Changes in IRIS Management

Over the past year, the IRIS Board of Directors and management have put considerable effort into determining how IRIS should be organized and managed as we move forward so that we can effectively respond to some exciting challenges and opportunities over the next few years. NSF has asked IRIS to develop a plan to merge the management of USArray and the core IRIS programs under one Cooperative Agreement starting in 2013. To prepare for this transition, changes are being made in IRIS' management structure to help ensure that the core programs and USArray have flexibility and vitality and are well integrated to ensure their future success. These changes are being made to improve IRIS services by encouraging more interaction between the current programs and opening up some new initiatives, especially in instrumentation, enhanced data services, international engagement and polar programs.

The key activities of IRIS are being integrated under "Instrumentation Services", "Data Services" and "Education and Public Outreach". The IRIS governance structure, consisting of the Board of Directors and Standing Committees for each of the core programs, will remain the same, with the Standing Committees continuing to provide community input directly to the Board. The enhanced management structure will enable better coordination in technical development and management within Instrumentation Services (involving GSN, PASSCAL and the instrumentation components of USArray) including activities related to sensor development, field practices, communication systems and the exploration of new technologies. Links between Instrumentation Services and Data Services (through the existing Data Management System) will improve cross-programmatic interactions on key issues such as quality control, user services, and software and product development. Education and Public Outreach will take on an enhanced role in bringing the activities of IRIS and the seismology community to the public as well as continuing the traditional E&O activities in formal and informal education. The recently established International Development Seismology Committee will continue to explore ways in which the resources of IRIS and the academic community can contribute to geophysical capacity development, often for earthquake hazard mitigation in earthquake prone areas, through enhancements to resources for observational seismology.

In concert with these changes in management structure, there are some important changes in IRIS senior personnel as well:

  • After 25 years with IRIS, Jim Fowler is stepping down as PASSCAL Program Manager. Jim was initially hired as IRIS Chief Engineer in 1984 and was the founding manager for the PASSCAL program. He has led PASSCAL through an amazing period of development and growth during which new instrumentation was developed, hundreds of broadband instruments and thousands of active source instruments were acquired, more than 800 experiments were supported (producing almost 2 million station-days of data) and a broad suite of support and training services for the academic community was established. A key factor in the success of PASSCAL has been Jim's ability to engender throughout the program a strong commitment of service to the seismology community and support for PIs and their students in carrying out the very best of research programs. A national search is nearing completion to appoint a new PASSCAL Program Manager after which we anticipate retaining Jim in various roles to continue support of PASSCAL endeavors over the next few years.
  • Marcos Alvarez left IRIS in February of this year after accepting an exciting new position in New Zealand to lead a group involved with the commercialization of new technologies for exploitation of geothermal resources. Marcos was associated with IRIS for more than 20 years, as Director of Operations at Stanford University's PASSCAL Instrument Center, Director of the IRIS-PASSCAL Instrument Center in Socorro and, since 2004, as Deputy Program Manager of PASSCAL. Marcos is recognized world-wide because of his exceptional support of hundreds of seismological field experiments, through his development of best practice guidelines for instrument installation and his training of scores of principal investigators and students. Under the new management structure, the support that Marcos provided in recent years for the USArray Flexible Array will be more tightly integrated with the PASSCAL core program though the resources of the PASSCAL Instrument Center.
  • Rhett Butler has transitioned out of his role as Program Manager for the Global Seismographic Network effective July 1. Rhett has been GSN Program Manager since 1986 and was a founding Board member of the IRIS Consortium in 1984. Working closely with the IRIS GSN Standing Committee, he has engaged the national and international scientific communities, the US Geological Survey and the IDA group at the University of California-San Diego in the development, installation, coordination, operations and maintenance of the GSN as it has grown into the current network of 154 state-of-the-art, real-time seismic stations. Under his direction, the GSN has evolved as a primary resource for scientific research, tsunami warning, earthquake hazard response and nuclear treaty monitoring, and as a global standard for free, open data exchange. In recent years, Rhett has worked with US researchers to collaborate with nine international partners in establishing a Greenland Ice Sheet Monitoring Network (GLISN) of 25 real-time seismic stations to monitor ice sheet dynamics associated with global climate change. It is anticipated that Rhett will remain with IRIS through the end of 2010 as a Special Advisor to the IRIS President to help effect a smooth transition of GSN and GLISN activities under the new management structure. Kent Anderson has been appointed Acting GSN Program Manager and will continue in his role as GSN Operations Manager and Polar Coordinator with primary operational responsibilities for GSN and GLISN.
  • Bob Woodward will be assuming new responsibilities as Director of Instrumentation Services. He will continue to play a key role as USArray Director and co-PI on the EarthScope/USArray award, but under the new management structure he will also work with GSN, PASSCAL and USArray to leverage the increasing synergies between these programs and lead a coordinated effort to explore the development and utilization of new sensor, acquisition and communication technologies. Together with Tim Ahern, as Director of Data Services, Bob will help develop improved links between the acquisition and distribution of IRIS data and create new data resources and services to better serve the IRIS community. John Taber, as Director of Education and Public Outreach, will be responsible for working with Bob and Tim to seek ways to leverage all of IRIS' resources to inform the public of the excitement and practical applications of seismology and enhance the visibility of Earth sciences in the classroom.
  • Olga Cabello joined IRIS in September 2009 as Director of International Development Seismology. Working with the International Development Seismology Committee, chaired by Anne Meltzer, and with Ray Willemann, Director of Planning, she has been exploring ways in which IRIS and researchers at our member universities can build on international research programs to expand involvement in the assessment of earthquake hazards and mitigation of risk, especially in developing countries. An important part of this effort has been to better understand the resources and expectations of various government agencies and international funding sources in supporting the linkage between research, training and development programs. The recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have provided clear examples of the great need for more awareness of earthquake hazards and point to important ways in which the academic community can contribute to bridging the gap between research and application.

Over the summer, the Board of Directors and IRIS staff will be completing our proposal to NSF for support of the core programs from July 2011 to October 2013. Many of you have already contributed to the development of this proposal by providing "one-pagers" describing your research results based on the use of IRIS facilities, instruments and resources. We are confident that the changes in management that are being implemented now will further enhance the Consortium's ability to respond to your research needs in the years ahead. We look forward to your continued support and involvement.