Brian Atwater is a research geologist with the US Geological Survey. He began working for the USGS in 1974 in California, and relocated to the Seattle office in 1985.
Brian’s forte is coastal geology: observing and interpreting rocks, sand, and mud to learn about earthquakes and tsunamis. His discoveries and basic research have led to a better understanding of such natural hazards in Washington State, Japan, Chile, Thailand, and the British Virgin Islands.
For the purpose of saving more lives from the threat of tsunamis, Brian has contributed to the writing of fact sheets and public safety booklets which circulate among the people of several countries.
Highlights of his field work include surveying remnant marshes in the San Francisco Bay estuary; mapping the geology of the Sacramento and San Joaquin River deltas; analysis of Pleistocene glacial-lake deposits of the Sanpoil River Valley in northeastern Washington; paddling a canoe through a cedar ghost forest on the Copalis River; finding the remains of a native Pac NW coastal village under a thick layer of mud; and reconnaissance geologic mapping in coastal Indonesia.
Currently Brian serves on a panel of scientists, creating solutions for the water distribution problems of the State of California. Brian is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington.
To use his own words, “I am just a mud geologist, a trans-Pacific detective.” And what are some of the tools of a trans-Pacific-geo-detective?--WWII trench shovels, dendrologists, a shogun’s library, tidal charts, 40 ft antique strip maps, historians, observant pioneers, the ability to read between the lines, Charles Darwin, information analysts, 7 dead trees that talk, math skills, patience, a canoe with a paddle, seismologists, diplomacy for gaining access to private property, international colleagues, a feline geodist, radiocarbon dating, and an understanding of Spanish and Japanese.
Brian is a coauthor of the January 2016 edition of The Orphan Tsunami of 1700— Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, by Brian F. Atwater, Musumi-Rokkaku Satoko, Satake Kenji, Tsuji Yoshinobu, Ueda Kazue, and David K. Yamaguchi.