SoCal earthquake expert Lucy Jones retires from the USGS

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Saturday, March 19, 2016
SoCal earthquake expert Lucy Jones retires from the USGS
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Renowned seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones announced she is retiring from the U.S. Geological Survey after 33 years at the federal service.

GLENDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- Southern California's resident earthquake expert announced Friday she is retiring from the U.S. Geological Survey.

After 33 years, USGS seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones confirmed she is leaving the federal service, but will keep her appointment at Caltech. Jones said the retirement will allow her to "focus on SoCal."

"It does mean that I can continue to do the interaction and for a really good earthquake I'll come on back," Jones said.

It was reported that the earthquake expert is leaving to pursue scientific endeavors that will help create policies in climate change, Tsunamis and other natural disasters.

For decades, Jones has become the face of earthquake science in Southern California. She is known for translating hard-to-understand science into tangible teaching moments.

The death and destruction of the Northridge earthquake was unforgettable for Southern Californians, but Jones said the Landers' 7.3-magnitude earthquake in 1992 also stands out in her mind.

"It was an earthquake where we were really concerned about what came next," Jones said. "Everyone wanted to ask us what came next and we were overwhelmed with the people asking us stuff and the demands on us and the number of aftershocks that were happening. There were over 70,000 aftershocks to that earthquake."

Jones said over her three decades of work, the most noticeable change has come in the form of technological advancement.

"When the Whittier Narrows earthquake happened, we took the paper records off the drums and laid them out with a ruler and measured the sizes to try to estimate the magnitude," Jones explained. "We're now determining it before the earthquake is over. That's what early warning is."

She spearheaded efforts for an early warning system in California, and put policies in place to keep residents safe in the major earthquake expected to hit Southern California.

Jones said seismologists have a good idea of what the "big one" will look like, thanks to her latest project, the Shake Out Scenario.

"That's a description of what our best estimate of what the big earthquake will be," Jones said. "I'm sure the reality is there'll be something different, but we've got the big picture."

Jones is considered a trailblazer for women. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was recently quoted saying, "When the 'big one' hits, people will be living because of the work that she has done."