Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Carolyn Driedger

Addressing volcano hazards effectively entails more than doing good science. It requires ongoing and long-term conversations with communities at risk. Much of my job has involved the development and maintenance of inter-agency partnerships that are comprised of scientists, emergency officials, news media, educators, and park staffs in WA and OR.

My science career began in 1978 at the USGS—Project Office Glaciology research group in Tacoma, WA, where my first task was to oversee photogrammetry for the remapping of long-term study glaciers, as designated during the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958).  During the early 1980s, I participated in a multi-faceted study of drastic recession at Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, and its hydrologic environment.  By the mid-1980s, rapid thinning had commenced at some Cascade Range glaciers, and for most of a decade thereafter, I co-led a study of glacier-related floods and debris flows that ravaged regions of rapid glacier recession, principally at Mount Rainier.  The May 18, 1980 catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens killed 57 people and caused more than $1 Billion in damages. Involvement in that eruption response inspired projects that assessed impacts of volcanic ash on snowmelt, and the potentially hazardous hydrologic contributions of glaciers.  However, the most far-reaching impact of the eruption on me came from being present to observe and reflect upon the necessary roles of researchers as scientific investigators, and as effective communicators and advisors to public officials.  This realization was a career changer.  In 1995, then domiciled at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, I made a switch from scientific projects to establishing the Cascades ‘Living with a Volcano in your Backyard Outreach Program.’  Emergency managers were creating inter-agency Volcano Hazard Working Groups in volcanic areas of Washington and Oregon.  Since the mid-1990s and continuing to today, these working groups prepare and exercise emergency coordination plans and address issues of pertinence to policy makers, planners and infrastructure specialists.  My role has been aiding the working groups and creating venues for educating communications professionals who can disseminate hazard information efficiently through their professional communication pathways.  These groups include educators, park interpreters, public information officers, and the news media. Between 2013 and 2020 a new career dimension opened with co-developing a ‘binational exchange program’, whereby groups of public officials learn about volcanically devastated or at-risk regions of Colombia and the USA through interactions with visiting professional counterparts.  Some earlier career experiences have informed my career, including several years of teaching in a US public school and a private school in Kathmandu, Nepal, and working as an Interpreter at two National Park facilities.  These experiences helped me to understand elements of effective science communication that are common to multiple professions.  Now in status as a Scientist Emerita, I am completing writing projects that provide documentation about ongoing interagency efforts and pathways forward on behalf of volcano hazard mitigation in the Cascade Range.   

*Disclaimer: Listing outside positions with professional scientific organizations on this Staff Profile are for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of those professional scientific organizations or their activities by the USGS, Department of the Interior, or U.S. Government