Photo: Laguna Colorada, Boliva

Lisa pointing to the magnitude 9.3 paleoseismic record of the 1964 Alaskan earthquake recorded at Girwood Marsh east of Anchorage.  Photo taken during the 2014 Seismological Society of America Annual Meeting Field Trip.

About me

I enjoy working on problems relating to understanding earthquakes and faulting, interactions between tectonics and erosion, tectonic deformation, and site response with the goal of improving our ability to respond to and mitigate seismic hazards.  In my work I integrate a variety of tools including: seismology, geophysics, geographic information systems, global positioning systems, remote sensing, tectonic geomorphology, field surveying, and computational modeling to evaluate and constrain the kinematic history, tectonic evolution, and active deformation of landscapes for earthquake hazard emergency response and building design.

I was inspired to study geology from going on fossil collecting trips in Texas with my family with the Houston Gem and Mineral Society.  My first research project as an undergraduate student in the Department of Environmental Studies at UNC Asheville and focused on using a scanning electron microscope to characterize the chemical composition of ceramic sherds from Shipwreck 31CR314, thought to be the the pirate Blackbeard's flagship, and from an archaeological site in Brunswick Town, North Carolina.  I was inspired to study geologic hazards through a project I worked on with the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center focused on creating three-dimensional models of Biltmore Village to visualize the importance of flood hazard mitigation following flooding in the Blue Bridge Mountains following Hurricanes Frances and Ivan in 2004.

My M.S. research at the University of Maryland focused on evaluating feedbacks between tectonics and erosion in the Himalaya by evaluating correlations between knickzones, lithologic contacts, faults, and landslide features along the Modi Khola in central Nepal.  This project evolved from a collaborative effort to produce the first country-wide high-resolution digital elevation model for the country of Nepal and explored the role of tectonic geomorphology as a tool to assess the potential for active faulting near the Main Central Thrust in the central Nepalese Himalaya of the Annapurnas.


For my Ph.D. research, I focused on work aimed to advance our understanding of intraplate earthquakes that threaten the east coast of the U.S., particularly in the Mid-Atlantic region, through 1) Coulomb stress computational modeling of stress transfer from the 2010 Mw 3.4 Germantown, Maryland, and 2011 Mw 5.8 Mineral, Virginia, earthquakes to Cenozoic fault systems in the Mid-Atlantic region and 2) a statistical evaluation of changes in seismicity rate (including long distance triggering and aftershock decay) in the central and eastern U.S. after the occurrence of August 2011 Virginia earthquake.   

My studies of landscape evolution extend to deformation occurring on the surface of Mercury and the Moon through a morphometric comparison and modeling of contractional tectonic features called wrinkle ridges using imagery and altimetry data from the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft through my work at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Earth and Planetary Studies.


Following the March 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku Japan earthquake and Fukushima accident, I worked at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as a geophysicist performing safety reviews of seismic re-evaluations performed for U.S. nuclear power plants and of applications for new reactors.  The NRC provided me with a valuable background in probabilistic seismic hazard analysis (PSHA) and site response (estimating amplification of earthquake ground motions from soils overlying bedrock).  I then worked for a few years as a geophysicist at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board where my work focused on reviewing seismic hazard for the Department of Energy's nuclear facilities.


I currently work as a geophysicist at the Earthquake Science Center at the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA where my work focuses on reviewing and calibrating strong motion seismic waveform data to support the engineering and seismic hazard community through the USGS National Strong Motion Project.  We provide strong motion earthquake data to the public though the Center for Engineering and Strong Motion Data (CESMD) at


I continue to work on independent research and am currently focused on evaluating the use of the horizontal over vertical spectral ratio (HVSR) method, a single-seismic station approach, to characterize soil velocities needed for modeling site response for new building design in regions with limited data.  We hope to incorporate these data into national seismic hazard maps.  I also recently worked on data from the recent Ridgecrest, CA event and enjoy creating Coulomb stress transfer maps when significant earthquakes occur.   In addition, I continue my interests in planetary tectonics by working on collaborative effort to construct a probabilistic seismic hazard analysis for the Moon (check out our abstract here to learn more).  


In my free time, I enjoy making ceramic pottery, backpacking in the mountains, and rock climbing.


I love interdisciplinary projects, so please contact me to collaborate!


+1 (650) 329-5680

Spring Mountain
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