Below, Dr. Peacock answers a few questions about his research and career as a geoscientist:
1. Could you describe your work/research?
I am a geoscientist and a faculty member in UBC's Department of
Earth and Ocean Sciences. My research focuses on understanding
earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain building that occur where two
"tectonic plates" collide. Specifically, I focus on "subduction zones"
where an oceanic plate is driven into the Earth's mantle beneath either
a continental or oceanic plate. Bamfield and Vancouver Island sit atop
the Cascadia subduction zone, where the Juan de Fuca plate subducts
beneath the North American plate. The plate boundary is located off the
west coast of Vancouver Island, and the Juan de Fuca plate dives
eastward beneath Bamfield, Victoria, and Vancouver. My most recent
research has focused on understanding the nature of the plate boundary
beneath southern Vancouver Island. In addition to my geoscience
research, I currently serve as Dean of the Faculty of Science at UBC.
2. How did you get interested in geology in general, and subduction
zone processes in particular?
As a child, I enjoyed hiking in the low mountains of Scotland on
summer vacations and I had a very inspiring 9th grade Earth Sciences
teacher (Mr. Frappier) in New York. My passion for subduction zones
developed while I was a graduate student conducting field work in the
Klamath Mountains of northern California. The rocks there were
approximately 400 million years old and formed in an ancient subduction
3. What specific skills do you use in your research?
Much of my current work relies on computers that permit me to
simulate subduction using mathematical models. Simulating geologic
time, which involves millions of years, is not possible in a
conventional laboratory, but computers can be used as a numerical
laboratory. I also conduct field work, collecting rocks, and analyzing
them using a petrographic microscope and electron microprobe.
4. What training and education did you need to obtain your current
position? How do you juggle administrative duties with research
In order to be a professor at a university, you must have a
Ph.D. degree. I received my Bachelor of Science and Master of Science
degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and my Doctor of
Philosophy (Ph.D.) from the University of California at Los Angeles. In
order to be a Dean, you need to have been promoted to full Professor and
have demonstrated administrative experience (for example, I served as a
Department Head for 5 years). Juggling administrative and research
duties is challenging, but fortunately I find both to be fun and
rewarding. Someone once defined a "real" job as one where you cannot
possibly finish your "To Do" list. I have had a real job for many
5. What is rewarding about your work, from personal, and professional perspectives?
As Dean, I spend much of my day working with people committed to
improving UBC, making our university a better place for student learning
and for scientific research. I enjoy working with people and I enjoy
trying to enhance the opportunities for the next generation. I also get
a thrill out seeing the amazing discoveries across the life, physical,
and mathematical sciences
6. Is your work important to society?
My research focuses on basic science, but is helping us better
understand the seismic hazard associated with the next big earthquake
here in Cascadia. The last big earthquake occurred in 1700 AD and was a
magnitude 9+. It was very similar to the 2004 Sumatra earthquake that
generated a large tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean.
7. What advice do you have for young students interested in geology?
Follow your passion! Geology is a very cool science and it has
allowed me to see the world - the Alps, Japan, even Antartica!
8. Anything else you would like to add?
If the ground starts shaking at Bamfield, immediately run to
high ground to be safe from any potential tsunami.