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21-24. Design and development of an integrated seismic hazard modeling system


Closing Date: November 1, 2022

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.

Please communicate with individual Research Advisor(s) on the right to discuss project ideas and answer specific questions about the Research Opportunity.

How to Apply


For many decades the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazard Program (EHP) has provided trusted and authoritative earthquake information. This has included fundamental research on earthquakes, earthquake monitoring, estimating the hazard and risk from earthquakes in near-real time, and producing probabilistic maps of the long-term hazard posed by future earthquakes. As methods for seismic hazard modeling have grown in complexity and sophistication, the increasing level of effort to maintain and advance these systems is a major obstacle to progress (Field, 2022). This is partly because many components of the EHP earthquake information system have been developed independently by research scientists without the level of software development expertise and the available time for planning necessary to develop an efficient, modular, flexible, transparent, and easily extendable seismic hazard modeling system. Such a system—also referred to as an “enterprise” in Field (2022)—would be an essential catalyst to innovations in fundamental research. Further, to reinforce the trust and authority that the broader earthquake hazards community and the public has placed in the USGS EHP, this system must produce reproducible and replicable results (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019).  

EHP products that contain related and sometimes overlapping methods include the National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM; Petersen et al., 2020), ShakeMap (Wald et al., 2022), Ground Failure (Allstadt et al., 2022), OpenSHA (Field et al., 2003), PAGER (Wald et al., 2010), gmprocess (Hearne et al., 2019), and the Risk Targeted Ground Motion Calculator (Luco et al., 2007). Each of these products represent substantial contributions in terms of scientific computing and earthquake hazard expertise. Some of the challenges to code coordination include variability in (1) the selected programming language, (2) the size and data structure of model inputs and outputs, and (3) the expected run time, resolution, and spatial domain of model results. Thus, integration of the relevant pieces of these products represents a significant challenge.  

Improving these products, which encompasses both code and data, relies on intimate knowledge of these systems, limiting the number of people who can contribute to and benefit from these products. The number of people with the expertise to comfortably work on each product is generally only two or three, which is clearly insufficient for a robust development environment.  

Engagement from the broader scientific community can be achieved by lowering the barriers of entry to interacting with EHP products, and a greater number of developers and users leads to more thorough verification, validation, and valuation (Field, 2022).  

Extensibility of these codes remains a major challenge, which can hopefully be achieved through a hierarchical and modular design. An example of this challenge is the extension of empirical/statistical models to include mechanistic/physical models for a broad range of earthquake hazard models (e.g., rupture forecasts, ground motion, and ground failure). Mechanistic/physical models generally rely on inputs that are not broadly available and so they cannot fully replace empirical/statistical models. These two modeling approaches can be thought of as interchangeable modules that are developed independently. Integrating these modules into a larger framework requires long-term planning, resource management, and coordination with subject-domain experts and the developers of the EHP products.  

This Opportunity seeks a candidate who will pursue solutions to the scientific computing needs described above. This will involve researching multiple creative implementation strategies and careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of alternative approaches for an integrated seismic hazard modeling system. One possible strategy would be to initially tackle a subset of the existing EHP hazard code to assess performance of different approaches. Alternatively, performance assessment could be tackled with a simplified implementation of each of the hazard products. The scope and structure of the integrated seismic hazard modeling system should be carefully considered by applicants in their proposal. The candidates should consider the use of cloud resources in their proposals. The current cloud provider for the USGS is Amazon Web Services. 

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas. 


Allstadt, K.E., Thompson, E.M., Jibson, R.W., Wald, D.J., Hearne, M., Hunter, E.J., Fee, J., Schovanec, H., Slosky, D. and Haynie, K.L., 2022. The US Geological Survey ground failure product: Near-real-time estimates of earthquake-triggered landslides and liquefaction. Earthquake Spectra, 38(1), pp.5-36. 

Field, E.H., 2022. Some Systemic Risks to Progress on Seismic Hazard Assessment. Seismological Society of America, 93(2A), pp.513-516. 

Field, E.H., Jordan, T.H. and Cornell, C.A., 2003. OpenSHA: A developing community-modeling environment for seismic hazard analysis. Seismological Research Letters, 74(4), pp.406-419. 

Hearne, M, Thompson, E.M., Schovanec, H., Rekoske, J., Aagaard, B.T., and Worden, C.B., 2019. USGS automated ground motion processing software. USGS Software Release, doi: 10.5066/ P9ANQXN3. 

Luco, N., Ellingwood, B.R., Hamburger, R.O., Hooper, J.D., Kimball, J.K. and Kircher, C.A., 2007. Risk-targeted versus current seismic design maps for the conterminous United States. Proceedings of the 2007 Structural Engineers Association of California Convention, Lake Tahoe, CA, pp. 163-175. 

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019. Reproducibility and Replicability in Science, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 256, doi: 10.17226/25303. 

Petersen, M.D., Shumway, A.M., Powers, P.M., Mueller, C.S., Moschetti, M.P., Frankel, A.D., Rezaeian, S., McNamara, D.E., Luco, N., Boyd, O.S. Rukstales, K.S., Jaiswal, K.S., Thompson, E.M., Hoover, S.M., Clayton, B.S., Field, E.H., and Zeng, Y., 2020. The 2018 update of the US National Seismic Hazard Model: Overview of model and implications. Earthquake Spectra, 36(1), pp.5-41. 

Wald, D.J., Jaiswal, K., Marano, K.D., Bausch, D. and Hearne, M., 2010. PAGER—Rapid assessment of an earthquakes impact. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2010-3036, 4 pp., revised November 2011. 

Wald, D.J., Worden, C.B., Thompson, E.M. and Hearne, M., 2022. ShakeMap operations, policies, and procedures. Earthquake Spectra, 38(1), pp.756-777. 

Proposed Duty Station(s): Golden, Colorado.  

Areas of PhD: Geophysics, seismology, engineering seismology, geology, computer science, statistics, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered). 

Qualifications:  Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications: Research Geophysicist, Research Engineer, Research Civil Engineer, Research Geologist, Research Statistician, Research Computer Scientist

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.) 

Human Resources Office Contact:  Oluwabukola Alimi, 303-236-9597,

Apply Here