Forrest Hopson

Forrest Hopson

Member Biography I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. When I was 6 my family and I moved to beautiful Santa Barbara, California where I grew up. Like most of us in geology I did a lot of hiking and camping, activities that I enjoy today. My father, Clifford Hopson, PhD and professor emeritus at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), inspired my appreciation for geology. I spent the summers of my youth on ‘family field camps’ at Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Lake Chelan, and Coast Ranges where my dad was doing his geologic research. Spirit Lake Campground was a family favorite, and I summited Mount St. Helens five times prior to the 1980 eruption. I grew up surrounded by eminent UCSB “rock stars” including Professors John Crowell (San Andreas Fault), Richard “Dick” Fisher (volcanology), and George Tilton (geochronology pioneer). I later became acquainted with Professors Richard “Rick” Sibson (quartz veins) and Tanya Atwater (plate tectonics) when they became members of the UCSB geology faculty.

My college career began at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). I was inspired by the geology faculty at SBCC with lively classroom lectures and field trips to Death Valley, Eastern Sierra Nevada, and the Santa Barbara Backcountry. From SBCC I headed south to L.A. to enroll at Cal State Northridge (CSUN), known for its emphasis on field geology. I graduated in 1984 with a BA in Earth Science and a minor in Geology.

After graduation from CSUN it was off to the oil patch to work as a geological draftsman for Union Pacific Resources Corporation (UPRC) in the Los Angeles Harbor area for several years. While working at UPRC, I enrolled at Cal State Los Angeles (CSULA) to pursue my MSc in Geology. I was fortunate to have Professor Perry Ehlig guide my thesis research, documenting the offsets of granitic basement rocks along the left-lateral Pinto Mountain Fault (just north of Joshua Tree National Park) and discuss its roll in regional tectonics. This project was timely because it was near the site of the June 1992 Landers Earthquake (Mw 7.3) and there was a lot of interest in that area. My graduate course work included three graduate seminars at UCSB, including Tanya Atwater’s plate tectonics seminar. My graduate research included two projects with Professor Edward Keller (UCSB) mapping and doing paleomagnetic work on two fault propagation folds in the Pleistocene Santa Barbara Fold Belt. I graduated with an MSc from CSULA in 1996.

My first geology jobs were with the U.S. Forest Service during the summers of 1980 and 1981 as a geotechnical assistant. I was assigned to road construction projects between Mount St. Helens and the Columbia River in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington. About two weeks prior to starting the first assignment, Mount St. Helens had erupted catastrophically (May 18, 1980) so this was an exciting place to be! Moreover, I witnessed two of several eruptions that followed the May 1980 eruption that summer.

My first positions after graduate school were geotechnical engineering projects near San Jose, Santa Barbara, and Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. In those jobs I had a variety of assignments that included doing soil compaction testing with a nuclear gauge, being a soil laboratory technician, and staff geologist mapping cut slopes and conducting water percolation tests.

I relocated to Reno in January 2001. I began work with Seismowatch reporting earthquake data for the Reno Gazette Journal and several newspapers in California. In 2002 geology jobs were scarce so I shifted to substitute teaching for the Washoe County School District and adjunct teaching at the community college level. I was a physical geology instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College (2002 Fall semester) and physical geography instructor at Western Nevada College (2003 Winter semester).

My mining career began in 2004 working as an environmental technician at Apollo Gold’s (later Jipangu’s) Florida Canyon Mine. I continue to seek temporary contract assignments. Past assignments have included logging core for gold mining companies including Pogo, Hollister, Round Mountain, and Fire Creek Mines. These assignments included sites in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Alaska. My experience includes project geologist on two uranium projects: chasing roll fronts with a scintillometer in the Powder River Basin, WY, and logging drill core on the Aurora Project in the northern part of the McDermitt Caldera, OR.

Some of my work has been as an independent researcher. I have published several geologic meeting abstracts and research papers in both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications. In 1990, Geology published a paper Karl Ramseyer (University of Berne) and I wrote about our cathodoluminescence work on myrmekite. Our work helped to confirm the notion that myrmekite results from the replacement of K-feldspar by plagioclase and quartz during late-stage magmatic crystallization. In 1991, Environmental Geology published my paper on the impact of volcanism in the Mammoth Lakes area on nearby water resources. When it became better understood what kind of eruption might occur in that area, I revised the paper and republished it in the Engineering Geology of Northern California volume co-published by the California Division of Mines and Geology and Association of Engineering Geologists. California Geology published my paper on the Quaternary geology and neotectonics of the Pinto Mountain Fault in 1998. Jack Hillhouse, Keith Howard (both USGS) and I analyzed the orientations of the regional Jurassic Independence Dike Swarm. We concluded that our paper could serve as a useful, if imperfect guide for determining tectonic rotations in the Sierra Nevada, Eastern California, and Mojave Desert where paleomagnetic data do not exist. Our paper appeared in Geological Society of America Special Paper 438, in 2008. My articles on the geology of Lassen Volcanic National Park (2011) and Lake Tahoe (2012) were published by Earth Magazine. My latest published works were books. This past spring Backcountry Press published Mike Clynne’s (USGS) and my book, Geology of the Lassen Country—the Geologic Story of Lassen Volcanic National Park and Vicinity. I contributed three chapters to the 7th edition of Geology of National Parks textbook (Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company, 2019): Lassen Volcanic (with Mike Clynne), Crater Lake, and Joshua Tree (with Dee Trent, Citrus College) National Parks.

So it has been an interesting career. I am fortunate to have worked on a wide variety of projects in a field I love and pursue geology writing on the side.

Email Address

Position Geologist

Phone 775-813-1572

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