Heather Ford


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“I can’t recall why I decided to become an earth scientist, but from the age of 5 or 6, I was fascinated by rocks. I grew up in Michigan, so we spent a lot of time on the lake, just walking on the beach. I’d pick up a stone and ask my father how it was made. My parents weren’t geologists—I’m actually a first-generation college student—but they were both very enthusiastic. If they didn’t know the answer to a question I had, they were taking me to the library the next day to see if we could find a book that might answer it.

In college, I spent four years doing research in different labs within the earth sciences department. I knew earth sciences was what I wanted to do. I decided to become a seismologist, or at least a geophysicist, after a unique field camp experience in which we used a gravimeter. We had spent the summer mapping faults, folds, and stratigraphy. Then, at the end of summer, we got to use  a gravimeter to map a gravity anomaly associated with a fault. We used the field geophysical measurements to build a model, determining that a previously unobserved fault could best explain our observations. Now I study the San Andreas fault. I also study ancient continental lithosphere, so sometimes I get to look at rocks that are 3 billion years old!"

Heather Ford is an assistant professor of geophysics at University of California, Riverside, where she uses EarthScope data to investigate the inner workings of the San Andreas fault system.

Ford participated in the November 2016 EarthScope Synthesis Workshop on developing a new community model for the 4-D evolution of North America.

Gravimeter definition : A gravimeter is a device that measures small changes in gravity due to different densities in Earth’s crust and mantle.



-by Atleigh Forden