As director of the Alaska Earthquake Center, my role is to lead and support the many people who work together to achieve the center’s mission of monitoring, research and public engagement. This involves substantial internal time collaborating with the center’s scientists, engineers, and other professionals to develop new research products and capabilities, for the state and our numerous stakeholders. But the primary focus of my job is to represent the Earthquake Center externally. Because of Alaska’s high rates of earthquake and tsunami activity, the center partners with a wide range of groups from federal agencies and corporate partners, to local governments and school groups. I work with each of these groups to ensure we are delivering the best possible support while expanding our impact. In my role as State Seismologist I am fortunate to be a liaison to a wide array of scientists, educators, emergency managers, engineers, students and the public.


Considerable opportunities exist for graduate and undergraduate study. Student research projects frequently leverage the assets of the Earthquake Center and many students complement their research with hands-on operational experience in the Seismology Lab. Responding to large earthquakes and volcanic eruptions is an experience that brings unique meaning to thesis research. Our research projects tend to be observation-driven and frequently have a strong field component. We have a critical mass of students and faculty in seismology making for a diverse learning environment. Some students are working on projects in Alaska. Others are applying this knowledge around the globe. Students in the program typically receive full financial support year round. We have a history of successful alumnae who have found our mix of pure and applied research to be the key step in their professional development.

Contact Information
Michael West 
State Seismologist &
Research Associate Professor
Geophysical Institute
903 Koyukuk Dr.
Univ. Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775
mewest ~at~ alaska.edu


Graduate student assistantships in seismology are available each year at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This is an opportunity to apply the computational tools of seismology to all flavors of earthquake, volcano and tsunami hazards. These research assistantships provide tuition and a competitive stipend, as well as travel to conferences and field work. Because of the numerous experiences available in earthquake and volcano seismology in Alaska, our programs are quite competitive. The student body in the geophysics program is strong and our alumni go on to a wide range of jobs in seismology. Experience in geophysics is not required. A solid background in physics, mathematics, or computer science is excellent preparation if accompanied by a strong interest in the Earth sciences.


Our unique location provides a natural laboratory for research in earthquakes and tsunamis. Students in the seismology program frequently contribute to the efforts of the Alaska Earthquake Center and/or the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Through these facilities, students complement their individual research with real world application. Current research opportunities exist in earthquake, volcano and tsunami applications. This video briefly introduces volcanology and seismology, and space physics, at the Geophysical Institute.


The Geophysical Institute (GI) is home to 50+ faculty and more than 70 M.S. and Ph.D. students. The GI is one of several such research institutes at UAF, the research campus of the University of Alaska system. Our faculty are interwoven with the department of Geology and Geophysics and other academic departments. Our students are active outdoors and take advantage of Alaska’s limitless wilderness opportunities, often in conjunction with their research. As the second largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks combines the conveniences and cultural resources of a medium city with the wilderness and wildlife of interior Alaska. If this mix of quantitative science and application appeals to you, please feel to write me with specific questions.


In recent years we have accepted about 20% of applicants with interests in seismology and volcano seismology. The unusual nature of our program makes UAF geophysics more selective than might be anticipated. Though we try to select students based on their potential, and not necessarily their preparation, here are a few pointers if you are serious about a graduate degree at UAF in these fields: (1) Get a strong foundation suitable for the UAF geophysics program. At a minimum this includes math through linear algebra and preferrably differential equations and a solid selection of physics coursework - and, of course, do well in these classes! Computer programming experience is not essential but is a significant asset. UAF is a great place to get involved in research from day one. In my opinion, it is not an ideal school to make up coursework deficiencies. (2)  Get some experience. There are numerous summer opportunities to get hands-on geophysics experience. Two excellent programs include the SAGE and IRIS internship programs, though there are innumerable others. This type of experience is important because it allows you to figure out which types of research excite you and which don't. An internship is certainly not essential for graduate school admissions. However, it will give you the experience to write a meaningful personal statement and make sure that you are soliciting the appropriate programs and faculty. (3) Get in touch with us. If you have the appropriate academic preparation, then introduce yourself with an email. If you have any chance to meet us at professional meetings such as the annual AGU meeting, seize it. Successful scientists come in all flavors, but initiative and motivation are traits shared by all.

Fairbanks is in the heart of Alaska. With a regional population of one hundred thousand, Fairbanks blends the ammenities of a modest urban center with the opportunities of unparalleled wilderness.

Krista and I live close to the university with our three boys Ezra, Eli and Leo. We live in a unique community of people drawn together by a strong sense of place. We take advantage of the environmental and cultural resources that make Alaska special. Outdoor pursuits are a big part of our lives. Opportunities for hiking, canoeing, biking, skiing, etc. are limited only by time. A culture of independence encourages people to explore their own sustenance - gardening, chopping wood, fishing, hunting, etc. The close community and the hands-on lifestyle were major draws for us to Fairbanks.

The perpetual sun of summer drives Fairbanks with a frenetic energy. A local cliche about people gardening at midnight is surprisingly true. River sports are a substantial part of our summer. Interior Alaska is filled with pristine rivers. Backcountry travel ranges from a quick day trip to Denali National Park, to limitless excursions into the Brooks Range. In town, there are running races nearly every weekend and numerous festivals and outdoor music events. Summer is quite warm and sunny in Fairbanks.

Winter is when the spirit of Fairbanksans comes out. It is a time to spend catching up with friends around the woodstove or with a hockey puck. This is a tight-knit community where a January bonfire is likely to include home-smoked salmon, pie from last summer's berries or carribou chili. Snowy weekends might be devoted to home projects or treking in to a backcountry cabin. Neighborhood trails are shared by skiers, runners, dog teams and moose. Groomed nordic skiing is some of the best in the country.

Many people around the university are from elsewhere. The diversity they bring, and the independence inherent in Alaska, combine to make a dynamic community that takes care of itself and encourages people to think big.

PAPERS (italics denote student first author)


Pritchard,M.E., S.L. de Silva, G. Michelfelder, G. Zandt, S.R. McNutt, J. Gottsmann, M.E. West, J. Blundy, D.H. Christensen, N.J. Finnegan, E. Minaya, R.S.J. Sparks, M. Sunagua, M.J. Unsworth, M.J. Comeau, R. del Potro, M. Diez, A. Farrell, S.T. Henderson, J.A. Jay, J.A. Naranjo, H. McFarlin, D. Muir, J.P. Perkins, A. Wilder, K.M. Ward (in review) Introduction: PLUTONS: Investigating the Relationship Between Pluton Growth and Volcanism in the central Andes. Submitted to Geospheres.

Tape, C., S. Holtkamp V. Silwal, Y. Kaneko, J. Hawthorne, J.P. Ampuero, N. Ruppert, K. Smith,M. E. West (in review) Slow-to-fast earthquake nucleation in the lower crust of central Alaska. Submitted to Nature Geoscience.

Kukarina, E., M.E. West, L. Hutchinson Keyson, I. Koulakov, L. Tsibizov and S. Smirnov, Focused magmatism beneath Uturuncu volcano: insights from seismic tomography and deformation modeling. In press at Geospheres.


Grapenthin, R., M.E. West, C. Tape, M. Gardine, J. Freymueller (2018). Single-frequency instantaneous GNSS velocities resolve dynamic ground motion of the 2016 Mw7.1 Iniskin earthquake, Alaska, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi: 10.1785/0220170235

Tape, C., S. Holtkamp, V. Silwal, J. Hawthorne, Y. Yoshihiro, J. Paul Ampuero, C. Ji, N. Ruppert, K. Smith, M. West. (2018). Earthquake nucleation and fault slip complexity in the lower crust of central Alaska. Nature Geoscience. 10.1038/s41561-018-0144-2.


Koulakov, I, I. Abkadyrov, N. Al Arifi, E. Deev, S. Droznina, E. Gordeev, A. Jakovlev, S. El Khrepy, R. Kulakov, Y. Kugaenko, A. Novgorodova, S. Senyukov, N. Shapiro, T. Stupina, M.E. West (2017), Three different types of plumbing systems beneath the neighboring active volcanoes of Tolbachik, Bezymianny and Klyuchevskoy in Kamchatka, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, doi:10.1002/2017JB014082.

Grapenthin, R., M.E. West, J.T. Freymueller (2017) The Utility of GNSS for Earthquake Early Warning in Regions with Sparse Seismic Networks. Bull. Seis. Soc. Am. 107(3), doi:10.1785/0120160317.



Ivanov, AI, I. Koulakov, M.E. West, A.V. Jakovlev, E.I. Gordeev, S. Senyukov, V.N. Chebrov (2016) Magma source beneath the Bezymianny volcano and its interconnection with Klyuchevskoy inferred from local earthquake seismic tomography. J. Volc. Geotherm Res., 323, 62-71, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2016.04.010



Bartholomaus, T. C., Larsen, C. F., West, M. E., O’Neel, S., Pettit, E. C., & Truffer, M. (2015). Tidal and seasonal variations in calving flux observed with passive seismology. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, n/a–n/a., doi:10.1002/2015JF003641

Tape, C., Silwal, V., Ji, C., Keyson, L., West, M. E., & Ruppert, N. (2015). Transtensional Tectonics of the Minto Flats Fault Zone and Nenana Basin, Central Alaska. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 105(4), 2081–2100, doi:10.1785/0120150055

Bartholomaus, T. C., Amundson, J. M., Walter, J. I., O’Neel, S., West, M. E., & Larsen, C. F. (2015). Subglacial discharge at tidewater glaciers revealed by seismic tremor. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(15), 6391–6398, doi:10.1002/2015GL064590

Cusano, P., Palo, M., & West, M. E. (2015). Long-period seismicity at Shishaldin volcano (Alaska) in 2003–2004: Indications of an upward migration of the source before a minor eruption. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 291, 14–24, doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2014.12.008.

Spica, Z., Legrand, D., Iglesias, A., Walter, T. R., Heimann, S., Dahm, T., Froger, J., Rémy, D., Bonvalot, S, West, M. E., Pardo, M. (2015). Hydrothermal and magmatic reservoirs at Lazufre volcanic area, revealed by a high-resolution seismic noise tomography. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 421, 27–38, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.03.042.



West, M. E., Haeussler, P. J., Ruppert, N. A., & Freymueller, J. T. (2014). Why the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake Matters 50 Years Later. Seismological Research Letters, 85(2), 245–251, doi:10.1785/0220140020

Buurman, H., Nye, C. J., West, M. E., & Cameron, C. (2014). Regional controls on volcano seismicity along the Aleutian arc. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 15(4), 1147–1163, doi:10.1002/2013GC005101.

Kasatkina, E., Koulakov, I., West, M. E., & Izbekov, P. (2014). Seismic structure changes beneath Redoubt Volcano during the 2009 eruption inferred from local earthquake tomography. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 119, n/a–n/a., doi:10.1002/2013JB010935.



West, M.E. (2013) Recent eruptions at Bezymianny volcano—A seismological comparison. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 263, 42–57, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2012.12.015.

Buurman, H., and M.E. West (2013). Magma fracture and hybrid earthquakes in the conduit of Augustine Volcano. Geophysical Research Letters, 40(23), 6038–6042, doi:10.1002/2013GL057864

Koulakov, I., M.E. West and P. Izbekov (2013) Fluid ascent during the 2004-2005 unrest at Mt. Spurr inferred from seismic tomography. Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, doi: 10.1002/grl.50674.

Buurman, H., M.E. West, & D.C. Roman (2013). Using repeating volcano-tectonic earthquakes to track post-eruptive activity in the conduit system at Redoubt Volcano, Alaska. Geology, 41(4), 511–514, doi:10.1130/G34089.1

Tape, C., M.E. West and V. Silwal and N. Ruppert (2013) Earthquake nucleation and triggering on an optimally oriented fault. Earth Planet Sci. Lett., 363, 231-241, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2012.11.060.

McNutt, S.R., G. Thompson, M.E. West, D. Fee, S. Stihler, E. Clark (2013) Local seismic and infrasound observations of the 2009 explosive eruptions of Redoubt Volcano, Alaska. J. Volc. Geotherm. Res., 259, 63-76, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2013.03.016.

Buurman, H., M.E. West & G. Thompson (2013) The seismicity of the 2009 eruption of Redoubt volcano, J. Volc. Geotherm. Res., doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2012.04.024.

Izbekov, P., Gordeev, E., Eichelberger, J., & West, M. (2013). Magma system response to edifice collapse. J. Volc. Geotherm. Res., 263, 1–2. doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2013.09.001.



Haney, M.M., Power, J., West, M.E., Michaels, P. (2012) Causal Instrument Corrections for Short-Period and Broadband Seismometers.Seismological Research Letters, 83, 834–845, doi: 10.1785/0220120031

Bartholomaus, T.C., Larsen, C.F., O’Neel, S., West, M.E. (2012) Calving seismicity from iceberg–sea surface interactions. J. Geophys. Res. 117, F04029, doi: 10.1029/2012JF002513.

Nikulin, A., V. Levin, M. Carr, C. Herzberg, and M.E. West (2012) Evidence for two upper mantle sources driving volcanism in Central Kamchatka, Earth Plan. Sci. Lett., 321-322, 14-19, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2011.12.039.52.A., V. Levin, A. Shuler, and M. West (2012), Correction to “Anomalous seismic structure beneath the Klyuchevskoy Group, Kamchatka”, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L03303, doi:10.1029/2012GL050850.

Jay, J., M.E. Pritchard, M.E. West, D. Christensen, M. Haney, E. Minaya, S.R. McNutt, M. Zabala (2012) Shallow seismicity, triggered seismicity, and ambient noise tomography at the long-dormant Uturuncu Volcano, Bolivia, Bull. Volc., doi: 10.1007/s00445-011-0568-7.



Gardine, M., M.E. West and T. Cox (2011) Dike emplacement near Parícutin volcano, Mexico in 2006, Bull. Volc., 73, 123,132, doi: 10.1007/s00445-010-0437-9.

Reyes, C.G. and M. E. West (2011) The Waveform Suite: A robust platform for manipulating waveforms in MATLAB. Seismo. Res. Lett.,82, 104-110, doi:10.1785/gssrl.82.1.104

Gardine, M. and M. West (2011) Evidence of magma intrusion at Fourpeaked Volcano, Alaska in 2006-2007 from a rapid-response seismic network and volcanic gases, J. Volc. Geotherm. Res., 200, 192-200, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2010.11.018.

Thelen, W., S. Malone, M. West (2011). Multiplets: Their behavior and utility at dacitic and andesitic volcanic centers. J. Geophys. Res.,116, B8, B08210, doi: 10.1029/2010JB007924.



West, M.E., C.F. Larsen, M. Truffer, S. O’Neel, and L. LeBlanc (2010) Glacier Microseismicity. Geology, 38, 319–322; doi: 10.1130/G30606.1.

Nikulin, A., V. Levin, A. Shuler and M. West (2010) Anomalous seismic structure beneath the Klyuchevskoy group, Kamchatka,Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L14311, doi:10.1029/2010GL043904.

Buurman, H. and M.E. West (2010), Seismic precursors to volcanic explosions during the 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano, chapter 2 of Power, J.A., Coombs, M.L., and Freymueller, J.T., eds., The 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1769, p. 41–57. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1769/chapters/p1769_chapter02.pdf].

van Manen, S., J. Dehn., M. West, S. Blake and D. Rothery (2010), The 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano; combined analyses of thermal satellite data and reduced displacement, chapter 23 of Power, J.A., Coombs, M.L., and Freymueller, J.T., eds., The 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1769, p. 553–567[http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1769/chapters/p1769_chapter23.pdf].

Thompson, G. and M.E. West (2010) Real-time detection of earthquake swarms at Redoubt Volcano, 2009, Seismo. Res. Lett., 81, 505-513, doi: 10.1785/gssrl.81.3.505

Thelen, W., M. West, S. Senyukov (2010) Seismic Characterization of Fall 2007 Eruptive Sequence at Bezymianny Volcano, Russia. J. Volc. Geotherm. Res. 194, 201-213, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2010.05.010.

Thelen, W., S. Malone, M. West. (2010) Repose-time and cumulative moment magnitude: a new tool for forecasting eruptions?Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L18301, doi:10.1029/2010GL044194.


Before 2010

Amundson, J. M., M. Truffer, M.P. Lüthi, M. Fahnestock, M. West and R.J. Motyka (2008), Glacier, fjord, and seismic response to recent large calving events, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L22501, doi:10.1029/2008GL035281.

West, M., J. Sanchez, S. McNutt (2005), Periodically-triggered seismicity at Mt. Wrangell volcano following the Sumatra earthquake.Science, 308, 1144-1146, doi: 10.1126/science.112462

Wilson, D., R. Aster, J. Ni, S. Grand, M. West, W. Gao, W. S. Baldridge, and S. Semken (2005), Imaging the seismic structure of the crust and upper mantle beneath the Great Plains, Rio Grande Rift, and Colorado Plateau using receiver functions, J. Geophys. Res., 110, B05306, doi:10.1029/ 2004JB003492.

Wilson, D., R. Aster, M. West, J. Ni, S. Grand, W. Gao, W. S. Baldridge, S. Semken, and P. Patel (2005) Lithospheric structure of the Rio Grande rift. Nature, 433, 851-854, doi: 10.1038/nature03297

Gao, W., S. P. Grand, W. S. Baldridge, D. Wilson, M. West, J. F. Ni, and R. Aster (2004), Upper mantle convection beneath the central Rio Grande rift imaged by P and S wave tomography, J. Geophys. Res., 109, B03305, doi:10.1029/2003JB002743.

West, M., Gao, W., S. Grand (2004), A simple approach to the joint inversion of seismic body and surface waves applied to the southwest U.S. Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, L15615, doi:10.1029/2004GL020373.

West, M., J. Ni, W. S. Baldridge, D. Wilson, R. Aster, W. Gao, and S. Grand (2004), Crust and upper mantle shear wave structure of the southwest United States: Implications for rifting and support for high elevation, J. Geophys. Res., 109, B03309, doi:10.1029/2003JB002575.

Gao, W., S. P. Grand, W. S. Baldridge, D. Wilson, M. West, J. F. Ni, and R. Aster (2004), Upper mantle convection beneath the central Rio Grande rift imaged by P and S wave tomography, J. Geophys. Res., 109, B03305, doi:10.1029/2003JB002743.

Wilson, D., R. Aster, W. S. Baldridge, W. Gao, R. Gok, S. Grand, J. Ni, E. Sandvol, S. Semken, M. West (2003), Imaging crust and upper mantle seismic structure in the southwestern United States using teleseismic receiver functions, The Leading Edge, v.22, n.3, p.232-237, doi:10.1190/1.1564528

West, M., W. Menke, and M. Tolstoy (2003), Focused magma supply at the intersection of the Cobb hot spot and the Juan de Fuca ridge. Geophys. Res. Lett., 30, 1724, doi:10.1029/2003GL017104.

Gök, R., J. Ni, M. West, E. Sandvol, D. Wilson, R. Aster, W. S. Baldridge, S. Grand, W. Gao, F. Tilmann, and S. Semken (2003), Shear Wave Splitting and Mantle Flow Beneath LA RISTRA, Geophys. Res. Lett., 30, doi:1614,10.1029/2002GL016616.

Rapine, R., F. Tilmann, M. West, J. Ni and A. Rodgers (2003), Crustal Structure of Northern and Southern Tibet from Surface Wave Dispersion Analysis, J. Geophys. Res., 108, doi:10.1029/2001JB000445.

Menke, W. M. West and M. Tolstoy (2002), The 1993 eruption of the CoAxial segment of the Juan de Fuca ridge. Geology, 30, 359-362.

West, M., W. Menke, M. Tolstoy, S. Webb and R. Sohn (2001), Magma storage beneath Axial Volcano on the Juan de Fuca mid-ocean ridge. Nature, 413, 833-836, doi:10.1038/35101581

Kim, W.-Y, L.R.Sykes, J. H. Armitage, J. K. Xie, K. Jacob, P. G. Richards, M. West, F. Waldhauser, J. Armbruster, L. Seeber, W.X. Du and A. Lerner-Lam (2001), Seismic waves generated by aircraft impacts and building collapses at World Trade Center, NY, EOS, 82, 565, doi: 10.1029/01EO00330

Menke, W., M. West, B. Brandsdottir and D. Sparks (1998), Compressional and Shear Velocity Structure of the Lithosphere in Northern Iceland. Bull. Seis. Soc. Am., 88, 1561-1571.


Informal write ups of investigations that are not peer-reviewed or were later integrated into publications.
Comparison of AVO and AEIC earthquake locations(2011)
Alaska seismicity rates (Earthscope one-pager)
Searching for precursors before large earthquakes (Earthscope one-pager)
Toward glacier ice-mass tracking with seismology (Earthscope one-pager)
Comparison of AVO and AEIC earthquake locations (2010)


Each of these guides was written for a specific purpose. In some cases content may be incomplete or dated.
Data access in the UAF Seis Lab (pdf)