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Earth Scientists Honored with Distinguished Service Awards


Two UCR Earth Scientists Honored with U.S. Geological Survey’s Distinguished Service Awards

James Dieterich and Douglas Morton recognized for their contributions to earthquake prediction and geologic mapping, respectively

(May 29, 2007)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Two UC Riverside earth scientists — James Dieterich and Douglas Morton — have each received the Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The award, which is the Department of the Interior’s highest honorary recognition, was presented earlier this month to twenty-two individuals by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.

“Whether with a single heroic deed or a lifetime of dedicated work, you have served America with integrity and excellence,” Kempthorne told the award recipients.

The Distinguished Service Award is granted for “an outstanding contribution to science, outstanding skill or ability in the performance of duty, outstanding contribution made during an eminent career in the Department of the Interior, or any other exceptional contribution to the public service.”

Dieterich was recognized for his work on originating the ‘rate and state’ friction model, a major advance in understanding friction that may be critical for the eventual development of earthquake prediction strategies. Morton was recognized for his contribution to the USGS Geologic Mapping Program; the initiation and development of a cooperative geologic mapping program between the federal government and state governments; and the development of regional detailed debris-flow susceptibility maps of Southern California.

“Congratulations to Jim and Doug,” said Mary Droser, chair of the Department of Earth Sciences. “The national recognition they have received is a testament to the high quality research being done by our faculty. To have two recipients in the same department at the same university is not only unique but also a tremendous honor.”

Dieterich, who joined UCR in 2005, is a distinguished professor of geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003 for his contributions to earthquake physics. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, which in 2000 awarded him its Bucher Medal, and a past recipient of the Department of Interior’s Meritorious Service Award and Superior Service Award. Dieterich also received the Star Award from the USGS. The Fourth International Workshop on Statistical Seismology, held last year in Japan, selected as its theme a paper on earthquake studies that Dieterich wrote.

The originator of the rate and state friction law, Dieterich investigates the properties of earthquake faults and does theoretical modeling of earthquakes in geometrically complex fault systems. His interest extends to evaluation of earthquake probabilities. Dieterich also conducts volcano research — mostly at Kilauea volcano, Hawai`i — focusing on the interactions between earthquake faulting and magmatic activity within the volcano.

Morton has served as an adjunct professor in UCR’s Department of Earth Sciences for nearly 30 years. His research focuses on geologic mapping, landslide research, and the origin and history of igneous and metamorphic rocks of Southern California.

He is a past recipient of the Department of Interior’s Meritorious Service Award. In his career, Morton has served as research geologist at USGS. As a former chief of the Branch of Western Environmental Geology, Menlo Park, Calif., he was responsible for regional geologic investigations in the western United States. He also is the former chief of the Office of Regional Geology, Reston, Va.
James Dieterich is a distinguished professor of geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences. Photo credit: J. Dieterich.Enlarge

James Dieterich is a distinguished professor of geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences. Photo credit: J. Dieterich.

Douglas Morton is an adjunct professor in UCR’s Department of Earth Sciences. Photo credit: USGS.Enlarge

Douglas Morton is an adjunct professor in UCR’s Department of Earth Sciences. Photo credit: USGS.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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