Dr. James F. Davis named 2014 Ian Campbell Medalist

The Ian Campbell Medal is given in recognition of singular performance in and contribution to the profession of geology. Candidates are measured against the distinguished career of Ian Campbell, whose service to the profession touched virtually every facet of the geosciences. Dr. Campbell was a most uncommon man of remarkable accomplishment and widespread influence. In his career as a geologist, educator, administrator, and public servant, he was noted for his candor and integrity.

Dr. Davis has demonstrated an exemplary career as a professional geologist in public service for 50 years.

Jim commenced his long service career as an Associate Scientist at the New York State Geological Survey in 1963.  Five years later, he was appointed State Geologist of New York, a position he held successfully for the next decade (1968 – 1978).  While in this position, Jim demonstrated the importance of geology and seismology as critical fields in the siting of nuclear power plants and associated waste disposal facilities. 

In 1978, Jim resigned his position in New York to become the 19th California State Geologist, following a tradition that began in 1850 with the first State Geologist, John Boardman Trask.  Jim proved to be the longest serving California State Geologist, with 25 years (1978 – 2003) of creative and honorable service.  Under Jim’s determined leadership, the then California Division of Mines and Geology greatly expanded its scope of programs from the traditional mining and mineral resources, and regional geologic mapping, into the ever widening and complex fields of geological hazards, earthquake engineering and strong motion seismology, and quantitative seismic hazards assessments.  During Jim’s tenure he oversaw the passage and implementation of the Seismic Hazards Mapping Act (1990), which today has mapped liquefaction and landslide hazards covering 119  7½ – Minute Quadrangles (7,400 square miles) affecting over 150 communities.

Jim has been a strong advocate for modern seismic monitoring systems as a tool for locating earthquakes and measuring their size, and for acquiring ground motion data for use by structural engineers to make structures more earthquake resilient.  In 1971 the California Legislature adopted the Strong Motion Instrumentation Program (SMIP) to monitor the effects of earthquake strong motion on structures.  The information gathered by this program directly affects the California Building Code.  Under Jim’s guidance, the SMIP became the largest strong motion state monitoring network in the United States, today with over 1,200 stations and 8,500 instruments in place. 

Somewhere in Jim’s busy schedule, he found time to be the Chair or President of nine geological organizations, including President of the Association of American State Geologists (1985) and President of the American Geological Institute (1987).  He, also, has been awarded five Lifetime Achievement and Distinguished Service awards.

The Campbell Medal holds special significance for AASG, due to the role that Ian Campbell played in AASG, and due to the respect and admiration that the AASG community felt for Ian. AASG therefore was active in its establishment, and remains active in its support.