Ron Harris


Ron Harris was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon. His parents introduced him early to the wilds of western North America, and in the process raised a budding geologist. He was always asking questions about the N-S patterns of the landscapes he observed during family vacations and on the maps he poured over. At that time science had no answers, but he knew there was a deeper meaning, and some day he could play a role in discovering it.

Little did he know that the stage was being set for him to realize his dream through the scientific revolution of plate tectonics, which was at the same time piecing together the first reliable theories to explain most of what Ron asked about. Oh the beauty of synchronicities! Ron’s questions led him to take a geology course in high school where he and plate tectonics met. It was an epiphany! He discovered he was living above an active subduction zone with east-west convergence, and this motion between the two plates was causing volcanoes and crumpling Earth’s surface into those N-S ‘tectonic’ features he had explored growing up, such as the Cascade Range, Coast Ranges, Rockies and so on. This experience launched what has become a 35 year quest to document the process responsible for Earth’s great mountain ranges. After marrying Deb and graduating in Geology at the University of Oregon, Ron’s curiosity led to graduate school with a young family in tow. First, it was north to Alaska (no surprise) where he completed an MSc. in geophysics. Then, it was onto the UK for a Ph.D. at UCL in Mountain Building Processes.

His first academic post was at West Virginia University (The Mountaineers). Ron and Deb are still married after 40 years of adventure, and the family is much larger (12 grand kids). Deb is a professional archeologist who also travels the world. Ron is a full Professor at Brigham Young University where he has received teaching and research awards. His student research teams conduct regional geological syntheses not only in the western US, but also throughout some of Earth’s most geologically active regions, where mountains are growing and collapsing.

Although the academic publications are important, Ron’s greatest satisfaction arises from his commitment to reach a broad audience. His passion now includes authoring books and articles that make the pattern language of Earth, which fascinated him as a child, assessable and meaningful to everyone. His favorite and most effective stage for sharing his enthusiasm and expertise in interpreting Earth, and for participant motivation, is the field adventure. Ron has inspired many budding geologists and helped thousands transform what are already breathtaking landscapes into journeys through time and space into former worlds.

In Harm’s Way is a non-profit Ron founded to reduce death and destruction from natural hazards. The community-based outreach efforts of his teams are responsible for saving thousands of lives through prevention education and implementing effective natural disaster reduction strategies. Ron’s mantra for all he does is ‘Listen to Earth, Listen to its People and Empower People to Listen to Earth’. It is working!