Ken Gledhill – the man, the beard, the legend.

Published: Tue Apr 7 2020 11:30 AM

On Friday 27 March, the friendly, bearded face of Ken Gledhill had his last day at GNS Science (well technically he was at home in his bubble!). Ken has been at GNS for 38 years, 12 of those as the Director of GeoNet, and 4 as the GeoNet Network Manager.

In his early years at GNS Science as a Research Scientist, Ken concentrated on geophysical instrumentation, the field studies of large earthquakes, and the study of the deep structure beneath New Zealand and other countries using the seismic waves generated by earthquakes. He also managed to fit in a PhD in Geophysics.

'80s Ken Working Hard

'80s Ken Working Hard

In 2001 Ken then became responsible for the many staff undertaking the development and operation of GeoNet. He led us through many geohazard events, including multiple severe earthquakes like the Canterbury sequence, Cook Strait quakes and the Kaikōura earthquake, tsunami threats, and several volcanic eruptions. New Zealand had until then enjoyed a relative seismic quiet.

Ken describes the Christchurch earthquake as being the primary event that significantly changed how GeoNet operates.

“Since Christchurch, GeoNet has built up a strong community. We don’t just send out information, we are part of a discussion. We talk to the public, debunk myths, feel the pulse. One of the big learnings of the sequence for me was how people turned to GeoNet for support. I learned that science can sometimes comfort, as well as inform.”

Ken at GeoNet's 15th birthday party (with Earth Structure and Processes Manager Gill Jolly)

Ken at GeoNet's 15th birthday party (with Earth Structure and Processes Manager Gill Jolly)

In 2018, Ken moved on to a technical adviser role during the establishment of our 24/7 National Geohazards Monitoring Centre (NGMC). This was a big change from when Ken started at GNS Science as a seismologist.

“Seismographs recorded data on tape. To locate a quake, you’d ring the farmers who had the sensors on their land. It took hours to locate one – in our new centre, the geohazard analysts locate quakes within minutes”.

Since the opening of the NGMC Ken has continued to work for GNS Science as a technical adviser to both GNS and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and after years of hard work was part of the proud launch of the New Zealand DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami) Buoy Network in December 2019.

Ken at the announcement of the new DART Buoy instruments.

Ken at the announcement of the new DART Buoy instruments.

While we all wish Ken the best in his retirement, it really is a semi-retirement, Ken will continue to help our friends at NEMA for the next year as sponsor and technical adviser for the DART buoy project.

There is no doubt we will miss his wealth of knowledge and being able to pick Ken’s brain whenever we like, but even more than that, we will miss seeing Ken’s friendly, bearded face around our place.

Happy Retirement Ken!

Ken and an #EmergencyCute SPCA puppy visiting GeoNet after the Kaikoura Earthquake

Ken and an #EmergencyCute SPCA puppy visiting GeoNet after the Kaikoura Earthquake