Alumni Hall of Fame

In 2018 the UCSC Earth and Planetary Sciences (E&PS) Alumni Advisory Committee created an Alumni Hall of Fame to honor the achievements of our fellow undergraduate and graduate alumni. The E&PS Alumni Advisory Council will nominate new awardees annually; suggestions for nominations are welcome and should be forwarded to Peter Vrolijk or Stefano Mazzoni for consideration. Please see the currents list of inductees below, with their biographies at the borrom of the page.








Susan Bilek
Dr. Susan Bilek is a Professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico Tech University. She received her doctorate in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2001. Her current research is on Earthquake rupture processes; shallow subduction zone processes; tsunami generation; fault zone material properties; stresses and structure of fault zones; Central America tectonics, induced seismicity. She has also been recently involved in a large 800+ sensor deployment to study the Socorro Magma Body and a community-based Large-N deployment in central Oklahoma.

“It is safe to say that my experiences at UCSC put me on my current career trajectory. The amazing group of students and faculty pushed me to learn, teach, and collaborate in ways that continue to benefit me every day. We had a great group of students, postdocs, and faculty in the seismology lab in the late 1990s, and the support and cooperation of that group helped shape how I interact with my graduate students, colleagues, and the broader seismology community. Thorne Lay certainly helped me develop the skills needed to succeed in seismology, and Susan Schwartz sent me on my very first seismology field deployment, in Costa Rica no less. Outside of the seismo lab, my interactions with other students and faculty, such as Casey Moore and Eli Silver, allowed me to better engage with a broader community of researchers involved in subduction zone science, and connections with many of these folks have persisted through the years of MARGINS, GeoPRISMS, and AGU meetings. Other friendships developed during those UCSC years have strangely enough returned to science collaborations, as I am now working with an old friend on completely new research directions in environmental seismology. Who knew that days of helping a friend (Pete Adams, Ph.D. 2004) install a seismometer on a Long Marine Lab cliff to examine wave energy on cliffs would one day lead to Pete’s current PhD student helping me install seismometers to record water flow through karst conduits. Those UCSC connections are like that – strong, supportive, and enduring.”

Alan Busacca
Dr. Alan Busacca is the co-owner and manager of Windhorse Vinyard. He received his B.S. in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1973.

“The Magical Mystery Tour that has been my life began, academically at least, at UC Santa Cruz. Nineteen Sixty-Nine! What a time it was! The campus was barely 3 years old and the total enrollment was about 2,900 undergrads and 150 graduate students. That was one of the reasons I was there: small size! Did I know, as I unpacked my few things from my VW Bug at College 5 (Porter College), that my winding path through my career would start with Earth Sciences and then wind through Field Geology to Soil Science (specifically Pedology) and Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology and on to Agriculture and finally to Viticulture and owning a wine-grape vineyard and making and selling fine wines? Nah, of course not. But it ALL, that whole winding path, started in the special, special place that is UC Santa Cruz and in the Earth Sciences program there. My winding career and life path has been shaped by wonderful mentors, by allowing my curiosity and passion for scientific discovery overrule my fears of trying new directions and even whole new careers, by good fortune, and sometimes also by a bit of hard work. It was only years later that I really understood that, with faculty such as Casey Moore, Aaron Waters, Rob Coe, Othmar Tobisch, Jim Garrison, Eli Silver, Gary Griggs, and others, that I was blessed to have learned from and had my early successes nurtured by an amazing cadre of geologists of international stature and great humanity. My graduate studies at US Davis (M.S. and Ph.D in Soil Science with plenty of grad-level Geology) led to a 25-year run on the faculty in the Soil Science, Agronomy and Geology programs at Washington State University, mentored in the early years by Henry Smith and Brian McNeal. In that time, I taught courses as diverse as Advanced Pedology, Advanced Viticulture, and World Agricultural Systems; led and shared with colleagues and generations of wonderful undergraduate and graduate students in too many field trips to count, and researched topics ranging from Ice-Age Mega Floods to ground truthing and modeling soil-landscape distribution. And in the most recent chapter of my life, I embarked on a path, 15 years long and counting, of private consulting in soils and landscape analysis of site quality of existing and planned wine-grape vineyards (the study of terroir), to building and co-owning a vineyard and living in the amazing Columbia Gorge area near Hood River, Oregon, and to originating a small wine brand and marketing and selling fine wines. All of this, all of it, spins back to the spirit of freedom to explore and to express myself as an individual and in science, that originated and was nurtured in the Earth Science program and in the larger community of UCSC in my time there. I moved forward from UCSC believing that anything was possible for me. I am humbled and honored to join my peers in the UCSC Earth and Planetary Sciences Hall of Fame.”

Cathryn Newton
Dr. Cathryn Newton received her doctorate in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she developed an interest in invertebrate paleontology and mass extinctions. In 1983, Newton joined the faculty of Syracuse University, where she became an award-winning scholar and teacher, a powerfully effective mentor of women in the sciences and co-founding director of the Women in Science and Engineering Program (WISE), and a nationally admired leader both in Earth Sciences and in higher education. She served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for eight years before assuming her present position as the university’s only Professor of Interdisciplinary Sciences – a position that recognizes the broad scope of her scientific work as transcending the boundaries of any one discipline.

Mike McGroder
Dr. Michael McGroder graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1980. He received his doctorate from the University of Washington. After graduating from the UW, Mike took a position in Houston, TX with Exxon Production Research Company. Among his early roles in the company were consulting with company affiliates around the world on their structural and seismic interpretation problems. Mike transferred to Calgary, Alberta in 1994, working there for nine years and becoming the lead geologist on the Foothills team which drilled many successful natural gas exploration and production wells at the leading edge of the Canadian Rockies. Mike transferred back to Houston in 2003 and after a short stint working in the Gulf of Mexico, became Coordinator of the Structure, Seal and Gravity-Magnetics skill group. In this role Mike was responsible for global deployment and career development of roughly 80 geoscientists in many parts the world. Mike’s last assignment with ExxonMobil before retiring in 2015 was as an executive-level global technical advisor. In this role, he assisted management and teams in Russia, South America, Papua New Guinea, California, Arctic Canada and elsewhere.

"In my career working in the oil industry, I was fortunate to work with hundreds of geoscientists from all over the globe. During many of those collaborations I became convinced that my training at UCSC in the late 1970's was second to none in terms of preparing me for all the complexities and challenges that petroleum geologists face in their daily work lives. The late 1970's was a time of great geologic excitement in California, just 20 years past the advent of plate tectonics as a new unifying theory. I remember spending almost every weekend studying field geology with great UCSC faculty mentors beneath the central California seacliffs, along the San Andreas fault, or in the Sierra Nevada. My love of field geology was born on those weekends and to this day I enjoy teaching it to the next generation as a semi-retired petroleum geologist and instructor for summer Field Camp for the University of Washington."

Judy Parrish
Dr. Judy Parrish is a Professor Emerita in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Idaho, and still active in research. She received her full college education at the University of California, Santa Cruz, earning a B.S in Biology, M.A. in Biology, M.S in Earth Science, and Ph.D. in Earth Science. Her primary interest is the environment of pre-Quaternary Earth, focusing on prehistoric patterns of ocean upwelling and their influence on sedimentary rocks and fossils, climate on the supercontinent Pangaea, and high-latitude climates in the Cretaceous Period, studying fossils as indicators of climate. She has been involved in studies at locations including Argentina, Alaska, and the western United States. Her research on Earth’s climate history, which began with creating models and large-scale data analysis, then shifted to field studies on issues raised in the modeling process, has led her to study the language used in media portrayals and public discourse on modern-day climate change. From 2008-2009, she was President of the Geological Society of America.

"From the day I matriculated as an undergraduate at the beginning of UCSC's third year, I was thrilled to be surrounded by so many smart students and such a young, enthusiastic, and approachable faculty. My questions were answered and challenged and soon were honed into research projects, so I learned the disciplines of research practically from the first day. That experience is what made my success as a researcher possible. UCSC is also where I learned the value of service as principal organizer of the first Earth Day at UCSC and leader of an initiative against sexual harassment."

Fred Phillips
Dr. Phillips is Professor of Hydrology at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. He received a Ph.D. degree in Hydrology from the University of Arizona in 1981. His areas of research include isotopic and chemical tracers in groundwater, groundwater recharge in arid environments, salt balances in semiarid river basins, climate-driven fluctuations in the water cycle, geochronology of earth-surface processes, and tectonic geomorphology. He received the O.E. Meinzer Award from the Geological Society of America in 2001.

"I arrived at UCSC in 1972, just seven years after the campus opened. At that time, UCSC was one of the most difficult campuses of the UC System to which gain admission. It was an exciting era of world upheaval, revolutionary thought, and drugs and nudity, too. The revolution included earth science: plate tectonics was so new that none of our textbooks even mentioned it. The faculty of the Board of Earth Science (as it was then termed) were also mostly young and dynamic. Ken Cameron, Gary Griggs, Jim Gill, Casey Moore, and Bob Garrison had particularly large influences on me. More than anything else, I came away with a sense that earth science was exciting and dynamic and that there were wonderful things to discover if one only had the gumption to dive in head first. The remarkable thing about that perspective was that it proved to be true! In the course of my career I've worked on many problems: use of environmental tracers to understand groundwater flow systems and groundwater recharge, the hydrodynamics of desert vadose zones, how the earth actually generates runoff, the systematics of the production of cosmogenic nuclides, the glacial history of the earth, quantification of rates and dates in geomorphology, conceptual models for extensional tectonics, and quite a few others. A big part of the reason I embarked on such a wide path was the perspective I took away from the Earth Science program at UCSC: that the Earth forms some kind of unified system and that the grasp of broad but physically based principles would enable me to solve the important problems. It was a great start to a long career that is still barreling along".

Margaret Rusmore
Dr. Rusmore has been a Professor of Science and Geology at Occidental College since 1985. Her research focuses on the formation and evolution of mountain belts from the perspective of structural geology and tectonics. Topics she has investigated range from the accretion of terranes to exhumation of heavily glaciated mountain ranges. Much of her field work has been in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, where she is currently studying the evolution of the Late Mexozoic to early Tertiary continental arc. Along with structure and tectonics, Margi is interested in how GIS can shape new questions and directions in structure and tectonics. Students are involved in many aspects of her research, traveling with Margi to British Columbia for field work, tackling projects in the lab, or investigating the geology of the nearby Mojave desert.

"The Earth and Planetary Science department shaped the foundation of my career so it is hard to pick a single factor. Having mulled it over though, I think two factors caused me to join EPS
( defecting from chemistry) and propelled my career - first , the buzz of excitement over earth science and the sense of discovery that permeated the department was infectious and reminded me why I wanted to be a scientist -- and second -- the department made me feel, even in my very first class, that I was welcome to join in the discovery and could make valuable contributions to the field. So, thank you all, and especially those faculty and students who shared the old applied science
"bunker" in the redwoods in the late 70's."

Hilde Schwartz
Dr. Schwartz is a Senior Lecturer at UCSC. Her research is on general vertebrate paleontology and taphonomy, fossil preservation, and sedimentary geology. Specific ongoing projects involve taphonomic and sedimentologic history of the Manyara Basin, Tanzania; taphonomy of dinosaur gastroliths; geochemistry and mineralogy of bone preservation.

"I had no idea when I completed my PhD in Earth Sciences at UCSC 35 years ago that I would return 15 years later to 'lecture' in my graduate department. And no idea when I began teaching at UCSC how enduring, rewarding, and fun the job would prove to be - in no small part because of the very strong field geology program I inherited from the incomparable Jerry Weber. It's hard to imagine a better career than one that requires you to regularly work outside, with rocks and fossils, in the company of bright, inquisitive, intrepid students."

Kathy Sullivan
Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan is an American geologist and a former NASA astronaut. A crew member on three Space Shuttle missions, she was the first American woman to walk in space on October 11, 1984. On June 7, 2020, she became the first woman to dive to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth's oceans. She was Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 6, 2014.

"It is no exaggeration to say that I owe my career to UCSC. I arrived on campus as a languages major and graduated as an earth scientist. That radical change was both triggered and enabled by UCSC's strong commitment to undergraduate education and teaching excellence. I discovered the field that would become my career thanks to the freshman breadth requirement and wise advice of my advisor, Prof. John Hummel. Professors Todd Newberry and Gary Griggs did more than merely teach the introductory marine biology and oceanography courses I took to satisfy that requirement. They infused the classes with passion, showing me how fun and rewarding the inquisitive, adventurous life of a field scientist could be; I was hooked. Many would scoff at the idea that a language major with none of the usual high school prerequisites could become a scientist instead, and some might not even allow the student to try. I met with nothing but encouragement from all quarters and support from faculty and fellow students when I hit the inevitable rough patches in the road."

Gerald (Jerry) Weber
Dr. Gereld Weber received his doctorate from UCSC in 1980. He has been active as a geologic consultant in the Monterey Bay area since 1974. In 1981 he founded G. E. Weber Geologic Consulting, which becme Weber, Hayes and Associates (WHA). Since 1981 WHA has provided hydrogeologic and environmental engineering consulting services throughout the Central Coast and San Francisco Bay regions. Dr. Weber also taught earth sciences at UCSC for over 20 years, including field geology and engineering geology.