Interview with Geophysicist at Pacific Tsunami Warning Center Hawaii

Posted by on Thursday, June 2, 2016

We interviewed Gerard Fryer, PhD who is a Senior Geophysicist at the NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. We asked him about his job and here are his responses.

1. Please state you job title.

2. How long have you worked in this position?
11 years — I was hired in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

3. What are your duties?
Analyse earthquakes to assess tsunami potential, issue warnings if necessary; research in seismology applied to improving the speed and accuracy of warnings; advise emergency managers, the military, power companies, etc., about tsunami hazard; public outreach.

4. Do you interact with the public in your position? And if so in what capacity?
Give talks in schools, museums, and public libraries; host field trips to visit the tsunami warning center; man information booth at emergency preparedness fairs; meet with community associations to explain modifications to evacuation maps; talk to the news media during tsunami events.

5. What would you say is the biggest challenge of your job?
Keeping up with new scientific developments in a rapidly advancing field.

6.What, if any, challenges do working in this location have?
Ignorant superiors: the bane of all scientists.
7. What education requirements did you need for this position?
I have a PhD in geophysics. Most of my duty scientist colleagues have either a PhD in geophysics or in oceanography. 

8. What advice would you give to a school aged child who is interested in this position?
Stay inquisitive and study what interests you. Find a way to make math fun. When you look at anything natural—mountains, clouds, a river, a barren patch of rock—ask yourself “Why is that the way it is?”
9. What is one pro and one con of your job?
Pro: people are deferential; I am respected for my expertise (this is a huge contrast to the way I was treated as a soft-money researcher in academia).
Con: About once a week I have to stand the graveyard shift.

The Team

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