Ray Wells

Ray is a Research Geologist Emeritus at the Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center in Portland, OR. He received his BS degree from Penn State, an MS from the University of Oregon, and PhD, all in Geology, from the University of California. Presently, his research focuses on the relationship between forearc structure and the seismogenic behavior of the Cascadia megathrust.


Dr. Wells has been a research geologist with the USGS for 40 years, where he used field geology, paleomagnetism, and GPS to understand the tectonic evolution and seismic hazards of active continental margins. He has studied subduction zones around the world to better understand the controls on great megathrust earthquakes and has applied that understanding to the Cascadia convergent margin. Ray is particularly interested in how the oblique component of convergence is partitioned into permanent deformation of the forearc, producing faults, earthquakes, and tectonic rotation of the upper plate.

Dr. Wells is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the Department of the Interior and the 2017 recipient of the Geological Society of America’s Geologic Mapping Award in honor of Florence Bascom. Recently retired, Ray is a Research Geologist Emeritus stationed at the USGS Oregon Water Science Center in Portland, Oregon and is a Research Associate with the Geology Department at Portland State University.

Professional Experience:

  • 1971 Geological Field Assistant, Johns-Mannville Ltd, Stillwater Complex
  • 1972-1974 Teaching Assistant, University of Oregon
  • 1974 Geological Field Assistant, Mobil Oil Corp., Tyee Basin
  • 1975-1976 Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey
  • 1976-1977 Teaching Assistant, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • 1978-1980 Research Assistant, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • 1980 Geologist, Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources
  • 1981-2016 Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey
  • 1991-1996 Cascadia Regional Coordinator - USGS Deep Continental Surveys
  • 1995-2013 Project Chief, Pacific Northwest Urban Corridor Geologic Mapping, USGS, Menlo Park, California
  • 2016- Research Geologist Emeritus, U.S. Geological Survey
  • 2017 - Research Associate, Portland State University, Portland, OR


  • B.S., Geology, Art, Pennsylvania State University, 1972
  • M.S., Geology, University of Oregon, 1975
  • Ph.D., Geology, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1982


  • 1977 - Current, American Geophysical Union
  • 1974 - Current, Geological Society of America
  • 1990 - Current, Seismological Society of America

Non-USGS Partners:

  • Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries