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I was born and raised in Hollywood, California, in the house that my mother grew up in. I am a fourth-generation Californian, and my childhood home is within ~200 feet of the surface trace of the Hollywood fault — an active reverse fault that is thought to be capable of producing M7 earthquakes. I attended a Catholic grammar school and graduated with honors from Loyola High School -- a very fine Jesuit high school in Los Angeles.
I attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, as a National Merit Scholar. At Pomona, several notable geologists tried (with varying success) to teach me something about geology, including A.O. Woodford, Mason Hill, Alex Baird, Don Zenger and Donald McIntyre. After graduating from Pomona with my Bachelor's degree in Geology in 1979, I worked with Dr. Jim Slosson (former State Geologist of California) as an engineering geologist in the field by day and took courses at the Cal State University campuses in Los Angeles and Northridge by night. I took a summer internship with Phillips Uranium Corporation in 1980, which involved field work in half a dozen western states, and subsequently began my Masters work at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1980.
My Masters thesis work at Dartmouth led to three field seasons mapping and collecting oriented specimens for paleomagnetic analysis in the area around the Skardu Basin of the northwest Himalaya. I worked under Gary Johnson and Noye Johnson in his thesis research. On the side, I worked with Chuck Drake on some plate kinematics research. I completed my Masters in Earth Sciences in late 1982, after which I was supposed to begin working for Amoco Production Company; however, Amoco reneged on the job offer in early 1983. I returned home to California to work with Jim Slosson. I collaborated with Jim on various projects for more than three decades, including work on landslides (Thistle, Big Rock Mesa, Portuguese Bend, Abalone Cove, Rambla Pacifico), debris flows, floods, pre-development site investigations, forensic geology, and review of geological reports. Several of those cases are described in a book written by Gerry Shuirman and Jim:
I began my doctoral studies at the Center for Tectonophysics at Texas A&M University, in 1984. My official advisors were John Spang and Neville Carter, but Rick Carlson and Tom Hilde were also important influences. In addition to my primary advisors, I took coursework from Mel Friedman, John Logan, Dave Wiltschko, Ray Fletcher, Andy Kronenberg, Bob Berg and Norm Tilford. My dissertation research was a kinematic model for the finite relative motion of lithospheric plates (dubbed "cycloid tectonics") that solved the "three-plate problem" of plate tectonics, and offered an explanation for the sigmoid shape of oceanic fracture zones. I also demonstrated that there are 25 unique geometries of plate triple junctions, not just 16 as had been stated in the classic paper on triple junctions by McKenzie and Morgan (1969). I graduated in 1988, having been selected for the Distinguished Graduate Student Research Award from TAMU's Association of Former Students.
I was hired prior to graduation as an Assistant Professor by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I earned promotion with tenure in 1994, and was selected as recipient of the first Martine D. Meyers Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2001 (awarded in 2002). I served a term as the elected head of the UWM Graduate Faculty, after having served on many related committees over the years. I continued to teach structural geology, tectonics and engineering geology at UWM until I accepted a position at Baylor University in 2002. I earned tenure and was promoted to Professor (i.e., to full professor) at Baylor. For awhile, I served as Director of the Center for Spatial Research. I retired from Baylor at the end of May, 2022, and was designated an Emeritus Professor.
I served as an elected officer in the Engineering Geology Division of the Geological Society of America for several years, culminating in my chairing the EGD in 1997-98. I was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2003, and received the Meritorious Service Award from the EGD in 2004.
From 2012 until 2022, Cindy Palinkas of the University of Maryland and I served as co-chairs of the US Section of the
International Association for Promoting Geoethics
(IAPG ). I'm now the North American Coordinator for IAPG, and associate editor of their peer-reviewed periodical, Journal of Geoethics and Social Geosciences. My interest in
extends back to my time working with Jim Slosson. I was part of GSA President Dave Stephenson's "Ethics in the Geosciences" workshop in 1997 (GSA_Ethics_in_the_Geosciences.pdf), and was a member of the American Geosciences Institute's Ethics Steering Committee in the 1990s.
I served as Baylor's representative to
(NSF-sponsored university consortium for GPS and related research) and WinSAR, and, with Jay Pulliam, to
(NSF-sponsored university consortium for earthquake seismology). I have also been active in
Project EarthScope, supervising the siting of around two dozen seismographs in central Texas for the EarthScope Transportable Array. At this writing, UNAVCO and IRIS are in the process of merging into the successor organization known as the EarthScope Consortium.
I am the Editor and primary revision author of the AGI/NAGT Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology [11th through 13th editions, 2017-2025]. I am also the author of physical geology lab books that were custom-written for Baylor University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. My draft textbook on plate kinematics is written in
and is available online via
. I have been an active participant in the work of the NSF-supported
Science Education Resource Center
) since 2004, and have contributed resources to their collection. I have been designated a "Top Community Contributor" by SERC in 2014, having authored several resources that have been selected as part of their "exemplary collection."
My current scholarship interests include further development of the Seismo-Lineament Analysis Method (SLAM;
) for the recognition of faults that produce earthquakes, the use of GPS technology in measuring crustal strain and plate kinematics (
), geoscience education and
. I am author or coauthor of many abstracts, more than 20 peer-reviewed papers, and a large number of pedagogical web documents (see my more-or-less current list of
I am married to Cindy Ellis Cronin, a wonderful human from Tyler, Texas, who is also a geologist (BS in geology from Texas A&M, MS in geology from Baylor). Our two children (also wonderful humans) are Kelly, who is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with BA degrees in Economics and Music (Vocal Performance), and an MSBA from the Mendoza College of Business at ND. She works as a data analyst at JCA Inc. in Chicago. Our son Connor earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Portland and works with his cousin Kevin Cronin making houses better in the area around Portland, Oregon. Connor is close to becoming a better rock climber than his dad once was, and is most definitely a better fly fisherman.
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