[Editor’s note: Emily Fisher uses the gender-neutral pronouns they/them.]
Emily Fisher, a senior geologist at Aera Energy’s Cymric and McKittrick fields, uses seismology knowledge to help the Kern County community better understand earthquakes.
When the ground starts shaking, Emily Fisher checks the United States Geological Survey for the latest data and then keeps a close eye on their phone. The call they are waiting for, might be from Bakersfield’s KGET TV 17, inviting them on air to provide their insights on the latest earthquake as a local geology expert in Kern County.
On a normal day, Fisher has a slightly less glamorous role, though important role – they work as a senior geologist at Aera Energy’s Cymric and McKittrick fields, helping their team by studying rocks, identifying where oil is in the field, and how it can best be extracted. Seismology is one of their many geologic backgrounds and helps them do their job.
“I love figuring out how the earth works, especially faults,” said Fisher. “The power behind tectonics that creates mountains leaves me in awe. I used to pay for the privilege to study faults in college and now it’s my job. The fact that I get to apply the science I’ve learned to my work every day is what I love about my job at Aera. I might go look at a river or a beach and use what I learned from that to understand where I can find more oil in our fields that are ancient, buried beaches and rivers. Geologists put the “x” on a map to say “drill here” and it’s rewarding to see my ideas come to life as well.”
Fisher started their geology journey at Miami University of Ohio, where they received their bachelor’s degree in geology and environmental science, then stayed on as faculty to be a seismologist. Raised in Ohio, they had never experienced an earthquake until years after they moved to California to get their master’s degree in geology from Fresno State University. They still remember the first time they felt an actual earthquake about five years ago.
“I was at work, and we could immediately see the data come up on USGS in real time. We were guessing which fault line it happened on, and we were trying to determine the type of earthquake from focal mechanism,” Fisher said.
When the 2019 Ridgecrest Earthquake hit, Fisher posted their assessment of the quake on a social media page they created called “Geology Answers.” Their husband shared the posts on the popular site Reddit and their posts caught the attention of a KGET producer. He reached out to ask if they would be interested in being interviewed in a live news segment, and they agreed.
Since then, they have appeared in multiple news segments. They love educating the community about earthquakes from a geology perspective while breaking down scientific terms for someone to understand.
“The mechanics of earthquakes used to be my bread and butter. Normally no one asks about the details, but after Ridgecrest, people were interested and anxious, as we all fearing the unknown. Sharing what I know helped people understand earthquakes and made them less scary,” Fisher said.
“We haven’t had a major earthquake here in California in 15 years. Whenever the ground starts shaking, people always ask ‘what does it mean?’ and as a seismologist, I love explaining it’s normal that our earth is always moving. When we are quiet for too long, that’s the unusual part,” they added.
Their seismology background also helps them better understand the fields at Aera, whether the fields are shaking or not.
“I translate some of the science jargon into ways that someone can understand without knowing the terminology. Whether it’s an earthquake or finding the right spot to extract oil from one of our fields – I love being able to help everyone understand the science behind it,” they said.
Watch Emily Fisher’s most recent appearance on KGET TV 17 on July 9.