could prevent massive destruction and loss of lives if we understand better how earthquake-generating faults behave.


Also, the Philippines has started to develop modernize its space program (with policy and the launch of the Diwata-1 microsatellite), acknowledging its importance in disaster risk reduction and management, among others. Satellites allow us to acquire data even in remote, often poverty-stricken regions and can become vital for rapid response after earthquakes and other hazards, especially with coordinated efforts between satellite agencies. Exploiting the data from satellites will become a necessary part of tackling development issues in the country.

How do you envision your UK education can contribute to your future career as a researcher?

Studying in Oxford has allowed me to connect with researchers from different parts of the world, all of whom have a keen interest in studying earthquakes and other hazards, and a strong inclination to ensuring impact in the science that we do.  The advancement of science is a global pursuit, and I am very much eager to maintain these relationships to continue collaborations by formalizing links between academic, government, and private institutions, and help open the Filipino science community to the world.  When I continue my academic career in the University of the Philippines, I will actively reinforce students and researchers to gain experience in the UK or elsewhere and encourage foreign collaborators to work in the Philippines, so we can develop a robust and diverse scientific base in the country.

How has the commitment of the UK in science and technology influence your decision in choosing the Newton Fund?

The UK has always been an exemplary destination for advanced scientific endeavours.  Doing research here with the support of the Newton Fund is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to have access to a vast amount of resources and support to pursue the branch of science I am passionate about.  Even just in the first year of my PhD, I have witnessed how links with the UK can help boost the science and technology capacity of the Philippines. When the July 2017 earthquake in Leyte happened, the research consortium I am working with in the UK (COMET) was able to request the European Space Agency to acquire data a day after the earthquake.  This data has become valuable not only for my research, but also for other stakeholders looking into the event since the data is freely available for all to use.