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About: Peter L. Ward

About Dr. Peter L. Ward (3:48 minutes)

I earned a BA from Dartmouth College in Geology in 1965 and a PhD from Columbia University in Geophysics in 1970. My thesis focused on earthquakes, volcanoes, and tectonics in Iceland. I worked 27 years with the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, as a geophysicist, as a Program Manager, and as Chief of the Branch of Seismology, which, under my leadership, became the Branch of Earthquake Mechanics and Prediction. I played a major role in developing and initially leading the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program.

I spent 8 summers studying earthquakes and volcanoes in Katmai National Park, Alaska, and installed instruments on volcanoes in Iceland, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington State, California, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

At the age of 31, I was appointed to lead a group of 40 PhD scientists and 100 other workers in a major effort to monitor earthquakes, with the goal of predicting their time of occurrence. This led to life-long interests in how to manage creativity—an obvious oxymoron—and in the public policy aspects of good science.

I specialized for many years in helping the general public understand the risks they face from natural hazards so that families could take reasonable actions to live more safely. I set a new standard, in 1990, by conceiving, creating, finding funding for, producing, and distributing a 24-page magazine, with versions in English, Chinese, Spanish, and Braille, to 3.3 million families in Northern California explaining future earthquake risk and simple actions that everyone can take to be prepared. This effort was featured on Good Morning America, and I received the Public Affairs Award from the Secretary of the Interior, the highest award of the Association of Government Communicators, and was a Finalist for Federal Employee of the Year Award in 1991.

I feel that my greatest contribution in life was raising four children. We were featured in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and on the Phil Donahue Show as being a very successfully blended family involving my two children from a previous marriage and my wife’s two children, also from a previous marriage. We have six grandchildren.

I have played classical and folk piano all my life. I also enjoy playing accordion, forming and leading a Balkan-Bulgarian folk dance band for several years in the 1970s. I especially love leading group singing of folk songs with my 12-string guitar and have sung at the Jackson Hole Hootenanny nearly 200 times. From an early age, I enjoyed camping, canoeing, hiking, skiing, and especially mountain climbing in both summer and winter. I have rowed my own raft through the Grand Canyon twice. I was able to retire to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in 1998 with my wife, to enjoy Nature, but I have been obsessed since 2006 with trying to understand what really causes global warming.

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