IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lectureship

For more than 10 years, the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology and the Seismological Society of America are proud to offer fascinating non-technical presentations on seismology-related topics to general audiences across the US through its IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lectureship Program. Each speaker is an expert in his/her specific research area and is skilled in effectively communicating new and exciting findings to the public. Lectures are typically presented at science museums, universities or similar settings as part of the venues’ established speaker series. Up to two IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lecturers are selected each calendar year (depending on funding) with each scientist presenting 3-6 lectures.

NOTE: In some cases, Department seminars may be scheduled in conjunction with a Public Lecture.

For more information, please contact:

Perle Dorr
IRIS Education and Outreach Program
Phone: 202.682.2220

2016 Distinguished Lecturers View the 2016 flyer

  • Dr. Caroline Beghein

    Assistant Professor
    Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences,
    University of California, Los Angeles,
    Los Angeles, California

    Curriculum Vitae

    Dr. Caroline Beghein has been an assistant professor in seismology at the University of California, Los Angeles since 2008. Her research involves studying the Earth’s deep interior and how it relates to surface plate tectonics using recordings of earthquakes all over the globe. Caroline Beghein received her BSc degree in physics in 1997 from the Université de Liège, Belgium, from which she graduated with high honors, and a MSc degree in solid Earth geophysics from the Institut de Physique du Globe in Paris, France, in 1998. She graduated cum laude from Utrecht University, The Netherlands, in 2003 with a PhD in seismology. Before joining the faculty at UCLA, she spent two years from 2004 to 2005 as a postdoctoral scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and she was a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Earth & Space Exploration at Arizona State University in 2006 and 2007. She was awarded the 2005 Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Young Scientists by the European Geophysical Union and the UCLA Assistant Professor Career Development Award in 2009.

    From Plate Tectonics to Deep Earth Dynamics: A Seismological Journey Inside the Earth

    The motion of the tectonic plates that divide the Earth's surface explains many geological features and events - from mountain building, to deep oceanic trenches, to earthquakes, tsunami generation, and the presence of volcanoes. These motions at the surface are driven by processes deeper inside the Earth, in particular by the overturn of the mantle through convection: hot, lighter rocks rise to the surface and cold, denser material sinks. This process causes solid rocks in the mantle to flow and deform over geological time scales. To understand what happens at the surface, we need to study the deep Earth interior. We cannot, however, directly sample rocks from the mantle. Instead, scientists use recordings of the waves generated by earthquakes to map the physical properties of mantle rocks.

    In this presentation, I will explain how seismologists are able to take the temperature of the Earth’s interior using these seismic recordings and how we can detect the direction of mantle flow with seismic waves. I will also talk about recent advances that help us better understand the relation between the motions of the rigid plates at the surface and the deformation of the underlying convecting mantle.

  • Dr. Justin Rubinstein

    Research Geophysicist
    Induced Seismicity Project,
    U.S. Geological Survey Menlo Park,
    Menlo Park, California

    Curriculum Vitae

    Dr. Justin Rubinstein is a seismologist and Deputy Chief of the Induced Seismicity Project at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Menlo Park, California. His research focuses on the ongoing surge of seismicity in the central United States and its relationship to oil and gas operations. This work includes developing methods to estimate the likelihood of earthquakes induced by oil and gas operations and field studies of seismicity in the Raton Basin (southern Colorado and northern New Mexico) and the Mississippi Lime Play (southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma). Dr. Rubinstein has worked on many topics related to earthquakes including: earthquake forecasting, controls on earthquake ground shaking, and causes of damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake near Los Angeles. Rubinstein received his Bachelor’s Degree from University of California, Los Angeles and his Master’s and Doctorate from Stanford University.

    Yes, Humans Really Are Causing Earthquakes

    The central United States is experiencing an unprecedented surge in earthquakes that began in 2009, rising from an average of 21 magnitude 3 and larger quakes to over 650 in 2014 alone. This increased earthquake activity is found in just a few concentrated regions around the country, with the lion’s share in Oklahoma. In 2014 there were more magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes in Oklahoma than there were in California. The increased earthquake activity is limited to areas of new and emerging oil and gas production and is undoubtedly caused by some of the techniques they use.

    With a focus on oil and gas production and related techniques, I will discuss the many ways that humans can cause earthquakes. In the case of fluid injection, the primary source of the recent increase in earthquake rate, the fluid pressure increase from injection can be transferred many miles from the injection point. This fluid-pressure increase, in effect, lubricates the faults, making them more prone to slipping in earthquakes.

    Recent research shows that the rate at which injection occurs strongly influences whether earthquakes will be induced. Areas with higher injection rates are more likely to have induced earthquakes. Other parameters, like the total volume injected and the depth of injection, are also believed to affect the likelihood of induced earthquakes. Additionally, local geological conditions are important. Despite similar injection practices, there is very little injection-induced seismicity in North Dakota in stark contrast to Oklahoma.

    Given that these earthquakes are human-caused, there is hope that they can be minimized or even stopped. Slowing or stopping injection, changing injection depths, or trucking fluids to other locations have all been suggested as ways to curb induced seismicity. Regulators in a number of states have taken notice of the increased seismicity and are taking action to reduce the likelihood of damaging temblors. With future research to improve our understanding of fluid-injection induced earthquakes, we may be able to reduce their likelihood, something that is not possible for natural earthquakes. To accomplish this, though, it will require cooperation between all the stakeholders, including academic scientists, regulators, and the oil and gas industry.

2016 Lecture Series Schedule

Date Speaker Topic Venue
January 30, 2016 10:00AM Dr. Caroline Beghein From Plate Tectonics to Deep Earth Dynamics: A Seismological Journey Inside the Earth Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Distinguished Lectureship Archive 2003 - 2015

Year Speaker Topic
2015 Dr. Thorne Lay A Global Surge of Great Earthquakes and What We are Learning From Them
2015 Dr. Doug Wiens Fire and Ice: Volcanoes, Earth Structure, and the Evolution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet
2014 Dr. Meredith Nettles Glacial Earthquakes: Using Seismic and GPS Observations to Map Changes in Glaciers and Ice Sheets Worldwide
2014 Dr. Jean-Paul Ampuero Earth's Cocktail Party: Deciphering the Physics of Earthquakes With Networks of Seismic Arrays
2013 Dr. Lara Wagner Imaging the Ancient Margin: How the Southeastern United States Was Built (And Why You Should Care)
2013 Dr. Gavin Hayes Mitigating Disasters: Earthquake Response in the 21st Century
2012 Dr. Miaki Ishii Dissecting Giant Earthquakes: Things We Didn't Know
2012 Dr. Gregory Beroza The Tortoise and the Hare: Slow vs Fast Earthquakes
2011 Dr. Wayne D. Pennington Preparing for the Future: Scientific and Humanitarian Lessons from the Haiti and Japan earthquakes
2011 Dr. Beatrice Magnani The New Madrid Earthquakes Two Hundred Years Later: What Have We Learned About Earthquakes at the Center of Tectonic Plates?
2010 Dr. Brian Stump Forensic Seismology and Nucler Testing: The Detective Work of Seismologists
2010 Dr. Stephen Malone Predicting Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions: What Can and Can't Now Be Done
2009 Dr. Aaron A. Velasco Can a Large Earthquake in Another Country Cause One in Your Backyard?
2009 Dr. Richard C. Aster Taking Earth's Pulse and Temperature Using Seismology: Roaring Oceans and Singing Icebergs
2008 Dr. Cliff Frohlich Deep Earthquakes and the Secret of Seismology
2008 Dr. Uri ten Brink Peace and Science in the Middle East
2007 Dr. Anne Sheehan Seeing Beneath Mt. Everest: Probing a Breeding Ground of Destructive Earthquakes
2007 Dr. Brian Atwater The Orphan Tsunami of 1700 - A Trans-Pacific Detective Story
2006 Dr. Mary Lou Zoback The 1906 Earthquake - Lessons Learned, Lessons Forgotten, and Future Directions
2006 Dr. Ed Garnero Vibrations From the Deep: Deciphering the Birth and Death of the Earth's Surface
2006 Dr. Seth Stein Giant Earthquakes: Why, Where, When, and What We Can Do
2005 Dr. Michael Wysession Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and a Modern Journey to the Center of the Earth
2005 Dr. Susan Hough The Very Long Reach of Very Large Earthquakes
2004 Dr. David E. James Revealing the Mysteries of the Earth's Deep Interior: Plates, Plumes, and the Birth of Modern Seismology
2004  David Wald Rapid Earthquake Information: Citizen Science and New Tools for Emergency Response
2003 Dr. Roger Bilham Death and Construction: Earthquakes on an Urban Planet
2003 Dr. Walter Mooney The Discovery of the Earth: The Quest to Understand the Interior of our Planet