Susan Hough

Few scientists have had a greater impact on promulgating earthquake awareness and education in developing nations than Susan Hough. She has tirelessly enriched cooperative projects between the United States and local scientists in Kashmir, Pakistan, Haiti, Nepal, and, most recently, Myanmar—nations reeling from the trauma of recent devastating earthquakes or from political upheavals and uncertainties. Through workshops and training sessions in these countries, her collaborative projects have empowered local scientists to engage in earthquake activities ranging from running their own seismic networks to assessing seismic hazard and reporting scientific results. As part of these programs she has also enriched the experience of foreign scientists by inviting them to participate in visits to scientific establishments and professional meetings here in the United States.

Sue has also authored five books about earthquake science for the general public, several of which have been translated into foreign languages. In her books, not only does Sue distill complex scientific information in a clear and intelligible form for the general public, but she layers it with history, context, and color—and her excitement for the scientific enterprise is contagious throughout.

Perhaps more than anything, her eagerness to promote capacity building has been undertaken with a selfless determination and a complete absence of ego. In many countries, she has found herself disarming local officials with gentle persuasion and demonstrating by example that women in science are first and foremost scientists, able to contribute with equal integrity to pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge.

As an AGU Fellow with over 150 publications to date, Susan Hough is the rare combination of a top-caliber scientist who has also contributed immensely to hazard preparedness and resilience in developing countries. We are pleased to present her with AGU’s International Award.

—Roger Bilham, University of Colorado Boulder


I am honored and humbled to receive this award.  Thank you so much, Roger, Morgan, and the others who wrote letters of support and, of course, AGU.

I would also need to acknowledge colleagues who have been vital contributors to Team USGS over the years: Irving Flores, Jason De Cristofaro, Emily Wolin, Dan McNamara, and Nicholas van der Elst, as well as Roger Bilham, who has made some contributions himself in an international arena. And none of my international work would have been possible without the support for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, which understands the critical importance of long-term risk mitigation, and the dedicated professionals at the U.S. Department of State.

But let’s talk about capacity development. Capacity development is only ever possible when there are existing capacities to be developed. One thing I have learned over the years is there are existing capacities in every country that faces earthquake hazard. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to work with and get to know students and professionals in the countries where I have worked: Myanmar, Nepal, Haiti, India, and Pakistan. I have been awed on a regular basis by the dedication, energy, and talents of partners who face enormous challenges on a daily basis. I’ve told the story of the day I landed in the mother of all traffic jams in Haiti—an adventure I will never forget—and the realization that hit me later, that my epic experience was just one more chaotic day in a lifetime of chaotic days for Haitians, who face daily life with a resilience and resourcefulness beyond what outsiders ever see. There is a hunger for training and resources in so many parts of the world where dedicated professionals and students understand the hazard and yearn to make their countries safer. As scientists we know that Earth science is a global science. But where capacity development is concerned, thinking globally requires acting locally, doing everything we can to strengthen existing local capacities. I accept this award on behalf of the professionals at institutions that continue to do the heavy lifting with risk reduction in their respective countries: the Myanmar Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, the Nepali Department of Mines and Geology and National Society for Earthquake Technology, the Haitian Bureau des Mines et de l’Energie and Université d’État d’Haïti, and others.

Thank you again.

—Susan Hough, University of Arizona, Tucson


(2020), Susan Hough receives 2019 International Award, Eos, 101, Published on 27 February 2020.

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