Dean Livelybrooks Highlights

Through his research, geophysicist Dean Livelybrooks tries to reveal and interpret the processes occurring within and directly beneath the Earth’s crust. These processes can contribute to earthquakes, tsunamis, and enhancing the electrical conductivity of the Earth. His fieldwork ranges across what Livelybrooks calls the “living geological laboratory” of the Pacific Northwest, also known as Cascadia.  A subduction zone (where one of Earth’s plates crams under another) just off the West Coast puts the area at risk for a major earthquake and tsunami. To learn more about the possibility of these events, Livelybrooks collects data about slow earthquakes that take place over 10-14 day intervals, using detectors on the seafloor and on land, and tide gauges along the coastline. He says, “one of the biggest contributions we could make is to really get a handle on the impacts of the next megathrust event [large earthquake], such that planners could plan appropriately for it, and minimize the damage and loss of life it causes.”
In addition to his research and teaching, Livelybrooks works with faculty and staff from schools, community colleges, and the University of Oregon to encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (collectively known as STEM). He is perhaps best known for his leading role in the Undergraduate Catalytic Outreach & Research Experiences (UCORE) program. For five years, UCORE brought community college students to the University of Oregon for paid 10-week research internships in the Chemistry, Physics, or Geology departments. After completing the program, students returned to their home colleges as STEM ambassadors. The program embodies a key idea in Livelybrooks’ approach to STEM outreach: near-peer mentoring is critical to giving students the personal motivation to pursue STEM careers. This experience, along with leadership of the GK-12 program, led Livelybrooks to help found UO STEM CORE focused on STEM careers.
When asked why students should be interested in joining his own field, Livelybrooks says, “The fun of geophysics is that you have to be creative, and you have to develop a capacity for synthesizing thought,” or in other words, “be able to take information from lots of different areas and put them together to make a plausible working model for what’s going on.”  He says, “You’re not going to be stuck in an office unless you choose to be. You get a chance to go on adventures – to see the world. You could do studies in Tibet, in Antarctica, or wherever. The ongoing challenge, though, is to keep doing science that has real relevance to society.”