Michael West On Topic with Jim Johnsen
This On Topic episode's guest is Michael West, Alaska’s State Seismologist, a UAF Research Associate Professor, and Director of the Alaska Earthquake Center. West received his PhD at Columbia University in 2001, and has an undergraduate degree in physics from Colorado College. His professional service focuses on advocacy for earthquake and tsunami preparedness, with an emphasis on Alaska and the Arctic.
The Alaska Earthquake Center is charged with detecting and reporting seismic activity in the state of Alaska. As director, West ensures that the center is meeting the needs of Alaska and meeting the needs of the agencies and organizations that rely on its information. The center operates the primary earthquake monitoring network in Alaska. New research is continually providing enhanced techniques for understanding earthquakes and the tectonics that cause them. In the north Pacific, seismology plays an equally critical role in monitoring volcanoes and tsunamis. West uses his role as State Seismologist to serve as a liaison and advocate for the many communities with a stake in earthquake science. This includes research scientists, educators, emergency managers, engineers, students and the public.
“Any time you have an [earthquake] of that size, while it is not welcomed, while it is not something that we want to have happen, it is in some sense an experiment, that is a natural experiment that nature doesn’t run very often for us. So, there’s a tremendous amount to learn.”