Caroline Holden

Citation on the award of NZSEE Fellow, April 2018


Caroline Holden is awarded a Fellowship of NZSEE for her services to seismic research, leadership, and earthquake engineering in New Zealand.

Caroline has worked at the interface between seismology and engineering for nearly 20 years. Caroline arrived in New Zealand in 2000 and studied towards her PhD at the University of Canterbury under the supervision of Dr John Berrill. Among other things, her thesis involved optimising the design of seismograph networks, modelling the ruptures of past earthquakes and simulating ground motions for future earthquakes. For this PhD work, Caroline received the Student Awards given by both the New Zealand Geotechnical Society (NZGS) and the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE).

After undertaking postdoctoral research at Laboratoire de Géologie de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, Caroline returned to New Zealand in 2007, joining GNS Science as a seismologist and waveform modeller. In her time at GNS she has routinely derived and published kinematic rupture models of large New Zealand earthquakes. These models are heavily analysed in both engineering and seismology contexts. Caroline has also done pioneering research on the engineering use of ground motion simulations in New Zealand, using the Hikurangi subduction zone and Alpine Fault as case studies. In all her research, Caroline always prioritised the communication of her results to the NZSEE community.

One of Caroline’s strongest, often-overlooked contributions to the community is her work as a GeoNet Duty Seismologist. This work involves the rapid interpretation of complex, often incomplete earthquake and tsunami datasets, sometimes in the middle of the night, before providing Civil Defence advice and media statements. Shortly after starting at GNS Science, the 2007 Mw6.6 Gisborne earthquake struck. It was to be the start of a highly active period of New Zealand earthquakes. Caroline acted as a Duty Seismologist throughout the Canterbury earthquakes from 2010, the Cook Strait earthquakes from 2013, the Eketahuna Earthquake of 2014, the Te Araroa Earthquake of 2016 and the ongoing Kaikōura earthquake sequence. During this time, Caroline has also chaired the Tsunami Expert Panel’s rapid response to Pacific tsunami on numerous occasions. This work has made her a core member of one of the world’s most experienced earthquake response teams.

Caroline served on the NZSEE management committee for 3 years, convened the 2015 NZSEE conference in Rotorua and has supervised several Masters and PhD students. Caroline is known to her colleagues as personable, good-humoured, generous, altruistic, dedicated, and the quintessential team player.

Caroline’s contribution and leadership in seismology, earthquake engineering and allied endeavours is appreciated by the Society, and is acknowledged with the award of a New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering Fellowship.