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John S. Pallister

Emeritus field geologist and petrologist. Past USGS positions: Chief of the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program,, Program Coordinator Volcano and Landslide Hazards and Geologic Mapping Programs, Research Scientist.   I have scientific expertise in ophiolite geology (based mainly on my Ph.D. study of the Oman Ophiolite), in igneous petrology, and in volcano hazards science.

I joined USGS in 1980 (Field Geology and Geochemistry Branch),  and worked 3 years with the Saudi Arabian USGS mission making a series of geologic quadrangle maps and  studying Precambrian ophiolites, plate tectonics and Red Sea rift magmatism.  I returned to the USGS volcano group in Denver in 1983 and conducted a geologic mapping and research project with Ed du Bray and others on a deeply eroded caldera in SE Arizona, a petrology and geochemistry project on Mount St. Helens with Rick Hoblitt and others,  and a petrology project on Mount Pinatubo, the latter with the USGS & PHIVOLCS team.  In 1996, I started a 7-year tour as a Program Manager with USGS headquarters in Reston, VA, where I led the Geologic Mapping, and then the Volcanic Hazards and Landslide Hazards programs.  Following my Reston tour I moved to the Cascade Volcano Observatory in 2003.  At CVO I worked on the 2004-08 Mount St. Helens eruption and served as the head of the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program.  I retired in 2017, but then came back 6 months later to serve for 2 years as the leader of a new project on the next generation of volcanic hazard assessments.

Professional Experience

  • I have served as an Associate Editor for the Geological Society of America Bulletin, a guest editor and reviewer for special issues of the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research (and other journals) and as an external advisor for several Ph.D. students.  

Education and Certifications

  • 1974, BS Geology - Emory University

  • 1980, Ph.D. Earth Science - University of California at Santa Barbara

Honors and Awards

  • Distinguished Alumnus Award from UCSB Earth Sciences Department, 2006

  • Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Interior, 2014

  • VDAP team - finalists for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, 2016

  • Elected to Academia Europaea, 2019

  • I am most proud of my humanitarian contributions to saving lives and property through the USGS & USAID/OFDA Volcano Disaster Assistance Program.

  • From a science perspective, I am most proud of my role in identifying magma mingling as the trigger for the massive 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines.

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