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Eric Geist

Eric Geist is a research geophysicist with the USGS in Moffett Field, California, where he has worked for over three decades. Throughout his career, he has focused on computer modeling of geophysical phenomena, including large-scale deformation of the earth in response to tectonic forces and the physics of tsunami generation.

For over a decade now, Eric's research has focused on improving our ability to forecast tsunamis and their sources. Eric has authored over 120 journal articles and abstracts, including an article in Scientific American on the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and several review papers on tsunamis.

Research Statement

Natural hazards are the product of complex physical systems. Eric’s research currently focuses on the new field of earthquake combinatorics. This research examines combinations and arrangements of earthquakes on faults to explain a variety of geophysical and geological datasets. Tackling the size of combinatorial problems for fault-scale systems has only recently been made possible through advances in applied mathematics and computer science over the last decade. With newly developed computer algorithms, earthquake combinatorics provides an avenue to investigate earthquake hazards for both offshore and onshore faults.

Eric also investigates the interplay between nonlinear dynamics and a probabilistic description of geophysical processes, particularly as applied to natural hazards and their sources. Recent developments in statistical physics provide many avenues for understanding natural hazards, including how source sizes and outcomes are distributed and how individual natural hazard events occur through time. In addition, stochastic models provide a way to quantify uncertainty associated with source processes as applied to hazard assessments. A natural product of this research is development of new probabilistic methods to forecast natural hazards.

Eric has also examined nonlinear processes associated with long-term and large-scale deformation of the Earth’s lithosphere. Specific projects have included understanding the seismotectonics of island arcs and determining the state of stress and slip rates along major plate-boundary fault systems.

Research Management

2012 – 2017: Co-Leader of Marine Geohazards Project, USGS

2005 – 2012: Co-Leader of Caribbean Tsunami Hazards Project, USGS

2004 – 2007: Co-Leader of FEMA Probabilistic Tsunami Pilot Study: Seaside, Oregon

1998 – 2004: Leader of Modeling and Probabilistic Analysis of Coastal Change Hazards Project, USGS

1989 – 1994: Leader of Geodynamic Modeling of Island Arcs Project, USGS

Professional Experience

  • 1992 – Present: Research Geophysicist, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA

  • 1986 – 1991:  Operational Geophysicist, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA

  • 1985 – 1986:  Physical Science Technician, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA

Education and Certifications

  • 1985 - M.Sc. in Geophysics, Stanford University

  • 1983 – B.Sc. in Geophysical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Honors and Awards

  • 2002, 2011, 2018: American Geophysical Union, Editor’s Citation for Excellence in Refereeing

  • 2005: USGS Western Region, Communicator of the Year Award (co-honoree)

  • 1994: Department of the Interior Superior Service Award

  • 1994: Fellow, Geological Society of America

Science and Products