​James F. Davi​s

​California State Geologist from 1978-2003

James F. Davis, California State Geologist, 2003

James F. Davis, Califor​​nia State Geologist and Chief of the Division of Mines and Geology/California Geological Survey retired on June 30, 2003. In the quarter century as the State Geologist providing stewardship over the Department of Co​nservation, California Geological Survey, “Jim” Davis has built a legacy of dedication, service, and integrity that serves as a model for all those interpreting the earth sciences for the public benefit. Under his leadership the California Division of Mines and Geology has become the dynamic and newly named [in 2002] California Geological Survey (CGS) whose stated mission of developing and disseminating technical information and advice on California’s geology, geologic hazards, and mineral resources is accomplished in partnership with the people of California. Jim Davis has ensured that CGS is pursuing it’s mission with a superior professional staff whose creativity, innovation, and cooperation provides the highest quality technical expertise to the public for the betterment of the State’s economy, environment, and above all it’s public safety.

Previous to serving as the State Geologist for California, Davis was the State Geologist of New York 1968 to 1978, where he: Developed seismic hazards program; Evaluation of regional seismic hazards for nuclear power plant design; Advisor on nuclear waste disposal site locations and operation; Co-founder with Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory (L.Sykes) of the New York Seismic monitoring network and the Northeastern U.S. seismic monitoring network. 

Jim Davis, circa 1977

Jim Davis began serving California as State Geologist in 1978. He undertook the implementation of the California’s new Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA). With staff he designed the means of classifying mineral resources in areas of competing land uses. SMARA requires local governments to consider CGS classification reports in their land-use permitting decisions and incorporating the information in their general plans. Davis also oversaw the establishment of mined-land reclamation standards and the state review of individual reclamation plans.

In his capacity as State Geologist, Davis has overseen the seismic hazard activities of the Division of Mines and Geology (DMG), including the Alquist-Priolo Fault Zone Act, the Seismic Hazard Mapping Act, and the DMG reviews of seismic design parameters for public schools​, hospitals and other critical facilities. He serves on a number of national science policy committees and is author of and co-author of numerous papers and abstracts on seismic policy issues. As such, he was the creator and designer of earthquake scenario emergency planning concept; principal author of two deterministic earthquake planning scenarios, co-author of two others.

Davis was also in charge of design and oversight of DMG geologic mapping and geohazards programs and was a participant in a number of seismic hazard evaluation studies.

Embosser for the Seal of the California State Geologist.

Together with the California Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council (CEPEC), Davis has recommended policies to the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) relating to 30-year earthquake probability estimates along the San Andreas and other active faults, approaches to dealing with damaging earthquake probability estimates during significant aftershock sequences, and the prospects of volcanic eruption associated with seismic activity and crustal deformation in the Long Valley Caldera. Davis and CEPEC participated with USGS in the establishment of the Parkfield earthquake prediction experiment. As chair of the of the Earthquake Hazards Committee of the Governor's Task Force on Earthquake Preparedness in the mid-1980s, Davis introduced the concept of earthquake scenarios portraying damage to lifelines and critical facilities associated with plausible future earthquakes in California’s urban areas.

Asked about the highlights of his tenure as State Geologist, Davis said, “I think we have an excellent staff, dedicated and capable of significant contributions toward understanding the geology of the state and using that understanding for public benefit."​

Jim Davis in 2003

Additionally, I feel that California has been in the lead in many important areas. The Alquist-Priolo Active Earthquake Fault Program, the Seismic Hazards Mapping Program and the Strong Motion Instrumentation Program are pioneer programs. The latter two were established with special funds, developed from building permit fees, which was an innovative idea.”

Davis believes the key to his success has been an open-minded approach to change and a willingness to keep learning.

"Among the many things I’ve learned over the course of my career," he said, "is that it’s important to have an ethical and intellectual interest and compulsion to see that science is wisely applied in public policy."

Davis leaves behind an impressive legacy of contributions to the field of geology and even in retire​​ment he will stay involved in a number of organizations, such as the American Geoph​ysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the American Geological Institute, and the Consortium of Organizations for Strong-Motion Observation Systems.

91st Annual Meeting of the Association of American State Geologists, Fairbanks, Alaska, June 1999  

91st Annual Meeting of the Association of American State Geologists, Fairbanks, Alaska, June 1999​


Badge, California State Geologist

Special Edition Badge, California State Geologist (Retired)

Seal of the California State Geologist.