March 21, 2006

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Jim Zollweg Biography

I am a geophysicist by training and have specialized in earthquake and volcanic seismology. I have performed field work in the United States and many parts of the world, including the Arctic, North Africa, New Guinea, the Middle East, Central and South America, and, most recently, India. My adventures during these field trips have included being trapped in the crater of Mt. St. Helens just before an eruption, being charged by polar bears, and being in a helicopter that ran out of gas at an altitude of 5000 feet.

I am most interested in using seismology, geology, and satellite remote sensing to identify and map active geologic structures and faults. I have also used seismic activity to identify potential sources of geothermal energy. Because I live in Idaho, I have worked a lot on earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest. I established a network of twenty seismograph stations in eastern Oregon and central and western Idaho to monitor the many small earthquakes that occur within about 150 miles of Boise. Other major research topics I am currently pursuing include understanding how large earthquakes are caused at places where tectonic plates collide (like along the Washington and Oregon coast), and why very large earthquakes like the India earthquake in 2001 occur in the interiors of plates. These studies have practical applications because they allow me to make rough estimates of the earthquake danger in the areas I study. My geothermal studies in Hawaii led directly to the discovery of a geothermal resource that supplied about 1/3 of the island of Hawaii's electricity.

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