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Earthquake and Tsunami Geologist Brian Atwater Receives Shoemaker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Communications

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Research geologist Brian Atwater was recently awarded the 2014 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Shoemaker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Communications, given annually to a USGS scientist who “creates excitement and enthusiasm for science among non-scientists by using effective communication skills.” Here is an excerpt from the March 31, 2015, announcement:

“In more than 20 years of investigating great megathrust earthquakes and tsunamis, Brian has helped keep at-risk communities around the world safer. The key has been his ability to communicate and translate field observations of long-ago tsunamis into a picture of what could happen now that is understandable to lay audiences. [For example, see “The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America.”] As a result, the emergency-response community can meaningfully convey these scientific observations to the general public and develop local response and evacuation plans. His efforts to engage international scientists in his fieldwork reflect his strong personal desire to train others not only in the best scientific methods and techniques of the field but also in how to educate government and media about the goals and implications of the investigations these scientists conduct in their own countries. [For example, see “USGS Scientist Shows Evidence for 300-Year-Old Tsunami to Participants in International Tsunami Training Institute,” Sound Waves, October 2007.] He is recognized in the field as a natural spokesperson in light of his skill at educating audiences through public meetings, radio broadcasts [for example, “Unearthing Proof of a Tsunami in the Northwest”], television documentaries, and magazine and journal articles about the true potential for, and hazards of, megathrust earthquakes and tsunamis.”

Brian Atwater, far right, leads a 2008 field trip to a “ghost forest” along the Copalis River, Washington
Above: Brian Atwater, far right, leads a 2008 field trip to a “ghost forest” along the Copalis River, Washington—a stand of trees that died when their roots were submerged in seawater by subsidence of the ground during a tsunami-generating earthquake in 1700. Jenifer Rhoades, then the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Tsunami Program Coordinator, is at far left in green jacket. Chris Maier, National Warning Coordination Meteorologist with NOAA’s National Weather Service and manager of the TsunamiReady Program, stands at center. The trip was associated with a tsunami workshop near Ocean Shores, Washington. [larger version]

Brian has received many honors, among them the USGS Excellence in Leadership Award, election to the National Academy of Sciences, and inclusion in “The 2005 Time 100,” Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2005. 

The Shoemaker Awards Competition was established in 1997 in memory of Eugene M. Shoemaker to recognize extraordinary examples of communicating and translating complex scientific concepts and discoveries into words and pictures that capture the interest and imagination of the American public. Shoemaker, a USGS astrogeologist considered the founder of the science of lunar and planetary geology, was an effective and prolific communicator, as well as an innovative scientist and researcher. Today, many USGS employees—like Brian Atwater—carry on his enthusiasm, giving voice to all our science programs.

(Read about another effort by USGS scientists to help vulnerable communities prepare for tsunamis in “Getting Out of Harm’s Way—Evacuation from Tsunamis,” this issue.)

Related Sound Waves Stories
Brian Atwater Honored for Receiving USGS Award, Being Elected to National Academy of Sciences
Jan. / Feb. 2008
USGS Scientist Shows Evidence for 300-Year-Old Tsunami to Participants in International Tsunami Training Institute
Oct. 2007
Hurricane and Coastal-Change Expert Abby Sallenger Wins USGS Shoemaker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Communication
Dec. 2007

Related Websites
The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America
Unearthing Proof of a Tsunami in the Northwest
Atwater named to National Academy of Sciences
UW Today
The 2005 Time 100
TsunamiReady Program

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in this issue:

Virus Calculated as Culprit Killing Sea Stars

Scientific Portrait of the Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History

California Seafloor Mapping Program Reaches Milestone

Future Wave and Wind Effects on Pacific Islands

California’s Sea Otter Numbers Holding Steady

New USGS Research Vessel in the Great Lakes

Spotlight on Sandy
Five New USGS Oceanographic Datasets Published Online

Explore Coastal and Seafloor Images along U.S. Coasts

Getting Out of Harm’s Way—Evacuation from Tsunamis

USGS at the 2014 St. Petersburg Science Festival in Florida

Tribal GIS Training in the Northeast U.S.

Undamming Washington’s Elwha River—Public Lecture

Geologist Brian Atwater Receives Communications Award

Frozen Heat—New International Report on Methane Hydrates

Jan. / Feb. Publications

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