USGS Career

In September, 2003, a student asked if I would answer some questions, as they had an assignment to interview a scientist.  I agreed and have posted the interview below.

> 1.) What are some duties that your job requires?

At the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) we locate earthquakes quickly after they happen in order to notify emergency responders, the public, and the press, of the size, location, and probably consequences of the earthquake. We also catalog the events so that there is a permanent world-wide record of seismicity. This work involved a lot of computer programs that must work together, and most of my duties revolved around keeping these programs working and in writing new ones.

Other duties included public outreach for the Earthquake Program. I have  developed many hands-on exhibits, some of which are on permanent display at the Denver Federal Center, and some of which I use for talks or  events, such as the recent Denver Gem and Mineral Show.

> 2.) Do you or have you worked in any specific area?

If you mean area of the world, I started my career in Menlo Park, California, in 1971. There I worked on a project that installed a network of seismometers in southern Alaska. We used the seismic data recorded to determine the tectonics of the region, including the distribution of earthquakes and their relationship to active faults.

In 1993 my wife and I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska. I had an office in the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute and helped to merge the USGS seismic network with the U of A network. In 1997 we moved to Golden, Colorado, to work with at NEIC.

> 3.) Have you ever worked for any companies or agencies?

I have not worked for any other agencies or companies.

> 4.) What is the education required?

When I started working in 1971 I had my MS in Geophysics from Columbia, University. I had also completed all of my PhD work, except for a thesis. My thesis was completed and I received a PhD in Geophysics in 1975. For the government, a PhD is not absolutely required, but it is very helpful in terms of gaining the knowledge needed to do research and publish papers. Research and papers are key requirements for promotion as a researcher.

> 5.) Are there any other requirements besides education?

For field work, one must be in reasonably good health.

> 6.) What's your salary? ( You don't have to answer this question )

I think federal government salaries are comparable with those of  college professors.

> 7.) Do you get and benifits/advancements, and how does this affect your pay?

The federal government has a good benefit and retirement package.  These are important components of the compensation that one receives, and they make up for any shortfall in the actual salary.

> 8.) What is exciting about being a seismologist?

I like seismology because it has potential benefit to society. We have learned a lot about where earthquakes occur and how big they may be. This information is used, for example, in setting the design standards for buildings.

I was able to travel to very remote places in southern Alaska via helicopter. Seeing this country close-up is something that I would never have been able to do had I not worked for the USGS.

> 9.) What is not so exciting about being a seismologist?

In any organization there are issues of red tape that can be quite painful. Sometimes rules are made that do not make sense, such as when the congress decided employees were taking too many trips, so made some rules to make travel very difficult. They didn't make an exception for traveling to Alaska to fix our seismic stations. I think the congressmen were thinking of their own type of travel, for example to Paris to attend a meeting.

> 10.) Why did you chose to be a seismologist?

Becoming a seismologist was an accident! I wanted to go to graduate school to continue my Physics studies. A friend told me that Geophysics was also an interesting field. I was accepted to some schools in Physics and to Columbia U. in Geophysics. I chose Geophysics because my first-wife-to-be lived nearby. At Columbia, I was assigned to a Seismology professor, and the rest is history.

> 11.) Have you ever had any great accomplishments in your line of work?

None are that great, but some have given me a lot of satisfaction. One of these was developing an earthquake location computer program for use in Alaska. At the time the available program was designed for California's shallow earthquakes. I had to make quite a few changes so that it would work with the shallow and deep earthquakes of Alaska.

> 12.) Have you ever written any books, articles, or papers about you, or your accomplishments?

I have published papers and abstracts on seismology. They are listed in my USGS Research Scientist Record, which is posted on the web here in html format:  http//jclahr.com/rsr/rsr2002.html, and here in MS Word format: http//jclahr.com/rsr/rsr2002.doc