2020 E.B. Burwell, Jr., Award

Presented to J.V. DeGraff, W.J. Burns, and V. McConnell

J.V. Degraff

J.V. DeGraff

W.J. Burns

W.J. Burns

V. McConnell

V. McConnell

2016, Landslide Risk Reduction in the United States-Signs of Progress: Environmental & Engineering Geoscience, Vol. XXII No. 3, p. 225-243.


Citation by Scott Burns, Portland State University

I love research on landslides for it is a geohazard that causes abundant destruction each year and still does not have insurance available. The idea for this paper originated in 2014 right after the famous Oso landslide in Washington. Focus on landslides in the United States grew that year after Oso and many years of neglect. The American Association of State Geologists wanted to know what each state was doing to help reduce landslides. Vicki McConnell, state geologist of Oregon, had one of the strongest state landslide study programs in the United States, and it was run by Bill Burns. She asked him to poll all surveys on what they were doing. At the same time, Jerry DeGraff was writing a paper on the same topic based on his three decades of landslide research with the U.S. Forest Service. He and Bill combined their data and ideas, and a super paper was born! It already has won the top paper award from AEG in 2017.

Jerry DeGraff has been a leading landslide researcher in the United States for over 30 years for the U.S. Forest Service. This year he will win the Schuster Award for Geohazard Research. He also conducted landslide research overseas through the USFS, especially in the Caribbean. We have been great friends since 1977 when we met at a Cordilleran GSA meeting in Fort Collins, Colorado. I have stayed with him and his lovely wife, Sandy, many times – Jerry made the best cappuccinos in the world! Sadly, Jerry passed away earlier this year after a long bought with cancer. I have known Bill since he was a graduate student at Portland State in 1995 in geology. He, two other graduate students and I mapped and studied over 700 landslides in the Portland area after a large 1996 storm. This project started his career in landslides and led to his MS thesis. It then led to a career in landslides where he today runs DOGAMI’s landslide research programs. Both he and Jerry have been chairs of the Engineering Geology Division of GSA. Vicki McConnell was a wonderful state geologist for the state of Oregon for many years, and it was under her leadership that she started the Oregon landslide research program. She left that position a few years ago to become the executive director of GSA where I believe she is doing an excellent job!



We start by thanking Jerry DeGraff. This award is really for him. When he first approached us with the idea for this paper, he said he wanted to include a short-focused example on the landslide program at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI). We were so proud that he asked us to be coauthors. He will be dearly missed.

We are also pleased that through this publication we could share the important work on landslide evaluation, mitigation, and risk reduction conducted at many of our sister state geologic surveys. Collaboration on applied research as well as sharing of best practices embodies the objective of the Burwell Award.

We also want to express thanks to Scott Burns for the wonderful citation. He has made significant impact on landslide risk reduction in United States and is and was friends with all three authors. Scott always knows exactly what to say and we thank him for his kind words, his mentorship and scientific collaboration, and his friendship.

We thank Jim McCalpin and the Burwell Award Committee for this award. We are so grateful for the recognition by the Environmental & Engineering Geology Division (EEGD) of GSA. We are honored to receive the 2020 E.B. Burwell, Jr. Award and hope that the award will spur more landslide risk reduction in the United States.