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National Science Foundation
Special Report - Tawa hallae
Eric Calais, Geophysicist, Purdue University
Reginald DesRoches, Structural Engineer, Georgia Institute of Technology
Liesel Ritchie, Social Scientist, Natural Hazards Center, U. of Colorado
Dennis Wenger, Social Scientist, National Science Foundation



Eric CalaisEric Calais
Professor of Geophysics,
Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
Purdue University
(765) 496-2915

Eric Calais is professor of geophysics at Purdue University in Indiana.  He studied Earth Sciences in France at the ´Ecole Normale Sup´erieure in Paris, at the University of Paris 6, and at the University of Bretagne Occidentale in Brest.  He received a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from the University of Nice, France, in 1991, and was a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, from 1992 to 1995.  Calais was nominated to be university faculty scholar at Purdue University in 2005, and received the Jacob-Fallot-J´er´emine award from the French Academy of Sciences in 2008.

Calais’ research interests concern the geodynamics of tectonic processes at plate boundaries and in plate interiors.  His main tools are global positioning system (GPS) geodesy and deformation modeling.  He has led a number of GPS field experiments worldwide—Central and Southeastern, Caribbean, Western Europe, Eastern Africa—to study active deformation processes at spatial and temporal scales ranging from individual earthquakes or volcanic events to the motion of tectonic plates.  He also uses GPS as an atmospheric remote sensing tool for tropospheric water vapor and ionospheric perturbations.  He has coauthored 95 publications in top-tier, peer-reviewed journals; has given over 50 invited lectures and seminars; and contributed to more than 150 presentations at national and international meetings.  His research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  He teaches geodesy and geophysics at the undergraduate and graduate level and has supervised 19 graduate students.

Calais was appointed chief editor for Geophysical Research Letters in 2009, after serving as editor from 2004 to 2008.  He currently chairs the scientific council of the European Institute for Marine Studies at the University of Brest in France.  Calais’ service includes chairing the UNAVCO board of directors from 2005 to 2007.  Calais has been active within several working groups of the International Association of Geodesy and has served as EGU division officer in geodesy.  He has been serving on a number of national and international committees in geodesy and/or active tectonics and on review panels for NSF, USGS and NASA.  He has been convener, organizer or program committee member for more than 25 international scientific meetings, and has served as expert-consultant for the World Bank, the International Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the European Union.  Calais is currently co-chair of the United Nations Haiti Earthquake Risk Reduction Task Force.


Reginald DesRochesReginald DesRoches
Associate Chair and Professor
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
(404) 385-0826

Reginald DesRoches is a leading expert in the area of natural hazard mitigation, with a focus on earthquakes in the central and southeastern United States, and the performance of coastal infrastructure during hurricanes.  His primary research interests are structural design and analysis, the design of bridges and buildings for extreme loads, and applications of smart materials in earthquake engineering.  He is an associate editor for ASCE’s Journal of Structural Engineering and Earthquake Spectra.  He is chair of the ASCE Seismic Effects Committee, serves on the executive committee of the Technical Council on Lifeline Earthquake Engineering (TCLEE), as well as on the board of directors for the Earthquake Engineering Research InstituteHe is a member of the National Research Council committee charged with reviewing the Corps of Engineers’ plans for protecting coastal Louisiana.  He led the first team deployed by the United Nations to conduct physical damage assessments of critical buildings in an effort to determine the safety of the remaining structures in and around Port-au-Prince following the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti.  He also led a reconnaissance effort in Haiti, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  
DesRoches earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering, an M.S. in civil engineering, and a Ph.D. in structural engineering, all from the University of California, Berkeley.  He has enjoyed a distinguished career, receiving numerous awards including the NSF Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2002.  In 2007, he was a recipient of the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize and the Georgia Tech ANAK Award, considered the highest honor the undergraduate student body can bestow on a Georgia Tech faculty member.  In 2009, he was named to the National Academies’ Disasters Roundtable and served as co-chair for the first National Academy of Engineering (NAE) China-America Frontiers of Engineering program.  Most recently, DesRoches was named the 2010 Georgia Tech Outstanding Doctoral Research Adviser and his research program ranks within the top 5 percent of U.S. structural engineering research programs in terms of number and quality of doctoral students. 


Liesel Ashley RitcheLiesel Ashley Ritchie, Ph.D.
Assistant Director for Research
Natural Hazards Center
Institute of Behavioral Science
University of Colorado at Boulder
(303) 492-4181

Liesel A. Ritchie is assistant director for research at the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Liesel has served as either principal investigator or senior researcher on more than 50 projects since 1996.  Since 2001, her focus has been on the social impacts of disasters.  Ritchie’s dissertation on the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was the first study to examine the relationship between technological disasters and social capital.  Her current research involves the role of community capitals in disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

Ritchie most recently spent time in Haiti following the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake and is developing research to study long-term, post-disaster housing and recovery there.  She also directs two National Science Foundation projects—one on the social impacts of the high-stakes litigation resolution associated with the Exxon Valdez oil spill and another on enhancing targeted research in the Advanced Technological Education Program. 

Ritchie has also been recently involved in a number of other projects, including the Bay Area Disaster Preparedness Initiative-funded study to examine disaster preparedness among community-based organizations in San Francisco, and an NSF study of tsunami awareness and preparedness in coastal states.  She was part of a research team examining social impacts of Hurricane Katrina and in 2005, spearheaded efforts to establish an American Evaluation Association topical interest group on disaster and emergency management evaluation.  She is now program co-chair of that group.  Ritchie is the co-editor of a forthcoming issue of New Directions for Evaluation entitled “Enhancing Disaster and Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Through Evaluation.”


Dennis WengerDennis Wenger
Program Director, Infrastructure Management and Hazard Response
Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation Division
National Science Foundation
(703) 292- 8606

Dennis Wenger is the program director for Infrastructure Systems Management and Extreme Events at the National Science Foundation (NSF).  He is also the acting program director for the Civil Infrastructure Systems program.  He had previously been at NSF from 2001-2005.  Wenger was a professor at Texas A&M University from 1989-2007.  At Texas A&M, he was a professor of urban and regional science and an adjunct professor of sociology.  He was also the founding director and senior scholar of the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center.  Prior to his arrival at Texas A&M in 1989, Wenger was on the faculty of the University of Delaware where he served as co-director of the Disaster Research Center from 1984-1989.

Wenger has been engaged in research on hazards and disasters for over 40 years.  His research has focused on the social and multidisciplinary aspects of natural, technological and human-induced disasters.  Specifically, he has studied such topics as local emergency management capabilities and response, police and fire planning and response to disasters, search and rescue and the delivery of emergency medical services, mass media coverage of disasters, warning systems and public response, factors related to local community recovery success, and disaster beliefs and emergency planning.  He undertook the only empirical study of the evacuation of the World Trade Center towers after the first terrorist attack in 1993, and served as the principal investigator for the first project to “enable the future generation of hazard researchers.”  He is the author of numerous books, research monographs, articles and papers.

Wenger currently serves as one of nine members of the United Nations Scientific and Technical Committee to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.  At NSF, Wenger serves as the foundation’s representative to the Roundtable on Disasters of the National Academy of Sciences.  He also represents NSF on the Subcommittee on Disasters (SDR), which is associated with the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Wenger serves as the vice-chair for science of the SDR.    

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Louis Obenson of Haiti's Civil Protection Agency installs GPS equipment in Port-au-Prince.
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The seismic and tectonic context of Earth's Caribbean tectonic plate is shown in this map.
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This building in downtown Jacmel, Haiti, was once three levels, but during the earthquake it flattened into one.
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