Earth and Planetary Sciences Advisory Council

The EPS Advisory Council (EPS-AC) was formed in 2012, providing a forum for accomplished alumni to help EPS achieve networking and fundraising goals. We recently welcomed new EPS-AC members, who have generously agreed to share their time, energy, and expertise on behalf of our community. Despite the pandemic, the full EPS-AC met (virtually) in August 2020. Your EPS-AC co-chairs continue to be Peter Vrolijk and Stefano Mazzoni - please let them know if you have ideas, questions or suggestions.

We thank members of the current EPS Advisory Council for help in networking and development! Following are brief bios of current EPS-AC members, including backgrounds and interests.

Kevin Biddle, B.S. 1973
I received a BSc degree in Earth Sciences from UCSC in 1973 and then, thanks to a recommendation from Gerry Weber, went to work for the USGS in Menlo Park. I stayed with the Survey for a year and a bit before moving to Rice University in Houston for graduate school. At Rice I acquired a MA degree (1976) working on modern lagoon sediments and a PhD (1979) focused on carbonates in the Dolomite Alps of northern Italy. After Rice, I went to  work for Exxon in their Houston research lab in the Basin Analysis group. I stayed with Exxon (now ExxonMobil) for 36 years working in research, exploration, field development, and as an advisor at corporate headquarters. I finished my career as the Exploration Director of ExxonMobil International in London, retiring in 2014. I currently live in Houston and Taos, New Mexico, and am an adjunct professor at Rice University teaching classes that address risk and uncertainty in the subsurface. I also work with a colleague in Poland on natural-gas supply to eastern Europe.

Jon Erskine, M.S. 1998
I earned my MS in Earth Sciences from UCSC in 1998 working with Andy Fisher applying borehole geophysics and geostatistics to map a coastal aquifer system in the former Fort Ord area of Monterey, California. From there I became a California Professional Geologist and Certified Hydrogeologist in 2001 while working for Geomatrix Consultants of Oakland in the environmental industry. In 2008, I completely shifted gears and entered the mining and construction industry to work for Graniterock of Watsonville, where I have been ever since.
The move enabled me to return to live in the Santa Cruz area and learn a type of geology career that I previously knew nothing about while applying all the tools I have learned along the way. I find the geology of the Monterey Bay area fascinating and I’ve had the opportunity to share by leading field trips for UCSC’s Geology Club and collaborating on San Andreas Fault hydrogeology research with EPS Professor Emily Brodsky and PhD student Lian Xue (2016). I’ve worked with numerous talented Slug geologists over the years and value the knowledge, enthusiasm, and professional camaraderie UCSC EPS has provided.

Richard Gordon, B.A. 1975
I graduated from UCSC (Stevenson College) in 1975 with a BA in geophysics, which was an individual self designed major with Rob Coe, Eli Silver, and Bob Garrison as members of my committee. I then obtained an MS (1977) and PhD (1979) in geophysics from Stanford. After a year of post-Ph.D. teaching and research at Stanford, I joined the faculty of Geological Sciences at Northwestern University for 15 years. I have now been at Rice University for 26 years as the Keck Professor of Geophysics. My research interests are in global tectonics with my main tools being marine geophysics, space geodesy, paleomagnetism, and numerical modeling. Two of my former Ph.D. students have gone on to become fellows of the AGU. I am especially proud of my work with students and colleagues in recognizing and describingdiffuse plate boundaries in the world’s oceans, especially the Indian Ocean, which I believe fundamentally changed our understanding of how plate tectonics works in the oceans. My main nonscience hobby in the past decade has been playing the trumpet---I perform with several bands including the two Rice jazz bands. I am amazed and proud of the achievements of the UCSC EPS department and of my fellow alumni and have been delighted to serve on the Advisory Council.

James R. Hein, Ph.D. 1973
I received a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences at UCSC in 1973, as part of the first Ph.D. graduating class (three of us). I was Gary Griggs' first Ph.D. graduate and also worked with Bob Garrison. I sort of changed venues with Eli Silver as he was with the USGS before becoming a professor at UCSC at the same time that I left UCSC for a position at the USGS after teaching the summer and winter quarters at UCSC post-Ph.D. Eli arranged meetings with David Scholl at USGS that resulted in my being hired. I have worked at the USGS for 45 years before retiring in December 2018, but then I was rehired the following day on a half-time appointment to mentor my replacements, write a few more papers, and see my last two Ph.D. students through completion of their work. During much of my career I studied deepocean mineral deposits, geochemistry, and paleoceanography, but also worked extensively on land-based deposits that were possible analogs to the marine deposits. I was scientific advisor to the DOS on issues related to deep-ocean mineral deposits and I was part of their delegation to the International Seabed Authority, who I also worked with for 18 years teaching workshops and seminars. I am past president of the International Marine Minerals Society (twice), and a Fellow of GSA and the Society of Economic Geologists. I also enjoyed teaching Bob Garrison’s Advanced Sedimentary Petrology class twice at UCSC through the years, when he was on sabbatical.

Shengwen Jin, Postdoc 2000
After obtaining a Ph.D in marine geology with concentration in reflection seismology from Tongji University, Shanghai, China in 1996, I came to UCSC as a postdoc and then was appointed as an assistant researcher in 1999. I moved down to Houston in 2000 and have worked in the oil and gas industry since then. I joined Halliburton Energy Services in 2008 through the acquisition of Screen Imaging Technology, Inc. which I cofounded. Throughout my career in the industry, I have been actively involved in the development of innovative seismic data processing and imaging technologies. Currently I am a Principle Advisor at Halliburton and am responsible for R&D in seismic imaging, modeling and inversion as well as applications of High Performance Computing. I hold several patents and author/co-author many technical publications.

Christy Kennedy, B.S. 2000 and M.S. 2002
Christy completed a B.S. in Earth Sciences at UCSC in 2000, is a Senior Water Resources Engineer & Hydrogeologist with Woodard & Curran, and serves as a Board Member of the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

Charles E. Lawson, B.S. 1973
I graduated with a B.S. from the department in 1973. After a year working for Bechtel, I headed to Princeton
for graduate school (recommendations from Casey and Aaron helped), where I received my Ph.D. in 1982. For a couple decades, I was not very good about keeping connections with the department, but the department (and
the campus generally) still held a special place in my heart. Finally, in 1995, I got my act together and began to give back to the department, and in the years since, I have tried to increase my connections and my support for the department. My professional interests lie in water resources management. Before retiring from the federal government at the end of 2020, I served as Secretary of the U.S. Section of the International Joint Commission (IJC) for 12 and a half years. The IJC assists the United States and Canada in preventing and resolving disputes involving water bodies along the U.S.-Canada border. The two countries established the IJC under their 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty. Before serving with the IJC, I worked on Water and Environmental topics throughout the Middle East during my 21 years as science and technology advisor in the Department of State. Before my stint at State, I conducted research at the USGS and NASA. My personal interests are all over the map (so to speak).

Stefano Mazzoni, B.S. 2000 and M.S. 2002
After receiving my BS (2000) and MS (2002) working with Casey Moore on San Gregorio Fault Zone clay mineralogy, I moved to Houston and worked for four years at ExxonMobil on structural geology research, offshore West Africa, Gulf of Mexico, and offshore California. I joined Oxy in 2006 and worked Middle East projects for a year and half before moving back to California (Bakersfield) where I worked on a variety of projects in the San Joaquin and Ventura Basins. I left Oxy early 2015 when my wife (Chevron geologist) was relocated to the Bay Area. I worked for a small service company called NEOS GeoSolutions on global exploration consulting projects. In the summer of 2017 my wife was relocated to Houston so we came back for our second “tour.” I have been working as a consulting geologist on a variety of projects with Sanchez Oil & Gas (Gulf Coast New Ventures), BHP (offshore Mexico), and some smaller short-term projects. My interests lie in structural geology, deepwater turbidites, California geology, coordinating field trips, and most important of all, being a father to our eightyear-old daughter.

Laura K. Stupi, B.S. 1997 and M.S. 2000
B.S. finished in 1997, MS finished 2000 with Elise Knittle. Professionally, I am interested in materials characterization and the application of scientific instruments to the Earth sciences. I have worked in electron microscopy, engineering geology, and scientific instrumentation. Within instrumentation, I have worked with the environmental, oil and gas, mining, and climate research sectors.

Kathryn Sullivan, B.S. 1973
I graduated with a B.S. from the department in 1973 and moved to Nova Scotia to pursue a PhD at Dalhousie University. My work involved bathymetric and geophysical mapping of the Newfoundland Basin (the area bounded by the Grand Banks and Flemish Cap shelf breaks, the Mid-Ocean Canyon and the Southeast Newfoundland Ridge). I also mapped, named and recovered the first rock samples from the Newfoundland Seamounts. After receiving my PhD in 1978, I joined NASA as a Mission Specialist Astronaut. I flew on three space shuttle missions over the course of my fifteen years with the agency. Two of these were multi-disciplinary Earth science missions (STS-41G in 1984 and STS-45 in 1992), and the third was the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope (STS-31 in 1990). On my 1984 mission, I earned the distinction of being the first American woman to walk in space. Following STS-45, I moved to Washington DC to serve as the Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In 1996, I moved to Columbus, Ohio, to run COSI, one of the nation’s premier science museums and direct the construction of its new, state-of-the-art facility. From 2006-2011, I served as the inaugural director of the Battelle Center for Science & Technology Policy at The Ohio State University. In 2010, I was asked to return to NOAA as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction/Deputy Administrator, a position I assumed following Senate confirmation in 2011. I served as Acting NOAA Administrator from 2013-14 and Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere/Administrator from 2014-2017. I was a Navy Reserve oceanographer from 1988 to 2006, retiring with the rank of Captain, and served on the National Science Board from 2006-2010. I’m currently on several corporate and non-profit boards, including Terra Alpha Investments, Accenture Federal Services, International Paper and the National Audubon Society.

Phil Teas, Ph.D. 1998
Received a PhD in 1998 in structural geology under Casey Moore. Went on to work for Unocal as a structural geologist supporting global exploration. Transferred to Indonesia expanding to regional geology, tectonics and sideline as a prospecting geologist. Drilled something like 7 wells for Unocal. Later worked for Chevron then became a founding partner at Black Gold Energy serving as chief geologist. Was an integral member of a team that surveyed over 1 million square kilometers of ocean floor looking for oil seeps. BGE became the largest acreage holder in Indonesia and did extensive frontier field work in support of prospecting. Drilled another 8 wells, providing structural interpretation and fluid pressure predictions. Transitioned back into pure seafloor mapping and have been integral in surveying around another 1.5 million square kilometers in the gulf of Mexico, Brazil and west Africa. Interested in 3D visualization of data, geologic field work, and structural geology.

Michael Underwood, B.S. 1976
I received a B.S. degree in Earth Sciences in 1976, after having completed a senior thesis on Franciscan rocks near Big Sur under the direction of Bob Garrison and Casey Moore. I worked for a couple of years at the USGS in Menlo Park (Branch of Pacific Marine Geology) before attending graduate school at Cornell University, where Ph.D. research brought me back to the Franciscan in Humboldt County. Beginning in 1982, I toiled as a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and I’ve been happily retired since 2015. Research over the course of my career has focused on the sedimentology and tectonics of subduction zones, both onshore and offshore, and that work has yielded many opportunities to collaborate with a long list of UCSC graduate students, alumni, and professors. I currently enjoy Professor Adjunct status at New Mexico Tech, with a second home in Angel Fire, NM. I remain engaged in scientific ocean drilling, and I’ve been an active member of the EPS-AC since its inception.

Peter Vrolijk, Ph.D. 1987
PhD with Casey (1982-1987); thesis in Kodiak, Alaska; 24 years with Exxon Production Research Co./ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co. with interests in structural geology and subsurface fluid flow. Professional service to IODP (SSEP) and GSA. Hobbies include ultra-running.

Lisa White, Ph.D. 1990
Lisa joined the UC Museum of Paleontology (UC Berkeley) in July 2012 as Director of Education and Outreach. She came to the UCMP after 22 years at San Francisco State University, where she held positions of Professor of Geosciences and Associate Dean of the College of Science and Engineering. She taught undergraduate classes in paleontology, historical geology, and oceanography, and guided research projects with graduate students in Miocene diatoms of the Monterey Formation of CA, and fossil cold seep assemblages in the Franciscan Complex. Lisa completed her BS in Geology at SF State and PhD in Earth Sciences at UCSC, and worked with the USGS in Menlo Park during 1988-1995.