Kerry Edward Sieh

Harry Fielding Reid Medal | 2013 Recipient

The Seismological Society of America (SSA) presented its highest honor, the Harry Fielding Reid Medal, to Kerry Edward Sieh, Director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, at its  annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska April 30-May 02, 2014.

Throughout his career, geologist Kerry Sieh has developed new ideas and techniques that place him at the forefront of understanding the recurrence of earthquakes and fault behavior. Transforming the field of paleoseismology through his early work on the San Andreas fault to his current work in Asia, he changed how scientists study earthquakes.

Sieh revolutionized the study of earthquakes by spearheading the development of the field of paleoseismology, which is at the forefront of both seismological research and geotechnical practice in seismic hazard assessment.

It was while as an undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside that Sieh excavated his first trenches across the San Jacinto fault. As a doctoral student at Stanford University, he produced his seminal field work on the San Andreas fault at Pallett Creek in southern California, dating a long sequence of past surface ruptures and introducing methods and types of observations that are still in use today in the analysis of paleo-events along strike-slip faults. Sieh’s study at Pallett Creek revealed earthquakes were more frequent than most expected and did not recur as regularly as hoped. This study represented the first time palep-earthquake geology was used to infer detailed long-term fault behavior.

In 2009 Sieh left Caltech, where he was a tenured professor, to establish the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), which is housed at Nanyang Technological University and conducts basic and applied research on natural hazards and climate change in Southeast Asia. EOS focuses on key threats to the region’s stability – earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and climate change – and influences education and public safety by devoting nearly one-fifth of the institute’s budget to education and outreach.

In addition to his more than 100 scientific papers, Sieh is the co-author of a widely used textbook, the Geology of Earthquakes. In addition to SSA, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Geophysical Union, and the Geological Society of America.