Science, Preparation, And Resilience: What We Can Learn From The Haitian Earthquake Of 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010


SVC 200

10:30AM – 12:00PM


Rayburn 2325
2:00PM – 3:30PM

The tragic 12 January earthquake in Haiti has had repercussions worldwide and left many people with questions. Why was the destruction in Haiti so much worse than that caused by the even stronger 27 February Chilean earthquake? How can we ensure Haiti is rebuilt to minimize future damages? What can we do to prepare for earthquakes in the United States? Our speakers have been on the ground in Haiti and want to share their experiences and discuss the science behind the earthquakes and reconstruction.


The briefing will cover the background of earthquake research and prediction in Haiti and the Caribbean, potential future seismic activity, risk mitigation, and the prospect of early warning systems. We will also discuss rebuilding earthquake-resistant structures, building codes, and how they contribute to lives lost or saved.


Eric Calais, Professor of Geophysics, Purdue University
Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold (PDF)

Reginald DesRoches, Professor and Associate Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
The 2010 Haiti Earthquake: Structural Vulnerabilities, Challenges and Opportunities for a Resilient, Sustainable Haiti (PDF)

Elizabeth A. Hausler, Founder and CEO, Build Change
Rebuilding Haiti (PDF)

Brian Tucker, President and Founder, GeoHazards International
The Haitian Earthquake of 2010: Lessons and Policy Recommendations for Haiti and Beyond (PDF)

Speaker Biographies

Eric Calais is Professor of Geophysics at Purdue University (Indiana, USA). He studied Earth Sciences in France at the ´Ecole Normale Sup´erieure (Paris), at the University of Paris 6, and at the University of Bretagne Occidentale (Brest). He received a PhD in Earth Sciences from the University of Nice, France, in 1991 and was a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (U.C. San Diego) from 1992 to 1995. Prof. Calais was nominated University Faculty Scholar at Purdue University in 2005, and received the Jacob-Fallot-J´er´emine award from the French Academy of Sciences in 2008. 

Prof. Calais’ research interests concern the geodynamics of tectonic processes at plate boundaries and in plate interiors. His main tools are Global Positioning System (GPS) geodesy and deformation modeling. He has led a number of GPS field experiments worldwide (Central and Southeastern, Caribbean, Western Europe, Eastern Africa) to study active deformation processes at spatial and temporal scales ranging from individual earthquakes or volcanic events to the motion of tectonic plates. He also uses GPS as an atmospheric remote sensing tool for tropospheric water vapor and ionospheric perturbations. He has co-authored 95 publications in top-tier peer-reviewed journals (h-index 24, 1700 citations), has given over 50 invited lectures and seminars, and contributed to more than 150 presentations at national and international meetings. His research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He teaches geodesy and geophysics at the undergraduate and graduate level and has supervised 19 graduate students.

Prof. Calais was appointed Chief Editor for Geophysical Research Letters1 in 2009, after serving as Editor from 2004 to 2008. He currently chairs the Scientific Council of the European Institute for Marine Studies2 (Univ. of Brest, France). Prof. Calais’ service includes chairing the UNAVCO3 Board of Directors from 2005 to 2007. Prof. Calais has been active within several working groups of the International Association of Geodesy and has served as EGU Division Officer in Geodesy. He has been serving on a number of national and international committees in geodesy and/or active tectonics and on review panels for NSF, USGS, and NASA. He has been convener, organizer, or program committee member for more than 25 international scientific meetings. He served as expert-consultant for the World Bank, the International Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the European Union. Prof. Calais is currently co-chair of the United Nations Haiti Earthquake Risk Reduction Task Force.

Reginald DesRoches is Associate Professor and Associate Chair School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. His research, service, and professional interests center on development of mitigation strategies to reduce the risks from earthquakes, particularly, earthquakes in the central and southeastern United States. His specific research interests include seismic resistant design and retrofit of bridges, protective systems for buildings and bridges, performance of transportation networks, and structural applications of smart materials. He is currently the deputy director of the NEESR-Grand Challenge Project, “Seismic Risk Mitigation for Port Systems”. He is the Chair of the ASCE Seismic Effects Commitee, and is on the Executive Committee for the ASCE Technical Council for LIfeline Earthquake Engineering. Professor DesRoches has been on the Board for Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment for the National Academy of Engineering since 2002, and currently serves on the NRC panel reviewing the plans for protecting coastal Louisiana.. Professor DesRoches was a 2001 National Science Foundation “CAREER” award recipient, and was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2002. He is a two-time invitee to the National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Program (2002 & 2004). He is a recipient of the 2007 Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, and the Georgia Tech ANAK Award (2007). The ANAK award is considered the highest honor the undergraduate student body can bestow on a Georgia Tech faculty.

Elizabeth A. Hausler is Founder and CEO of Build Change. The major driving force for Dr. Hausler is the repeated, avoidable loss of life during earthquakes in developing countries. Elizabeth is compelled by the failure of current approaches to permanently change construction practices, and motivated by the lack of opportunities for poor people to make money - if they had enough money, they could build a house that is earthquake resistant, as shown clearly by the low number of fatalities in recent earthquakes in the developed world. But we can’t afford to wait for economic development – people are dying today.

Dr. Hausler has an M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.S. in environmental science from the University of Colorado, and a B.S. in general engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a 2004 Echoing Green Fellow and a 2006 Draper Richards Fellow and was a Fulbright Scholar to India in 2002-2003. She is a skilled brick, block and stone mason and has lectured on sustainable, disaster-resistant construction in eight countries. She served on the 2002-2003 National Research Council committee to develop a long-term research agenda for earthquake engineering, which successfully put the earthquake engineering issues that plague developing countries on the agenda. Before graduate school, she spent five years in the engineering consulting industry, working for Peterson Consulting LP in Chicago, IL and Dames & Moore in Denver, CO. On 10 March 2006, Elizabeth was featured by the US-based evening news program abcNEWS World News Tonight as Person of the Week for her work rebuilding houses in Aceh, Indonesia.

Brian Tucker is President and Founder of GeoHazards International. His work focuses on preventing avoidable earthquake disasters in the world's poorest countries by using affordable civil engineering practices. Since its founding in 1991, GHI has improved earthquake safety in more than twenty countries. Brian holds a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, an M.A. in Public Policy from The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a B.A. in Physics from Pomona College. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Seismological Society of America. In 2000, Brian was honored for his service to the people of Nepal by the King of Nepal, and, in 2002, was named a MacArthur Fellow. In 2007, he received the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation's George Brown Award for International Science and Technology Cooperation and was elected a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. He was recently named one of UC San Diego's 100 Influential Alumni.


Co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists, American Geological Institute, American Society of Civil Engineers, Claire B. Rubin and Associates, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Geological Society of America, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, International Code Council, Multihazard Mitigation Council, National Fire Protection Association, National Institute of Building Sciences, Seismologic Society of America, and the Western States Seismic Policy Council

In cooperation with the Congressional Hazards Caucus:

Senators Mary Landrieu, Lisa Murkowski, and Ben Nelson, and
Representatives Dennis Moore, Jo Bonner, and Zoe Lofgren, Co–Chairs of the Caucus