By Lee Siegel

After spending decades tromping around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks to study their volcanic and seismic hazards, awards keep pouring in for Bob Smith, a research and emeritus professor of geology and geophysics.

The American Geophysical Union – the world’s largest Earth science organization – this December will present Smith with its 2015 Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Scientific Service.

The award is given annually to recognize a researcher for “outstanding contributions” to seismology and related fields of geophysics “through mentoring of junior colleagues, leadership of community research initiatives or other forms of unselfish collaboration in research.”

Smith earlier was recognized twice by the Geological Society of America: this year with a special symposium in his honor and in 2012 with its George P. Woollard Award for outstanding contributions to geophysics. In 2011, Smith garnered the John Wesley Powell Award, the highest civilian honor from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Smith is a coordinating scientist at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory run jointly by the USGS, University of Utah and National Park Service. He is recognized as a leading expert on quakes and volcanism in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, and for operating seismic and Global Positioning System networks that record quakes and ground deformation in the region.

Smith began studying Yellowstone in 1956 before his college days at Utah State University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology. After stints on Antarctic expeditions and in the Air Force, Smith won his geophysics doctorate at the University of Utah in 1967 and began a long academic career that saw him become a leading expert on Yellowstone.

The U.S. Geological Survey recently produced a 24-minute video interview with Smith about his research:

Lee Siegel is a senior science writer at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email him at