Published: Sept. 14, 2023

CU Boulder geological sciences professor is an expert on ‘induced seismicity,’ when earthquakes are triggered by energy development 

Shemin Ge, professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and an expert in how earthquakes can be triggered by human activity, has been elected as an American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fellow, the union announced this week. 

Shemin Ge

Shemin Ge

Ge is among 53 scholars in the 2023 Class of Fellows. AGU, the world's largest Earth and space sciences association, annually recognizes a select number of individuals for its highest honors. Since 1962, the AGU Union Fellows Committee has selected less than 0.1% of members as new fellows. 

Ge was selected because of her outstanding scientific achievements, contributions to furthering scientific advancement and exemplary leadership, the organization said, adding that Ge also embodies AGU’s vision of a thriving, sustainable and equitable future powered by discovery, innovation and action. 

Equally important, the AGU said, is that Ge works with integrity, respect and collaboration while creating deep engagement in education, diversity and outreach. 

Ge is a hydrogeologist who studies groundwater in the Earth’s crust, with a focus on understanding how groundwater flow interacts with and is affected by other geologic processes and how theses interactions advance science and offer insights on societally relevant issues. 

One focus of her research is the mechanical interaction between groundwater and rock deformation, which was motivated by an apparent spatial association between some mountain belts and ore deposits in foreland basins adjacent to those mountain belts. 

Episodic orogenic deformation could drive mineral-bearing groundwater flow to concentrate ore deposits and enable secondary petroleum migration, Ge’s website notes. A new focus in groundwater-rock deformation research is to seek causal mechanisms for induced seismicity beneath dammed reservoirs and around deep wastewater disposal wells.

Another area of Ge’s research is studying the impact of climate change on groundwater resources, focusing on high-altitude regions where variations in temperature and precipitation are expected. Relying on the fundamental theory of energy and fluid transport in porous media, this research looks into snowmelt infiltrating seasonally frozen ground and permafrost into deeper subsurface and discharging back to surface waters downstream.

“I am deeply honored and extremely grateful for the support I have received from CU and many colleagues, as well as my fortune of working with a stream of bright students throughout the years,” Ge said. 

“This recognition further inspires me to continue addressing emerging scientific challenges in water resources and natural or human-induced geohazards through research and teaching.” 

Ge joined the CU Boulder faculty in 1993 and has been recognized with a 2019-20 Fulbright U.S. Scholar award to study water-induced earthquakes in Hong Kong. She was named a fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2006, and she won the society’s O.E. Meinzer Award in 2018.

Ge holds a PhD in hydrogeology from Johns Hopkins University and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in geotechnical engineering from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and Wuhan University of Technology in Wuhan, China, respectively.

AGU will formally recognize this year’s recipients at AGU23, which in December will convene more than 25,000 attendees from over 100 countries in San Francisco and online. 

AGU describes itself as a global community supporting more than half a million advocates and professionals in the Earth and space sciences. Through broad and inclusive partnerships, AGU aims to advance discovery and solution science that accelerate knowledge and create solutions that are ethical, unbiased and respectful of communities and their values.