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Last modified: Thursday, January 26, 2012

Director of U.S. Geological Survey to speak on fossil fuel resources, earthquakes

Jan. 26, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, will present two lectures Feb. 6 at Indiana University Bloomington: one on fossil fuel resources, the other on earthquakes and community resiliency. The lectures are free and open to the public.

The first woman to serve as director of the U.S. Geological Survey, McNutt leads the nation's largest water, Earth, biological science and civilian mapping agency, whose mission is to provide the scientific data that enable decision-makers to create sound policies for a changing world.

"Dr. McNutt's visit to IU offers an extraordinary opportunity for our faculty and students," said Michael Hamburger, professor of geophysics in the IU Department of Geological Sciences. "She is not only a highly respected research scholar, but as the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, she is one of the government's leading experts on energy policy, environmental issues and natural hazard mitigation."

McNutt's talks at IU Bloomington, both on Feb. 6, are:

  • The Tudor Commemorative Lecture on "U.S. Energy Outlook: Whatever Happened to 'Peak Oil,'" at 4 p.m. in the IU Fine Arts Auditorium.
  • A lunch-time brown-bag lecture, "Earthquakes Near and Far: A Study in Community Resiliency," at noon in the Patton Room (S201) in the Geological Survey wing of the Geology Building.

McNutt, in her Tudor Lecture, will review the U.S. outlook for fossil fuel resources and the challenges presented by developing these resources. Not long ago, the public heard much concern that the nation and the globe had reached or was about to reach the point of peak oil production and would be on a downward trajectory due to declining resources. Despite growing demand for energy, however, fossil fuel resources have never been higher. But given difficulties in developing the resources, the USGS also supports wind and solar energy development to help reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuel.

The annual Tudor Commemorative Lecture was established by a 2000 gift in honor of Daniel S. Tudor, an IU alumnus and former president of Chevron Geosciences.

McNutt's lunch-time lecture will investigate earthquake losses as a function of community resilience and preparation. Earthquakes of the past few years -- including the devastating Haiti earthquake, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the surprising Mineral, Va., earthquake -- provide a spectrum of events for addressing the topic. Surprisingly, earthquake magnitude is less important in determining the loss of life and property than other factors, such as building codes and public education.

McNutt was chosen to lead the USGS in 2010, becoming the 15th director in its 130-year history. She previously served as president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and as professor of geophysics at MIT.

She has participated in 15 major oceanographic expeditions and published 90 peer-reviewed scientific articles. Her research has ranged from studies of ocean island volcanism in French Polynesia to continental break-up in the Western United States to uplift of the Tibetan Plateau.

McNutt received a bachelor's degree in physics from Colorado College and a doctorate in earth sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She has served as president of the American Geophysical Union and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Her visit to IU is sponsored by the Department of Geological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.