Shelly Receives 2008 Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award

David R. Shelly received the 2008 Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award at the 2008 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 17 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes the scientific accomplishments of a junior scientist who makes outstanding contributions to the advancement of seismology.


shelly_david-rDavid R. Shelly has emerged as one of seismology’s young stars. He has had an impact on the field of seismology that is all out of proportion to his age due to his work on deep, nonvolcanic tremor. It is no exaggeration to state that David’s work revolutionized our understanding of this newly discovered seismic source—a remarkable accomplishment for a Ph.D. student.

During a summer spent at the University of Tokyo, David studied low-frequency earthquakes (LFEs), which were discovered by scientists in Japan. LFEs are small and occur almost exclusively during periods of tremor. He discovered that LFEs occur on the plate interface, and concluded that they represent plate-boundary slip. David subsequently demonstrated that tremor under the island of Shikoku consists of a swarm of LFEs. His work made sense out of signals that had defied interpretation. Before David’s work, tremor mechanisms focused on a coupling of fluid movement to the solid Earth, but he demonstrated that tremor in Japan, and presumably elsewhere, is generated by shear slip. His result stands as a true research breakthrough that may have more generally important implications for the earthquake process because tremor has now been discovered in diverse tectonic environments. In subsequent work, David documented rapid migration and strong tidal triggering of tremor. These, too, are important results. Most recently, he reported the discovery of a horizontal streak of tremor on the deep extension of the San Andreas Fault.

David has a knack for identifying important problems, is creative in solving them, and has a talent for extracting subtle information from immense volumes of data. He has the potential to become one of the world’s leaders in observational seismology. For all of these reasons he is a worthy recipient of the inaugural Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award from the Seismology section of AGU.

Gregory C. Beroza, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.


I am extremely honored to be presented with an award named for Keiiti Aki, who profoundly influenced the field of seismology in many ways. Aki’s contributions serve as a reminder of the power of combining theory, observation, and scientific vision. I would especially like to acknowledge Greg Beroza (my Ph.D. advisor) and Satoshi Ide (collaborator and summer host at University of Tokyo), without whom the work for which I am receiving this award would not have been possible. A young scientist could not hope to have better mentors.

The explosion of available data, especially continuous seismic data, makes this an exciting time to be an observational seismologist. Many recent discoveries, such as those related to deep nonvolcanic tremor, are direct products of this investment in high-quality recording networks. I look forward to using this data in the future to work toward unlocking some of the mysteries of earthquakes and related deformation processes.

David R. Shelly, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.