IPR Graduate Research Assistant Recognized for Scholarship
Leah Salditch was honored for her research on natural hazards and risks
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IPR associate Seth Stein, Northwestern PhD student Molly Gallahue, and former IPR graduate research assistant Leah Salditch at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California.
A recent IPR graduate research assistant Leah Salditch (PhD, 2021) received the Natural Hazards Section Award for Graduate Research from the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Of the 78 award recipients AGU recognized, Salditch was one of five students and postdocs selected. She is now a Mendenhall postdoctoral fellow with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado.
According to the AGU, the annual award is presented to promising young scientists for “outstanding contributions to natural hazards research and is judged based on impact or potential impact to the field.”
“Leah is an internationally recognized rising star in earthquake hazard research,” geophysicist and IPR associate Seth Stein said, who has advised Salditch on several projects. “Her work has given us a new approach to modeling when large earthquakes will recur, and a dataset of earthquake shaking in California that gives insight into how well maps used to forecast earthquake hazards describe what actually happens.”
Stein highlights how essential the maps are in preparing for future earthquakes by designing earth-resistant structures, saying “it’s important to neither underprepare—risking public safety—or overprepare—diverting resources that could do more good otherwise.”
Salditch’s thesis, partially supported by IPR, concentrated on improving forecasts of when major earthquakes will occur and how much destructive ground shaking will result. During her time at Northwestern, her research focused on earthquake hazards and statistical seismology. She completed a PhD in earth and planetary sciences and a master’s in applied statistics this June.
“Leah’s ability to apply methods from diverse disciplines continues to grow and impress,” said IPR statistician Bruce Spencer, who advised Salditch. “She not only applies statistical theory in new ways to seismological problems, but she also has conducted interviews to obtain needed historical data on past earthquakes. This award nicely complements her earlier award from the Seismological Society of American for outstanding student paper presentation.”
In 2019, Salditch and fellow Northwestern earth and planetary sciences PhD student Molly Gallahue, traveled to California to collect oral histories from witnesses who experienced the magnitude 6.1 earthquakes of 1992 near Joshua Tree and 1993 near Big Pine, California. The project was sponsored by AGU’s Celebrate 100 grant program, and the residents’ accounts contributed to a database of seismic shaking observations in California going back over 160 years.
"It is a huge honor to receive this award from AGU, one of the largest geoscience organizations in the world,” said Salditch. “I appreciate the recognition for the research that me and my colleagues at IPR have worked so hard on. I hope that our work will have a positive impact on natural hazard mitigation and preparedness, an issue which disproportionately affects low-income and minority neighborhoods.”
Photo credit: photo courtesy of Leah Salditch
Published: October 1, 2021.