Lucy Jones

Frank Press Public Service Award | 2018 Recipient

Lucy Jones, founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, who served over three decades with the U.S. Geological Survey, is recognized for her significant and persistent contributions to earthquake safety and her generous work in sharing seismology research with the public

“Lucy Jones has advanced public safety and information about earthquakes and seismology more than any active American seismologist over the past few decades,” said Linda Rowan, the director of external affairs at UNAVCO, in her commendation of Jones. “Although surveys show that many Americans cannot name a living scientist, Lucy Jones is a name that people do recognize and acknowledge for her efforts to advance preparedness, information and policy about earthquakes and seismology.”

Jones may be best known to the public for her work as USGS Science Advisor for Risk Reduction in developing the first American earthquake drill, the Great ShakeOut, in 2008. ShakeOut events are now conducted globally, with more than 52 million participants in sixty countries in 2017. The preparedness drills have changed how the public and decision makers apply seismological research to reduce earthquake risk in their communities, according to Press Award nominators.

Across California, Jones has been called the “earthquake czar” for her work on the California Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council from 2003 to 2015 and on the California Seismic Safety Commission from 2002 to 2009. Her expert advice to the Mayor’s Office in Los Angeles in particular led to legislation to improve earthquake resiliency and preparedness plans and improvements in building codes.

Her ability to deliver messages about earthquakes and disaster resiliency that are “memorable, appropriate and actionable,” the nominators noted, have made Jones a consistent public voice for seismology across many media, through thousands of news interviews, consultations to television and movie projects, and an active Twitter account (@DrLucyJones) with more than 30,000 followers.

After retiring from a 33-year career with the USGS, Jones wrote The Big Ones: How natural disasters have shaped us (and what we can do about them), published by Doubleday. She founded the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society to foster understanding and application of scientific information in creating more resilient communities. The work begun in Los Angeles is continuing with 40 other southern California cities now working with the Jones Center to improve their earthquake resilience.

Jones’ research has focused on short-term earthquake hazards, including work to provide short-term shaking probabilities and understanding the meaning behind the occurrence of foreshocks and aftershocks, and on multi-disciplinary disaster scenarios. Since 1984, she has been a research associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech. She received her B.A. in Chinese Language and Literature from Brown University in 1976 and her Ph.D. in Geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981.