IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lectureship

For more than 15 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 up to 4 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

2020 Distinguished Lecturers View the 2020 flyer

  • Dr. Sarah Minson

    Research Geophysicist
    U.S. Geological Survey Menlo Park,
    Menlo Park, California

    “Imminent Shaking": What Kind of Earthquake Warning is Possible?

    Curriculum Vitae

    Sarah Minson is a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Science Center. Her research interests include determining the physics of earthquake ruptures, and estimating the slip distribution and predicting the ground motion from earthquakes in real-time for earthquake early warning. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the California Institute of Technology. Prior to her current position, she was a Mendenhall post-doctoral fellow with the US Geological Survey as well as a post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. She is a winner of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) and a Kavli Fellow (National Academy of Sciences and The Kavli Foundation). View Sarah's staff profile here.

    The United States is developing ShakeAlert, an earthquake early warning system that will provide California, Oregon, and Washington with advanced warning of potentially damaging shaking. The hopes for early warning systems are high, but the reality of what can be expected from earthquake early warning is nuanced. Earthquakes don’t happen in an instant and don’t tell us how big they will become. This means that any forecasts that we make will be imperfect, and the amount of warning will be short; in many cases, only a few seconds of warning will be possible. In spite of these limitations, there could still be significant value to earthquake early warning, especially for people who are willing to adopt a “better safe than sorry” strategy of taking protective action for earthquakes that have only a small chance of causing damage. What kind of warning system would you prefer? One that issues alerts for weak shaking, but also sends alerts for many events that do not go on to produce strong shaking? Or an earthquake early warning system that issues alerts only once ground shaking is expected to be damaging, but there is an increased chance that the alerts could be issued too late? During this talk, you will discover how an earthquake early warning system works, how warnings are issued and how much warning is possible.

  • Dr. Ross S. Stein

    CEO and Co-Founder
    Temblor, Inc.,
    Redwood City, California

    How the Gold Rush and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Enabled Us to Divine our Seismic Future

    Curriculum Vitae

    Ross S. Stein is CEO and cofounder of Temblor, Inc., Adjunct Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University, US Geological Survey Scientist Emeritus, Past President of the Tectonophysics section of the American Geophysical Union, and 2018 International Distinguished Lecturer of the Geological Society of America. A Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and Geological Society of America, Stein received the 2012 Gilbert F. White Natural Hazards Award from the American Geophysical Union, and received the 2000 Eugene M. Shoemaker Distinguished Achievement Award of the US Geological Survey. In 2003, the Science Citation Index reported that Stein was the second most cited author in earthquake science during the preceding decade; he was tenth most cited during 1900-2010. Stein frequently brings insights to public media interviews and public talks, and in IMAX and Discovery Channel films. He gave a 2012 TEDx talk, ‘Defeating Earthquakes,’ which has been viewed more than 50,000 times. Stein has given the Francis Birch Lecture, Gilbert White Lecture, a Centennial Plenary Lecture, and the Frontiers of Geophysics Lecture—all keynote presentations during annual Fall Meetings of the American Geophysical Union. Stein co-founded the Global Earthquake Model (GEM Foundation), and chaired its Science Board until 2015. He is a member of the Resilient America Roundtable of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Advisory Council on Catastrophes of Zurich Insurance.

    View Video

    Almost everything we love about the San Francisco Bay area is brought to us by the faults. Absent the San Andreas and Hayward faults, there would be no San Francisco Bay, the only deep protected harbor on the California coast, and so the wellspring of the Gold Rush. The Hayward fault lifts up the Berkeley and Oakland Hills, with their magnificent sunset views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The San Gregorio fault makes Big Sur ‘big.’ A bend in the San Andreas fault thrusts up the Santa Cruz mountains, the spine of the peninsula, and the Marin headlands. These coastal ranges temper the climate, bathe us in fog, and crown us in Redwoods. What I want you to see is that we enjoy the fruits of the faults every day. And so, we must learn to live with their occasional spoils—as befell the San Francisco Bay area in 1868, most famously in 1906, and 1989. You will see that while we can’t predict earthquakes, we know where and why the hazard is high. And we know how to erect buildings that can withstand anything the faults can hurl at them. During this presentation, we’ll move from the discovery of gold to the discovery of what an earthquake is, and how quakes interact, illustrated with four different demos. And, I’ll leave you with the means to assess your own seismic risk, to ensure the safety of your own family.

2020 Lecture Series Schedule

Date Speaker Topic Venue
October 17, 2019 7:30PM Dr. Sarah Minson “Imminent Shaking": What Kind of Earthquake Warning is Possible? Exploratorium
October 17, 2019 8:30PM Dr. Ross S. Stein How the Gold Rush and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Enabled Us to Divine our Seismic Future Exploratorium
January 24, 2020 7:00PM Dr. Sarah Minson “Imminent Shaking": What Kind of Earthquake Warning is Possible? Southwestern Oregon Community College
January 25, 2020 1:00PM Dr. Ross S. Stein How the Gold Rush and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Enabled Us to Divine our Seismic Future Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
March 04, 2020 7:00PM Dr. Sarah Minson “Imminent Shaking": What Kind of Earthquake Warning is Possible? Discovery Museum, Science Distilled
July 21, 2020 7:00PM Dr. Ross S. Stein How the Gold Rush and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Enabled Us to Divine our Seismic Future OMSI Science Pub, McMenamins Kennedy School Theater

Distinguished Lectureship Archive 2003 - 2019

Year Speaker Topic
2019 Dr. Susan Hough What Past Earthquakes Tell Us About Future Earthquake Hazard: Facts & Fake Facts
2019 Dr. Arthur Rodgers Forecasting Ground Shaking from Earthquakes Using Supercomputers
2018 Dr. Katie Keranen Induced Earthquakes: Experimenting Unintentionally
2018 Dr. Frederik Simons Through the Ocean to the Mantle: Under the Seas with a Fleet of Floating Seismic Robots
2017 Dr. John Vidale A Tale of Three Pacific Northwest Temblors: One Big, One Deep and One Direct Hit
2017 Dr. Stephen McNutt Shaking and Baking: Using Seismology to Study Volcanoes
2016 Dr. Justin Rubinstein Yes, Humans Really Are Causing Earthquakes
2016 Dr. Caroline Beghein From Plate Tectonics to Deep Earth Dynamics: A Seismological Journey Inside the Earth
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