NR 2003-16
June 30, 2003

Contact: Ed Wilson
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
(916) 323-1886


SACRAMENTO – Jim Davis, who helped improve California’s earthquake preparedness by introducing innovative programs, today retired as State Geologist and head of the Department of Conservation’s California Geological Survey after 25 ½ years.

Davis also served as State Geologist of New York from 1968-78.

Davis leaves behind an impressive legacy of contributions to the field of geology.

As chair 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 urban areas.

Over the years, Davis has served on many national science policy committees. He is author of and co-author of numerous papers and abstracts on seismic policy issues. He undertook the implementation of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act in 1978, helping to design the means of classifying mineral resources in areas of competing land uses. He also oversaw the establishment of mined land reclamation standards and the state review of reclamation plans.

Davis’ main focus in recent years has been on risk communication – helping the lay community understand the need to be prepared for catastrophic earthquakes.

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. 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.”

Even in retirement, Davis will stay involved in a number of organizations, such as the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the American Geological Institute, and the Consortium of Organizations for Strong-Motion Observation Systems, of which he is president.

“I hope to remain professionally active, serving on several committees and perhaps do some writing,” Davis said.

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.”

Supervising Geologist Michael Reichle is serving as the lead on the California Geological Survey’s transition team during the search for a new State Geologist.

In addition to studying and mapping earthquakes, landslides and mineral resources, the Department of Conservation administers programs to safeguard agricultural and open-space land; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells in the state; administers and promotes the state's beverage container recycling program; and ensures reclamation of land used for mining.