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Turner Wins Award

Loren Turner, Senior Transportation Engineer in the Division of Research & Innovation at Caltrans, received the 2008 John Wesley Powell Award at a September ceremony in Denver.

Turner led a strong partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop the USGS ShakeCast system, a new post-earthquake situational awareness tool. Turner’s efforts have significantly advanced the goal of the USGS geologic hazards programs to “monitor hazardous events in near-real time and to conduct risk assessments to mitigate loss.”

group photo
David Applegate, USGS Regional Director (left ), and Randall Updike, USGS Rocky Mountain Regional Executive (right), presented Caltrans Senior Transportation Engineer Loren Turner with a bronze survey benchmark plaque for his and Caltrans' efforts in ShakeCast system development.

ShakeCast, short for ShakeMap Broadcast, is a freely available application that automatically retrieves earthquake shaking data from ShakeMap, compares intensity measures against users’ facilities, and generates potential damage assessment notifications, facility damage maps, and other web-based products for emergency managers and responders.

With more than 25,000 bridges and overpasses under Caltrans’ responsibility, having an instantaneous snapshot of the likely damage to each will allow the Department to prioritize traffic rerouting, closures, and inspections following a damaging earthquake.

Turner evaluated and deployed the prototype ShakeCast system at Caltrans. Recognizing its value to the organization and other potential users, he coordinated development (with the USGS) and subsequently produced a fully functional ShakeCast system for Caltrans.

Since it was developed as an open-source tool, ShakeCast is now used by numerous other companies, organizations, utilities, and agencies, all benefiting from Turner’s insight and efforts. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District – responsible for nearly 900,000 students, 80,000 faculty and staff, 12,000 buildings, and 1,100 schools – is utilizing ShakeCast to help improve earthquake monitoring and emergency response in southern California. Sharing his expertise about ShakeCast, Turner has contributed to many operational efforts outside Caltrans, especially by spearheading an online users’ forum.

The John Wesley Powell Award recognizes a non-Federal individual or group for making noteworthy contributions to USGS’s objectives and mission. The first award, given in 1971, was named for the distinguished scientist and explorer who served as the second director of the USGS from 1881 to 1894, and who pioneered exploration of the Colorado River.

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