Richard H. Jahns Distinguished Lecturer

Jerry DeGraff, 2015-2016

Jerry DeGraff

EEGD is pleased to announce that Jerry DeGraff has been selected as the 2015 - 2016 Richard H. Jahns Distinguished Lecturer. To have Eldon speak at your school or organization, please contact him directly at . All talks are suitable for technical/professional and general audiences.

About Jerry

During most of his 36 years in the US Forest Service, Jerome (Jerry) De Graff served in positions designated as being either an environmental or engineering geologist on National Forests in Utah and California. In those capacities, he collected and interpreted geologic information needed for sustainable development, multiple-use management of natural resources, and emergency response. Jerry acted as the in-house geologist providing information about geomorphic processes, groundwater conditions, and other relevant geologic conditions. During his last 6 years, he was a Forest Service On-Scene Coordinator for Superfund-type issues and responses at abandoned mines and other Forest Service sites in California. Since retiring from government service in February 2014, Jerry continues his geology career teaching graduate courses for the Department of Earth & Environmental Science at California State University-Fresno, acting in editorial and related capacities for various professional journals, and being active in professional organizations.

During his geology career, Jerry has been active in professional organizations; notably the Geological Society of America (GSA) and the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG). He joined GSA in 1972, was made a Fellow in 1983, and served as Councilor from 2006-2010. In addition to holding the Chairmanship and other leadership positions in GSA’s Engineering Geology Division, Jerry received their Meritorious Service award in 1997 and in 2011. He was honored to receive their Distinguished Practice Award in 2004 Jerry joined AEG in 1980 and chaired their Committee on Landslides from 1984 to 1995. He received presidential citations in 1995 and 2013 in appreciation for his service to AEG. Jerry is presently vice-Chair of the San Joaquin Valley Chapter in AEG’s Sacramento Section.

A native of the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, Jerry graduated from the State University of New York-Geneseo with a BS in Education/Earth Science in 1967. He continued to take geology courses there for six years while working full-time. During the last five years while an instructor at the Strasenburgh Planetarium (Rochester, NY), he realized he was too interested in what was beneath his feet to continue talking about what was happening among the stars. So Jerry and his wife moved west where he earned an MS in Geology from Utah State University in 1976. A job offer from the US Forest Service after a year as a USU researcher seemed more attractive than his original goal of returning east to teach in a community college, so he took it and never looked back.

While not hired as a researcher for the US Forest Service, Jerry often undertook extended studies in order to generate needed geologic information. Other opportunities to gain geologic information occurred during overseas assignments in the Caribbean, Thailand, and Italy. When the results seemed interesting, he would make an effort to share the information in publications or through presentations at conferences. Consequently, he has authored or co-authored more than 60 contributions to journals, books, and proceedings volumes. With Dr. Robert B. Johnson, he co-authored the textbook, Principles of Engineering Geology, which was awarded GSA’s E.B. Burwell Jr. Memorial Award in 1989 and AEG’s Claire P. Holdredge Award in 1990. In 2010, Jerry received the annual AEG publication award for the paper, “The formation and persistence of the Matthieu landslide-dam lake, Dominica, W.I.”, published in the journal, Environmental and Engineering Geoscience.

The Jahns Distinguished 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 Mr. De Graff is “Fire, Earth & Rain: Emergency Response for Wildfire-Induced landslide Hazards”.


Jerry is offering a broad range of talks, including several that focus on the process and methodology of the work that would be suitable to a classroom presentation, as well as several results-oriented science talks that would be good for a graduate symposium. All talks are aimed for 45 minutes, though questions and discussions can go on forever if interest remains and schedules permit. The talks offered are:

  1. Fire, earth & rain: emergency response for wildfire-induced landslide hazards
    Wildfire is a unique natural hazard because it poses immediate threats to life and property as well as creating conditions that can lead to subsequent debris flows and accelerated rock fall. This is a significant problem in the western U.S. where large wildfires have become more frequent since the mid-1980s. Limiting the impact of these post-fire geologic hazards requires determining their likelihood and location within the burned area. A rapid assessment is needed to ensure mitigation measures can be implemented prior to an initiating rainfall event.
  2. What does it take to effectively monitor for environmental and engineering geology projects?
    Monitoring is often part of environmental or engineering geology projects. Monitoring of surface crack development over an active coal mine, herbicide movement in groundwater, and long-term temperature and pH trends in an areas of hot springs illustrate how this activity can develop information important to project objectives. The presentation will also explore ways to ensure the effectiveness of monitoring efforts.
  3. The challenges of providing landslide information during an emergency response
    A geologist may find themselves being a member of a team called as part of an emergency response when a destructive landslide happens. Being successful during such a stressful and intense assignment, requires rapid acquisition of needed geologic information. Experience with a large landslide event damming a river in Dominica, West Indies in 1997 and a large rock slide which buried a major highway in California in 2006 illustrate strategies for effectively accomplishing the tasks necessary to provide required information.
  4. Dealing with hazardous mine openings— blasting is not always a good option
    Openings into abandoned mines can pose a physical hazard that is not always apparent to the general public. There is a continuing effort by State and Federal agencies with mining or land management responsibility to implement measures that prevent people from entering abandoned mines. Often a suggestion to just “blast the opening shut” is suggested as being a simple way to handle the problem. This presentation explores a number of reasons why this is approach is not as simple as it would appear and one situation where this option turned out to be the best approach.
  5. The story of the Matthieu landslide-dam, Dominica, West Indies
    Natural dams created by large landslides have blocked rivers in many parts of the world. Upstream flooding from impounded water is often followed by later downstream flooding. Consequently, these impacts call upon geologists involved with such events to make predictions or forecasts, especially about when later downstream flooding might take place. The behavior of the Matthieu landslide dam in the small island nation of Dominica in the eastern Caribbean clearly illustrates how far off the mark these predictions can be.