GSA Geophysics Division


Citation for G. Randy Keller, University of Texas at El Paso
by Alan Levander, Rice University

The George P. Woollard Award is given to an individual who has contributed in an outstanding manner to geology through the application of principals and techniques of geophysics.

Itís a pleasure to be asked to deliver the citation for this yearís recipient G. Randy Keller, as Randy and I have collaborated for the past 7 years on a number of seismic investigations in the Western U.S.

Randy particularly integrates geologic and geophysical data in studies of large-scale tectonic systems. Randy has spent a significant fraction of his career studying the crust and upper mantle of continental rifts in Africa, first in Kenya and now in Ethiopia, in Asia at Lake Baikal, and in North America, in the mid-continent and in the Rio Grande rift, where he lives. Randy was one of the U.S. principal investigators of the KRISP experiment in the east African rift, which provided the first modern seismic images of the crustal and upper mantle structure of a continental rift. These images have changed the way we think about how rifting processes are distributed through the crust and upper mantle.

From the backyard of Randyís house, which is sited on a mountainside, you can look out westward across the Rio Grand rift. In the early morning the peaks in the distance look remarkably like islands at sea. The comparison between the sea and desert has been made many times before, of course, but here it is apt also on a personal level. The famous oceanographer Maurice Ewing believed in geophysical exploration. He kept the Lamont research ship at sea and kept its geophysical instruments constantly in operation. Similarly Randy keeps his instruments, his students, and his staff in the desert collecting all types of geophysical data that are used to address questions related to the tectonics of the Rio Grande rift, the evolution of the North American continent, and El Paso regional groundwater resources and waste disposal issues.

Randy makes use of all available geologic and geophysical data when approaching a tectonic problem. For decades Randy has been industriously investigating his own backyard, if by that description you include not only the Rio Grande Rift but also the Colorado Plateau, the Southern Rocky Mountains, much of the Western U. S., Texas, and Oklahoma. At this stage of his career, without having lost interest in North America, he is involved in a variety of experiments in Eastern Europe.

Although the Woollard Award makes no mention of professional service, it would be difficult to give a citation for Randy that didnít include his work for the community.

When the active source seismology community needed a new lightweight portable instrument, Randy put together a coalition of Texas universities, secured Texas State money and developed the instrument. Four hundred of these now reside at UTEP, with another four hundred at IRIS. These instruments are known in the community as the Texans; which is both an honorific and ironic, as the Texan instruments are diminutive, being about a tenth the size and weight of the instruments we had been using.

For a significant part of his career, 17 years, Randy chaired the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso. As chairman he was the overseer of a building reconstruction and a building addition; UTEP has a beautiful Earth Science facility. While chair Randy set an absolute standard for modern hiring practices in Geoscience Departments. He has also directed more than 20 Ph.D. and 50 M.S. thesis projects, and published some 200 papers.

Congratulations Randy!

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