Scott Burns 2011-2012

Scott Burns

EEGD is pleased to announce that Dr. Scott Burns has been selected as the 2011 - 2012 Richard H. Jahns Distinguished Lecturer. To have Dr. Burns speak at your school or organization, please contact him directly at burnss@pdx.edu or 503-725-3389. All talks are suitable for technical/professional and general audiences.

About Dr. Scott Burns:

Scott is a Professor of Geology at Portland State University (PSU) where he specializes in engineering and environmental geology, soils, geomorphology, Quaternary Geology and terroir. He just finished his 21 st year of teaching there and his 41 st year of teaching at the university level (previous positions in Switzerland, New Zealand, Washington, Colorado and Louisiana). An author or co-author of two books, over 80 articles, and over 200 published abstracts, Scott has worked on research topics as diverse as landslide, debris flow, radon and earthquake hazard mapping, heavy metals and trace elements in soils, loess stratigraphy, slope stability, Missoula Floods, bio-geomorphology (pocket gophers, tree throw, and ants), alpine soil development, and terroir (relationship of geology, soils, climate and wine).

He has received the the Public Service Award from GSA in 2011 and the Meritorius Service Award (2006) from the Engineering Geology Division (EGD) of GSA. He has been the Chair of the Engineering Geology Division and the Treasurer of the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division (for 12 years) of GSA. He was president of AEG (2002-2003) and vice president (North America) for IAEG (2006-2010). Scott has been an Associate Dean, chair of departments and president of faculty senates at three different universities, and president of one of the largest and oldest Rotary clubs in the world. 

Scott has won many awards for outstanding teaching with the most significant being the Faculty Senate Chair Award at Louisiana Tech University in 1987, the Distinguished Faculty Award from the PSU Alumni Association in 2001, and the George Hoffmann Award from PSU in 2007. He actively helps local TV and radio stations and newspapers bring important geological news to the public. He has B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford University, plus a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. Scott holds registrations in Oregon (RG and CEG) and a license in Washington (LG). Scott also is a consultant and an expert witness for law cases. 

The Jahns lectureship, established in 1988, is sponsored by the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists and the GSA Engineering Geology Division. Its purpose is to provide funding for distinguished engineering geologists to present lectures at colleges and universities in order to increase awareness of students about careers in engineering geology. The lectureship is named in honor of Dr. Richard H. Jahns (1915- 1983), an engineering geologist who had a diverse and distinguished career in academia, consulting and government. The main talk being offered by Dr. Burns is “Urban Landslides – Challenges to Forensic Engineering Geologists”. Other talks can also be arranged: “Cataclysms on the Columbia, the Great Missoula Floods”; “Engineering Geology Challenges on the Cascadia Margin, Pacific Northwest, USA”, and “The Mystery of Terroir – the Relationship of Geology, Soils, and Climate to Wine”. To make arrangements for talks, please contact Scott directly at burnss@pdx.edu or 503-725-3389.

Richard Jahns Lectures by Scott Burns:

  1. “Urban Landslides – Challenges to Forensic Engineering Geologists”: Each year landslides cause 25-50 deaths and on the average $3.5 billion in damage in the United States. Many of these landslides occur in urban settings. Figuring out what caused these landslides and also how to prevent them in urban settings can be a challenge to forensic engineering geologists and geotechnical engineers. The talk will focus on lessons learned from case histories in urban settings, focusing on homes hit by landslides, homes that moved down the slope on landslides, reactivation of ancient landslides, triggers such as precipitation and earthquakes, and vacant lots. Development of susceptibility maps, especially using LiDAR imagery, will be included. Different mitigation methods including different types of dewatering devices, walls, and freezing of the soil will be mentioned. In importance of lack of insurance for landslides on normal homeowner policies has great significance. (Main talk)
  2. “Cataclysms on the Columbia, the Great Missoula Floods”: One of the greatest set of geological events to ever have occurred in North America was given the name, the Missoula Floods. The floods originated when an ice dam broke in upper Idaho liberating waters impounded in back of it in Montana, scouring out large sections of eastern Washington and the lower Columbia River drainage basin. The talk will focus on the incredible story of discovery and development of the idea of the floods by J Harlen Bretz and later geologists and then will discuss the effect of the floods on the development of the landscape of 16,000 square miles of the Pacific Northwest. The floods occurred between 15,000 and 18,000 years ago. The idea of older floods will also be included.
  3. “Engineering Geology Challenges on the Cascadia Margin, Pacific Northwest, USA”: In the Pacific Northwest of the United States, the Juan de Fuca plate is being subducted under the North American Plate at the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The lecture will discuss the hazards of and the preparedness for ground shaking, liquefaction, landslides and tsunamis along the subduction zone. What are the differences of recurrence intervals for large earthquakes on the northern and southern margins? Much of the region was not thought to be an earthquake region so earthquake building standards are fairly recent. How does the chance of crustal, plate and subduction quakes affect building codes, emergency preparedness, siting of critical facilities, building of bridges, and transportation corridors in the region? What have we learned from recent subduction quakes around the world that can be applied to the Pacific Northwest? What can the region expect after a large quake?
  4. “The Mystery of Terroir – the Relationship of Geology, Soils, and Climate to Wine”: Wines differ from each other based on seven different factors: the type of grape; the bedrock geology and resulting soils; the climate; the soil hydrology; the physiography of the site; the winemaker; and the vineyard management techniques. The first five of these factors make up what the French call terroir, “the taste of the place”. Bedrocks weather into soils which then liberate chemical nutrients to the grape vines. Twelve of the sixteen essential elements for wine grapes come from the soil. All around the world the geology and soils make up an important component of the terroir of the wine. Using examples from the Willamette Valley of Oregon, terroir of the region will be discussed because it is strongly influenced by the bedrock geology and soils. The two dominant groups are the volcanic soils, the Jory Series, which developed on the Columbia River Basalts, and the Willakenzie Series of soils, developed on uplifted marine sedimentary rocks in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range. The wines made from the grapes of these two soils are very different.