Symposium to Honor Sheridan's Career

Release Date: May 9, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A four-decade career dedicated to mitigating geologic catastrophes and saving lives will be the focus of "Volcanic Flows and Falls: A Conference to Honor Professor Michael Sheridan" to be held Thursday and Friday in the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center (formerly the University Inn and Conference Center), 2402 N. Forest Road.

Michael F. Sheridan, a University at Buffalo faculty member since 1990, and former chair of the Department of Geology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences from 1990-99, is retiring next week after nearly two decades at UB.

The scientific conference in his honor features an international, multidisciplinary group of speakers, reflecting the highly multidisciplinary nature of Sheridan's research.

Among the UB faculty members speaking at the conference will be Abani Patra, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Chris Renschler, assistant professor of geography; Bruce Pitman, associate dean for research, College of Arts and Sciences; Eliza Calder, assistant professor of geology, and Marcus Bursik, professor of geology.

The keynote address at 4:30 p.m. Friday will be delivered by Sheridan. It is entitled "Using Models of Geophysical Mass Flows for Hazard Map Construction and Risk Assessment," and will be free and open to the public.

An internationally revered volcanologist, Sheridan will continue to conduct his research assessing risks to populations living near volcanoes all over the globe -- from Ecuador and Siberia to Italy and Mexico.

He is a pioneer in developing some of the first computational tools to help researchers estimate how far and how fast ash and lava flowing from eruptions will travel.

Sheridan also travels to areas where other geologic disasters are a concern. He has gone to Guatemala to study the nature of mudslides, and to Nevada to assess the risk of establishing a radioactive waste repository as part of a Department of Energy expert panel.

His research at such famous volcanoes as Vesuvius in Italy and Colima in Mexico has made headlines around the world, and his work as a volcanic-hazards expert has impacted -- indeed improved --the lives of thousands who live adjacent to active volcanoes.

At the same time, UB students have been the beneficiaries of his extensive research agenda and knowledge about how governments and societies deal with geologic hazards.

Just last year, as Hurricane Katrina was wreaking havoc in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, Sheridan quickly shifted the focus of his course Geology 428/528 "Preventing Geologic Disasters" to provide his students with an opportunity to watch how hazard mitigation occurs in real-life situations.

In March, Sheridan co-authored research demonstrating that a Bronze Age eruption at Mt. Vesuvius wrought broader destruction than the famous Pompeii eruption of AD 79. The publication has prompted Italian officials to begin discussing how to better mitigate a potential eruption that might well reach Naples, a city of several million people.

For more information on the conference, contact the Department of Geology at 645-6800, ext. 6100.

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