Kelvin Berryman

Kelvin Berryman is conferred with Life Membership for his oustanding contribution to the science of active tectonics and seismic hazard in New Zealand.

Kelvin Berryman graduated with BSc and BSc (Hons) in 1974 and 1977 from Victoria University of Wellington. He completed his PhD in 1990 on the tectonics of the coastline of eastern New Zealand, with a particular focus on the late Quaternary tectonic uplift of the Mahia Peninsula area. His research provided evidence that the Hikurangi subduction zone and associated offshore faults presented a significant seismic hazard. Over his career since 1974, Kelvin has had an immense impact on the science of active tectonics and seismic hazard in this country and his legacy is both at a national and international level. It is testament to his efforts as a scientist that Kelvin has been author or co-author on 118 peer reviewed journal articles & book chapters.

He has worked at the various incarnations of GNS Science since he graduated in 1974: the NZ Geological Survey from 1974-1990; DSIR Geology & Geophysics from 1990-1992; and IGNS and GNS Science since 1992. During the last decade as a Principal Scientist, Kelvin has been director of the Natural Hazards Research Platform and on the Executive Management team at GNS Science, he is currently General Manager of Natural Hazards Strategic Relationships for GNS Science.

He is a distinguished scientist having received the Royal Society of NZ Medal in 2000, the Royal Society of NZ Marsden Award 2007, and the 2013 Joyner Lecture Award of EERI/SSA. Kelvin received our Otto Glogau Award twice in 1993 & 2000, and was made a Fellow of the NZ Society Earthquake Engineering in 2012. In 2011, Kelvin was awarded the Queens Service Order for services to science and the Canterbury earthquake recovery.

Kelvin has been at the forefront of understanding the onland Late Quaternary tectonics of New Zealand and has contributed at many levels. A seminal work of Kelvin’s is his 1975 Geological Survey Report, chronicling “field reconnaissance of recent displacements and sites along the Alpine Fault”. Following on from Wellman’s Alpine Fault studies, this document confirmed the activity of the Alpine Fault and displays Kelvin’s innate understanding of the surface observation of landscapes and active faults. Kelvin has maintained a longstanding interest in the Alpine Fault and in 2012 published one of the world’s longest paleoseismic records, using a record of 22 earthquakes to highlight the regular earthquake behaviour of the Alpine Fault, for which he was awarded the McKay Hammer Award from the Geoscience Society of New Zealand.

From the period leading up to the award of his PhD in 1990, Kelvin has shown the skills and insights that underpin his contributions relating to the quantification of geological information as input for seismic hazard estimation for engineering and insurance applications and natural hazard management. In 1986, Kelvin co-authored a paper with Warwick Smith entitled “Earthquake hazard in New Zealand: inferences from seismology and geology”. This in a nutshell sums up Kelvin’s career in geology. This standout paper was the forerunner of the works to come that developed the National Seismic Hazard Model championed by Mark Stirling and others. It also highlights Kelvin’s overlapping interests in engineering and applied hazard science in the NZ and the global community. The NZ Geological Survey and GNS Science through its Earth Deformation Section has had an influence in the design construction and ongoing maintenance programs of major hydroelectric dam schemes such as the Clyde, Waitaki, Matahina and Waikato River dam schemes. In these times, Kelvin was at the heart of an EDS team that included Alan Hull and Sarah Beanland, and these projects provided step-changes in the understanding of active faults regionally and how to provide seismic hazard assessments for large dams nationwide.

One of the advances to come from regional active fault studies was the need for a national catalogue of active faults. This first fault catalogue started out as a nation-wide collection of hard-copy map sheets that in the 21st century has gone fully digital with the online GNS Science Active Faults Database. Insights gained from mapping faults nationally have been propagated by Kelvin through to the development of a global active fault database developed for GEM, the Global Earthquake Model. In response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Kelvin led a review of New Zealand’s tsunami hazard in 2005 for the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management; this interdisciplinary study lead to a greater awareness of tsunami hazard in New Zealand.

One of Kelvin’s great strengths has been his leadership, mentoring, team development and interpersonal skills in championing earthquake geology and seismic hazard in New Zealand. Many of the young earthquake geologists at GNS and beyond were hired by or mentored by Kelvin in their formative years. Kelvin has also excelled in bringing together scientists and engineers of different disciplines, from geology, to geodesy, to seismology, to paleoclimatology, and engineering seismology to address varied and complex seismic hazard topics.

In recent years Kelvin has had major roles in providing technical responses to the Canterbury, Cook Strait and Kaikōura earthquake sequences though his connections with civil defence, EQC, the insurance industry and the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering. His contribution to the Clearinghouse concept of providing up-to-date data to practicing scientists and engineers, and encouragement of his GNS Science colleagues, has greatly assisted those required to provide an immediate response that includes understand the science of the earthquake event.

Kelvin Berryman is today awarded Life Membership of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, for his contribution to the understanding of earth sciences, cause and effect of earthquakes, and to communicate this understanding to others working to mitigate earthquake effects, and to the public.