Bio


Mary Lou Zoback is a seismologist and Consulting Professor in the Geophysics Department at Stanford University. From 2006-2011 she was Vice President for Earthquake Risk Applications with Risk Management Solutions, a private catastrophe modeling firm serving the insurance industry. In that role she utilized the company’s commercial risk models to explore the societal role of earthquake insurance, and to quantify the costs and benefits of disaster management and risk reduction activities.

Zoback previously was a senior research scientist at the USGS in Menlo Park, CA where she served as Chief Scientist of the Western Earthquake Hazards team. Her research interests include the relationship between active faulting, deformation and state of stress in the earth’s crust, quantifying earthquake likelihood, and characterizing natural hazard risk.

Dr. Zoback has served on numerous national committees and panels on topics ranging from increasing the Nation’s resilience to disasters, defining the next generation of Earth observations from space, storage of high-level radioactive waste, facilitating interdisciplinary research, and science education. From 1997-2000 she was a member of the National Research Council’s Board on Radioactive Waste Management. In 2012 she was appointed to the U. S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board by President Obama.

In 1995 she was elected a member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences. She is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Seismological Society of American, and is a past President of the Geological Society of America. Zoback is also past chair of the Advisory Committee for San Francisco’s Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) program. She is currently a member of the National Academies' Resilient America Roundtable and the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems.

Academic Appointments


Administrative Appointments


  • Chief Scientist, Earthquake Hazards Team, U. S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA (1999 - 2002)
  • Program Coordinator, Northern California Earthquake Hazards Program, USGS Menlo Park (2003 - 2006)
  • Vice-President, Earthquake Risk Applications, Risk Management Solutions (RMS) Newark, CA (2006 - 2011)
  • Appointed Member, U. S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (2012 - 2016)

Honors & Awards


  • Day Medal, Geological Society of America (2007)
  • Public Service Award, Geological Society of America (2007)
  • Leadership, Innovation, and Outstanding Accomplishments in Earthquake Risk Reduction Award, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (2006)
  • Meritorious Service Award, Department of Interior (2002)
  • Elected Member, National Academy of Science (1995)
  • Macelwane Award, American Geophysical Union (1987)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations


  • Editor, Public Policy, EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (2013 - Present)
  • Member, Disasters Roundtable, National Academy of Science (2013 - 2016)
  • Member, Science Advisory Board, Global Earthquake Model (GEM) (2012 - Present)
  • Member, Advisory Committee of Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, National Institute of Standards (NIST) (2012 - 2015)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


Quantifying natural hazard risk, risk reduction and mitigation strategies, developing metrics for measuring disaster resilience.

All Publications


  • Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative ENVIRONMENT Cutter, S. L., Ahearn, J. A., Amadei, B., Crawford, P., Eide, E. A., Galloway, G. E., Goodchild, M. F., Kunreuther, H. C., Li-Vollmer, M., Schoch-Spana, M., Scrimshaw, S. C., Stanley, E. M., Whitney, G., Zoback, M. L. 2013; 55 (2): 25-29
  • Ground-motion modeling of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, part I: Validation using the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake BULLETIN OF THE SEISMOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA Aagaard, B. T., Brocher, T. M., Dolenc, D., Dreger, D., Graves, R. W., Harmsen, S., Hartzell, S., Larsen, S., Zoback, M. L. 2008; 98 (2): 989-1011

    View details for DOI 10.1785/0120060409

    View details for Web of Science ID 000254528000037

  • Ground-motion modeling of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, part II: Ground-motion estimates for the 1906 earthquake and scenario events BULLETIN OF THE SEISMOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA Aagaard, B. T., Brocher, T. M., Dolenc, D., Dreger, D., Graves, R. W., Harmsen, S., Hartzell, S., Larsen, S., McCandless, K., Nilsson, S., Petersson, N. A., Rodgers, A., Sjoegreen, B., Zoback, M. L. 2008; 98 (2): 1012-1046

    View details for DOI 10.1785/0120060410

    View details for Web of Science ID 000254528000038

  • The 1906 earthquake and a century of progress in understanding earthquakes and their hazards GSA Today Zoback, M. 2006; 16: 4-11
  • Stress field variations in the Swiss Alps and the northern Alpine foreland derived from inversion of fault plane solutions JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Kastrup, U., Zoback, M. L., Deichmann, N., Evans, K. F., Giardini, D., Michael, A. J. 2004; 109 (B1)
  • Lithospheric buoyancy and continental intraplate stresses INTERNATIONAL GEOLOGY REVIEW Zoback, M. L., Mooney, W. D. 2003; 45 (2): 95-118
  • Grand challenges in earth and environmental sciences: science, stewardship, and service for the 21st century GSA Today Zoback, M. 2001; 11: 41-46
  • Analysis of the tsunamis generated by the Mw7.8 1906 San Francisco earthquake Geology Geist, E., Zoback, M. 2000; 27: 15-18
  • Abrupt along-strike change in tectonic style: San Andreas fault zone, San Francisco Peninsula JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Zoback, M. L., Jachens, R. C., Olson, J. A. 1999; 104 (B5): 10719-10742
  • Three-dimensional upper crustal velocity structure beneath San Francisco Peninsula, California JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Parsons, T., Zoback, M. L. 1997; 102 (B3): 5473-5490
  • Stress perturbations and intraplate seismicity associated with ancient continental rifts Journal of Geophysical Research Zoback, M., Richardson, R. 1996; 101: 5459-5475
  • THE NORTHERN NEVADA RIFT - REGIONAL TECTONOMAGMATIC RELATIONS AND MIDDLE MIOCENE STRESS DIRECTION GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA BULLETIN Zoback, M. L., MCKEE, E. H., Blakely, R. J., Thompson, G. A. 1994; 106 (3): 371-382
  • STRESS-FIELD CONSTRAINTS ON INTRAPLATE SEISMICITY IN EASTERN NORTH-AMERICA JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Zoback, M. L. 1992; 97 (B8): 11761-11782
  • First and second order patterns of stress in the lithosphere: the World Stress Map Project Journal of Geophysical Research Zoback, M. 1992; 97: 11703-11728
  • STRESS MAGNITUDES IN THE CRUST - CONSTRAINTS FROM STRESS ORIENTATION AND RELATIVE MAGNITUDE DATA PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A-MATHEMATICAL PHYSICAL AND ENGINEERING SCIENCES Zoback, M. L., Magee, M. 1991; 337 (1645): 181-194
  • GLOBAL PATTERNS OF TECTONIC STRESS NATURE Zoback, M. L., Zoback, M. D., Adams, J., Assumpcao, M., Bell, S., Bergman, E. A., Blumling, P., Brereton, N. R., Denham, D., Ding, J., Fuchs, K., Gay, N., Gregersen, S., Gupta, H. K., Gvishiani, A., Jacob, K., Klein, R., Knoll, P., Magee, M., Mercier, J. L., Muller, B. C., Paquin, C., Rajendran, K., Stephansson, O., Suarez, G., Suter, M., Udias, A., Xu, Z. H., Zhizhin, M. 1989; 341 (6240): 291-298
  • INSITU STRESS, CRUSTAL STRAIN, AND SEISMIC HAZARD ASSESSMENT IN EASTERN NORTH-AMERICA ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES Zoback, M. D., Zoback, M. L. 1989; 558: 54-71
  • STATE OF STRESS AND MODERN DEFORMATION OF THE NORTHERN BASIN AND RANGE PROVINCE JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH AND PLANETS Zoback, M. L. 1989; 94 (B6): 7105-7128
  • Regional tectonic stress field of the continental U.S.: Geophysical Framework of the Continental U.S Geological Society of America Memoir Zoback, M., Zoback, M. 1989: 523–539
  • NEW EVIDENCE ON THE STATE OF STRESS OF THE SAN-ANDREAS FAULT SYSTEM SCIENCE Zoback, M. D., Zoback, M. L., Mount, V. S., Suppe, J., EATON, J. P., Healy, J. H., Oppenheimer, D., REASENBERG, P., Jones, L., RALEIGH, C. B., Wong, I. G., Scotti, O., Wentworth, C. 1987; 238 (4830): 1105-1111

    Abstract

    Contemporary in situ tectonic stress indicators along the San Andreas fault system in central California show northeast-directed horizontal compression that is nearly perpendicular to the strike of the fault. Such compression explains recent uplift of the Coast Ranges and the numerous active reverse faults and folds that trend nearly parallel to the San Andreas and that are otherwise unexplainable in terms of strike-slip deformation. Fault-normal crustal compression in central California is proposed to result from the extremely low shear strength of the San Andreas and the slightly convergent relative motion between the Pacific and North American plates. Preliminary in situ stress data from the Cajon Pass scientific drill hole (located 3.6 kilometers northeast of the San Andreas in southern California near San Bernardino, California) are also consistent with a weak fault, as they show no right-lateral shear stress at approximately 2-kilometer depth on planes parallel to the San Andreas fault.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1987K886900030

    View details for PubMedID 17839366

  • IMPLICATIONS OF SELECTED SUBSURFACE DATA ON THE STRUCTURAL FORM AND EVOLUTION OF SOME BASINS IN THE NORTHERN BASIN AND RANGE PROVINCE, NEVADA AND UTAH GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA BULLETIN Anderson, R. E., Zoback, M. L., Thompson, G. A. 1983; 94 (9): 1055-1072
  • CAINOZOIC EVOLUTION OF THE STATE OF STRESS AND STYLE OF TECTONISM OF THE BASIN AND RANGE PROVINCE OF THE WESTERN UNITED-STATES PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A-MATHEMATICAL PHYSICAL AND ENGINEERING SCIENCES Zoback, M. L., Anderson, R. E., Thompson, G. A. 1981; 300 (1454): 407-434
  • State of stress and intraplate earthquakes in the central and eastern United States Science Zoback, M., Zoback, M. 1981; 213: 96-104
  • Cenozoic evolution of the state of stress and style of Tectonism of the Basin and Range Province of the western United States Philosophical Transactions Royal Society of London A Zoback, M., Anderson, R., Thompson, G. 1981; 300: 407-434
  • STATE OF STRESS IN THE CONTERMINOUS UNITED-STATES JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH Zoback, M. L., Zoback, M. 1980; 85 (NB11): 6113-6156
  • REGIONAL GEOPHYSICS OF THE COLORADO PLATEAU TECTONOPHYSICS Thompson, G. A., Zoback, M. L. 1979; 61 (1-3): 149-181
  • BASIN AND RANGE RIFTING IN NORTHERN NEVADA - CLUES FROM A MID-MIOCENE RIFT AND ITS SUBSEQUENT OFFSETS GEOLOGY Zoback, M. L., Thompson, G. A. 1978; 6 (2): 111-116