Dr. Bob Smith Receives NPS Research Award

June 1, 2009
Dr. Robert B. Smith, research professor and professor emeritus of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, recently became the recipient of a 2008 National Park Service (NPS) award for natural resource research from Intermountain Region Director Mike Snyder. Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott will present Dr. Smith with his award certificate and an eagle sculpture plaque at an informal NPS employee gathering on Thursday, June 4, at Moose, Wyoming.

The NPS regional director’s award for research in the field of natural resources is an annual recognition created to acknowledge excellence in developing scientific programs, and in publishing research that furthers the cause of science or natural resource management in national parks. The 2008 award was given to Dr. Smith in recognition for his outstanding contributions in the field of geology, specifically in association with Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. Smith’s lengthy and distinguished career in studying and interpreting earthquakes, fault zones, and volcanoes—and their impacts on the geologic evolution of northwestern Wyoming—has generated a greater appreciation for, and increased knowledge of, the dynamic forces at work in the physical landscape of the world-renowned Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Of special note, Smith was the only non-federal employee to receive a 2008 Intermountain Region Director’s Natural Resource Research Award.

Smith has generously donated his time and expertise to assist resource specialists and national park managers while providing advice on geologic issues within the Intermountain Region. He has devoted most of his 52-year career to studying and interpreting significant geologic events in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Smith holds a Ph.D. from the University of Utah and has served as a visiting professor at Columbia University, Cambridge University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. His popular book with Lee Siegel, Windows Into the Earth: The Geologic Story of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks (2000, Oxford University Press) explains the geology of the parks, and he regularly provides ‘real-time’ feedback to personnel in both parks about seismic events throughout the region to encourage effective response planning to natural geologic hazards. In 2008, he retired from teaching at the University of Utah, where he was a key founder of the university’s seismic network—a system that operates more than 200 regional and urban seismic stations serving Utah, eastern Idaho, and western Wyoming (including Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks). Smith was a founder of, and remains a coordinating scientist for, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory—a facility that monitors volcanic and seismic activity in the greater Yellowstone area. He has also been integrally involved in planning and implementing the National Science Foundation-led EarthScope initiative, which uses high-precision instrumentation to explore the structure and evolution of the North American continent and the processes responsible for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

In acknowledging Smith’s achievements, Superintendent Gibson Scott said, “Dr. Smith demonstrates outstanding leadership in his field and supplies invaluable scientific information to help our staff and visitors understand the physical forces that influence the landscapes in the GYE and beyond. We appreciate his unfailing dedication and commitment to America’s national parks, and are especially grateful for the wealth of knowledge that he provides in support of the safety of visitors and residents throughout the Intermountain Region.”