Seismometer Testing Facility Dedicated to Former IRIS PASSCAL Program Manager

Jim Fowler addresses his colleagues after the Seismometer Testing Observatory was named in his honor.
In late March, a state-of-the-art seismometer test facility at the IRIS PASSCAL Instrument Center in Socorro, New Mexico, was dedicated to Jim Fowler, the first Program Manager for IRIS PASSCAL. Attending the ceremony were staff from the PASSCAL Instrument Center at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, members of the PASSCAL Standing Committee, and representatives from IRIS Headquarters and the Data Management Center, the US Geological Survey, Sandia National Laboratories, and several research universities. The event was a surprise for Jim and was planned and executed with cooperation from his wife, Cynthia, who is considered part of IRIS' extended family.

Jim began his career at IRIS in 1985 as Chief Engineer in Washington, DC, and later became the first manager for the PASSCAL program. In the late 1990s, when New Mexico Tech was selected to operate the PASSCAL Instrument Center, the nation's sole lending library for research seismological instrumentation, Jim moved back to his home state of New Mexico. For more than 25 years, Jim led PASSCAL through an amazing period of development and growth. During his tenure, 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 was Jim's ability to engender throughout the program a strong commitment of service to the seismology community and support for principal investigators and their students in carrying out the very best of research programs.

Constructed in 2008 under the meticulous supervision of Shane Ingate, PASSCAL Instrument Center's Instumentation Specialist, the Seismometer Testing Observatory named in Jim's honor is designed to test and calibrate highly sensitive broadband seismometers. At that time, EarthScope's USArray was acquiring thousands of seismometers and ancillary equipment for both the Transportable Array and Flexible Array, and the Array Operations Facility, housed at the PASSCAL Instrument Center, needed a specialized space to efficiently and precisely conduct testing of these instruments. Key features of the vault include two granodiorite "counters" to ensure vibrational coherency between sensors placed on their surface and the use of solar power to minimize electronic noise. Since the facility came on-line, some 1,500 sensors have been tested.

The dedication ceremony concluded with the unveiling of a granite plaque on the exterior of the building. The engraved plaque is made of the same granodiorite as the slabs inside the facility. Jim is officially retired, but regularly contributes his expertise as Special Advisor for Engineering and Instrumentation.

Read the remarks made by David Simpson, IRIS President, in honor of Jim Fowler.

Read the New Mexico Tech press release.

David Simpson (left) presents flowers to Cynthia Fowler (right) as Jim Fowler (center) looks on. The granodiorite plaque on the Jim Fowler Seismometer Testing Observatory building. Several seismometers sit on the granodiorite pier inside the Jim Fowler Seismometer Testing Observatory.