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Malcolm J. S. Johnston

The focus of my research has been on the mechanics of failure of active faults and volcanoes.

My research focuses on the physical processes occurring prior to, during, and following earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and their implications in observations of ground displacement, strain, tilt, electric and magnetic fields using data from state-of-the-art borehole instrumentation. These data show the details of aseismic fault failure, preseismic, coseismic and postseismic deformation, earthquake nucleation, volcanic deformation and volcanic processes. Theoretical modeling of these processes suggests testable physical explanations in term of physics of failure, the role of fluids in the crust, strain redistribution, and likely properties of fault zone materials. Very near-field data on slow slip, earthquakes and dynamic rupture were obtained in fault zones at 3.6 km depth in South Africa, a few 10’s of meters from earthquakes from M=-4.5 to M=2.

Professional Experience

  • Research Geophysicist Emeritus - U.S. Geological Survey

  • 1970-1972: Assistant Professor, Dept. Geology and Mineralogy, University of Michigan

  • 1972: Visiting Lecturer (Assist Prof.), Department of Physics, University of Newcastle, England

  • 1991-1996: Consulting Professor, Dept. of Geophysics, Stanford University

  • 1983-Visiting Professor, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

  • 1972-2013: Project Chief/Research Geophysicist U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA

  • 1979–1999: Visiting Scientist, US/China Exchange Program, Continuous Magnetic Field and Geodetic Arrays Along Active Faults in Yunnan and Near Beijing, China

  • 2002: Visiting Scientist, Hawaii Volcano Observatory

Education and Certifications

  • Ph.D. (1970) Geophysics/Physics, University of Queensland, Australia

  • B.Sc(Hons)  (1967) Physics/Geophysics, University of Queensland, Australia

  • B.Sc. (1965) Physics,  University of Queensland, Australia

Affiliations and Memberships*

  • 2001-present: Co-chairman and Executive Committee of International Union of Geology and Geophysics (IUGG) Working Group on Electromagnetic Studies of Earthquakes and Volcanoes (EMSEV)

  • 1996 - Fellow, Japanese Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS), University of Tokyo

Science and Products

*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