Timothy Ahern

Frank Press Public Service Award | 2021 Recipient

Timothy AhernAhern became the program manager for the IRIS Data Management Center shortly after IRIS was formed and later became director of data services for IRIS, serving in that position for nearly three decades. He ushered in a new collaborative, open-data approach to observational seismology worldwide that has improved hazard assessment and increased public safety in at-risk communities. In their support of his nomination, his colleagues said he was consistently ahead of the curve in terms of understanding the technology necessary for seismic data storage and management.

To encourage global sharing, Ahern organized yearly international workshops on managing data from seismic networks in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The workshops share best practices in data handling and communication, software tutorials and hazards education, among other features, and have been credited with building human capacity in seismology.

Under Ahern’s leadership at IRIS, the Data Management Center moved beyond raw waveforms to producing and distributing products such as ground motion visualization and aftershock animations that have been widely useful to both seismologists and the general public.

“Tim’s vision of freely available high-quality data has impacted every seismologist across the globe,” said Brian Stump, the Albritton Chair of Geological Sciences at Southern Methodist University, who nominated Ahern for the award. “Access to data, quantification of data quality and a range of analysis tools not only supports institutions funding the acquisition of the data but provides professionals and students alike the ability to explore these datasets.”

Ahern received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Whitworth University in 1972, and his master’s degree in geophysics in 1975 and Ph.D. in geophysics in 1980 from the University of British Columbia. Ahern worked in the seismic exploration industry for seven years before joining IRIS. He retired from IRIS after 30 years of service in 2019.