John Bradford

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John Bradford
John Bradford 2014 headshot.png
President year 2015–2016
Membership Life member
BSc Physics & Engineering Physics
PhD Geophysics
BSc university University of Kansas
PhD university Rice University

John Bradford received dual BS degrees in Physics and Engineering Physics with a concentration in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kansas in 1994. He received his PhD in Geophysics from Rice University in 1999. In 2001, he joined the Center for Geophysical Investigation of the Shallow Subsurface at Boise State University where he served as director from 2006–2009. In 2017, he moved to the Colorado School of Mines where he served as the Geophysics Department Head until 2019, Vice Provost and Dean from 2019–2020, and is currently Vice President for Global Initiatives and heads the Office of Global Initiatives and Business Development. He remains active in research and is focused on developing methodologies for quantitative analysis of near-surface seismic and ground-penetrating radar data with emphasis on using these tools to solve interdisciplinary science and engineering problems. He has published on a diverse array of topics that include hydrocarbon detection as both resource and environmental contaminant, geothermal characterization, hydrogeophysics, glaciology, and archaeology. In 2015–2016 he served as the President of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

2023 SEG Near-Surface Geophysics Technical Section (NSTS) Honorary Life Membership

Dr. John Bradford receiving the Near Surface Honorary Life Membership Award from SEG President-elect Arthur Cheng at the Near-Surface Geophysics Technical Section reception at IMAGE 2023.

It is a great pleasure to nominate Dr John Bradford for the very prestigious NSTS Honorary Life Membership. I have personally known John for almost two decades and have been aware of the impact of his work since the late 1990s when he was completing his graduate studies at Rice. His advances, developments, and uses of shallow seismic reflection and GPR methods for applications to groundwater problems in general, and his innovative and in many cases seminal work addressing Cryosphere applications have clearly advanced the science and our understanding of this very critical zone.

Honorary Life Membership in the NSTS recognizes exceptional scientific contributions and requires exceptional service to the SEG NSTS. The SEG NSTS defines the award as:

Honorary Life Memberships may be extended to any member, who has active status; who has made a distinguished contribution deserving of exceptional recognition, to exploration geophysics, a related field, or to the advancement of the profession of exploration geophysics through service to the SEG; and who has voluntarily rendered exceptionally meritorious service to the SEG Near-Surface Geophysics Technical Section.

Boundless creativity coupled with the unique capacity to numerically visualize and define subsurface properties is a rare capability/skill but one that has helped power Dr. Bradford’s insatiable desire to positively impact and advance the science and associated technology. A true measure of John’s ethos is the value and measure of success he places on advancing the science for the betterment of society/humanity. John is one of those unique intellects that enjoys discovery about as much as teasing out the curiosity and drive in the next generation of geophysicists essential to cultivate the passion for discovery integral to advancing knowledge.

Dr. Bradford’s technical accomplishments have earned him the respect of his peers. He is an internationally recognized authority in the use of GPR methods for hydrologic applications. This can clearly be seen in his research productivity, which is well distributed among some of the most prestigious journals in hydrogeophysics and more generally, applied geophysics. A large percentage of his journal publications are in the highest impact journals of our discipline (GEOPHYSICS, Journal of Hydrology, Geophysical Research Letters, Water Resources Research, Journal of Applied Geophysics, Journal of Glaciology, Journal of Geophysical Research, to name a few). John’s publication record is one of impact, with significant contributions, and in some cases seminal to advancements of our science.

Contributions to the advancement of Dr. Bradford’s science and profession are much broader than can be uncovered by searching the literature alone. Essential to being an exemplary citizen within your professional community are meritorious contributions to the profession and society through professional service.

Solid professional service for most in the academic community involves technical reviews, service on committees, and chairing a technical session or two. John “…has voluntarily rendered exceptionally meritorious service to the SEG Near-Surface Geophysics Technical Section” through service that includes not only chairing a variety of committees, but more notably service as organizer of several near surface geophysics conferences, work as an Associate Editor, service as President/ President-Elect/Past-President of the Near Surface Geophysics Section, a stint on the SEG Executive Committee as a Vice President and ultimately as President of SEG. John was only the second member of the near surface geophysical community to be elected President of the SEG in its over 90 years of history.

During his tenure as SEG President and membership on the Executive Committee John pushed the strategic significance of near surface geophysics to the sustainable future of the planet and to advance our science. He was instrumental in broadening the awareness of traditional exploration geophysicists as to the significance and potential contributions of near surface geophysics—it became more than interesting applications of geophysics; more than hobby science.

Dr. Bradford has consistently been a highly sought after featured presenter at international gatherings of geoscientists and geo-engineers. Conferences reserve marque slots for scholars that organizers can market based on their global reputation and in doing so, increase attendance and revenue. I had the honor to serve as the Co-Chair of the Technical Committee for the International Conference on Engineering Geophysics (ICEG) held in Al Ain, UAE in 2019. The UAE High Committee invited Dr. Bradford to serve on the Technical Committee and deliver a keynote address during that edition of the conference. John joined a distinguished group of the most impactful and accomplished applied geophysicists who previously accepted this honor.

Dr. Bradford has convened more than 20 near surface geophysics sessions and workshops in the US, China, and Europe. His work as the Organizing Chair of the SEG Near Surface Asia Pacific Conference in 2015 was a monumental contribution of time and intellect. John served as Organizing Chair for the International Conference on Ground Penetrating Radar in 2018 and 2020. His passion for the Cryosphere has been evident throughout his career with service as lead organizer for the SEG/AGU workshop on Cryosphere Geophysics in 2013. Clearly from the record, John has consistently shown his commitment and passion for advancing collaboration and the dissemination of knowledge about near surface geophysics and associated advanced applications of the methods.

Exceptionally meritorious service is no where more evident than in Dr. Bradford’s work as Chair of the EEGS/SEG Merger Task Force between 2011 and 2014. Valiant efforts were made to develop a business plan that would bring these two communities together for the betterment of the profession and societies. John was a stalwart leader and worked relentlessly to find compromises and models that would satisfy two very different managements. The NSTS owes John a significant level of gratitude for all he did to try to bring our family back together.

The list of SEG committee’s John was selected to serve on, where he was instrumental in advancing near surface geophysics is noteworthy. Probably the most significant for the NSTS would be SEG Executive Advisory Committee, SEG Awards Committee, SEG Nominations Committee, and SEG Executive Committee.

Professional awards are an indicator of the respect and admiration that has been garnered by one’s peer community. Of all of John’s honors and awards, most notable were John’s selections as a recipient of SEG Life Membership in 2012 for voluntarily rendered exceptionally meritorious service to the society and Harold Mooney Award in 2010 for innovation and advancement of the science of near surface geophysics.

In closing, I am glad to have had the opportunity to tout the accomplishments and significance of Dr. Bradford’s science and service to the entire global near surface community, but, in particular, the NSTS. After a few moments to ponder John’s impressive career, even at this early stage, a characterization comes to mind: Scientific and Professional Responsibility, Dedication, and Integrity.

2021 SEG Virtual Near-Surface Global Lecturer

Taking the power of exploration geophysics from the oil patch to help solve the world’s grand challenges

Geophysicists have an opportunity to utilize the most powerful computation, signal processing, and imaging tools developed in exploration geophysics and apply them to help solve several of society’s grand challenges. Over the past 20 years, our group has focused on subsurface imaging research to help address challenges in groundwater resources and to better understand the earth’s cryosphere. In particular, we have focused on marrying the tools of oil and gas exploration with imaging problems relevant to environmental geophysics. This talk will draw on this large body of work to explore how the geophysics profession can contribute solutions to society’s pressing problems. The discussion will be interwoven with an exploration of how we may better communicate what we do and how we may develop the next generation of geophysical leaders.

Additional Resource

A recording of the lecture is available.[1]

Biography for SEG Presidential Candidacy for the 2015–2016[2]

John Bradford received BS degrees in physics and engineering physics from the University of Kansas in 1994 and a PhD in geophysics from Rice University in 1999. From 1995 to 1999, he was a research scientist at the Houston Advanced Research Center, working on topics ranging from spectral decomposition for seismic exploration to utility detection with GPR. In 2001, he joined the Center for Geophysical Investigation of the Shallow Subsurface at Boise State University, where he served as director from 2006 to 2009. He currently holds the rank of professor in the Department of Geosciences.

Bradford has worked extensively on methodology development for near-surface seismic and GPR applications with emphasis on imaging, attenuation, and offset-dependent reflectivity. He has published on a diverse array of topics that include hydrocarbon detection, hydrogeophysics, glaciology, and polar ecology. He served as associate editor for Geophysics from 2005 to 2008 and coedited the SEG book Advances in Near-surface Seismology and Ground-penetrating Radar.

Bradford was SEG’s Second Vice President on the 2009–2010 SEG Executive Committee and president of the SEG Near-Surface Section in 2012–2013. He was recognized as one of Houston’s Best and Brightest in 1999, received the Harold Mooney Award from SEG’s Near-Surface Section in 2010, and was awarded SEG Life Membership in 2012. He spearheaded several SEG initiatives, including the Near-Surface Strategic Task Force, the SEG Near-Surface Honorary Lecture, the SEG/AGU Collaboration Committee, and the SEG Near-Surface Asia Pacific Conference.

Position Statement

Unprecedented challenges face the global society, including the critical issues of energy resources, water-resource depletion, and climate change. The global community of geophysicists needs to work together to find solutions for these problems. SEG is positioned to be the nexus for our global community, but we have much work to do. Below I outline three key challenges I see for SEG in the coming years.

  • Having served on the SEG Executive Committee in the midst of the financial crisis, I saw firsthand that the need for SEG to maintain fiscal stability while growing member services must be a foremost priority.
  • SEG is truly an international organization, yet many of our members remain underserved. Growing support for our international offices in the Middle East and China while expanding services to other regions that remain underserved is a critical objective.
  • SEG can serve an important role by strengthening ties between industry-based exploration geophysicists and those in academia, government, and other sectors such as environmental and engineering geophysics.

It is an honor to have been nominated to run for President-elect of SEG, and if elected, I will do my utmost to serve the Society well.

Life Membership

John is, in particular, being awarded Life Membership for the development of collaboration agreements between SEG and EEGS and between SEG and AGU. These agreements resulted in the formation of collaboration committees for each partnership. It is the mission of these collaboration committees to develop cohesion and reduce redundancy while expanding the professional opportunities and contributions from the three major near-surface players (SEG, EEGS, and AGU). To that end, John has been able to accomplish what many have previously tried but without success. The strategic plan for the NSG, championed by John, garnered the approval of the 2010 SEG Executive Committee. John articulated the need, vision, and mission of the NSG through this strategic initiative. Under John’s leadership and chairmanship, SEG and EEGS have formed task forces to investigate a possible merger (consistent with SEG’s EEGS strategy). Those groups are well on their way to defining a path for assimilating the groups back together under the SEG umbrella.

Biography Citation for SEG Life Membership 2012 [3]

Contributed by Don Steeples When John Bradford walked into my office in 1993 and introduced himself and asked me to be his advisor for his electromagnetics honors thesis, I had no inkling that he would become one of the most outstanding scientists and leaders with whom I have had the pleasure to associate. After being named the Outstanding Senior in Physics at The University of Kansas in 1994, John earned his PhD in geophysics at Rice University in 1999, where he was advised in his research by Manik Talwani and Dale Sawyer. He is currently a geophysics professor in the Department of Geosciences at Boise State University.

John spent a very productive year (2009-10) as SEG’s Second Vice President, but his leadership growth within SEG began in 2005 with service as an Associate Editor of Geophysics, and has evolved to his current duties that include chairing the Near-Surface Strategic Implementation Task Force, the SEG/AGU Collaboration Committee, the SEG/EEGS Collaboration Task Force, and the SEG/SEGJ/ASEG/KSEG/CGS Asian Pacific Conference Task Force. He is a member of the SEG Committee on Nominations, and President-elect of the Near-Surface Section.

In 2010 John received the Near-Surface Section’s Hal Mooney award for “enthusiastic support of the near-surface geophysics community through education, outreach efforts, professional service, or development of opportunities with other professional disciplines that employ geophysics.”

John’s strategic plan for the near-surface community defines the vision that “SEG is recognized as the leading global society for near-surface geophysical science and technology, with a full offering of relevant conferences, publications, continuing education, and outreach.” A balance of theoretical advances and case-history reports will lead to increased usage of geophysics for applications that include potable water management, engineering and construction support, natural-hazard mitigation, forensics, archaeology, and CO2 sequestration.

In the international arena, John worked to strengthen SEG ties with geophysical professionals in China on a 2010 trip to China, sanctioned and supported by SEG. He attended the Beijing CSEG meeting and then traveled to Chengdu to represent SEG at the ICEEG meeting. John attended the SEGJ International Symposium in 2011 as the Near-Surface Section representative and also to serve as SEG’s representative at the meeting. He has been a steadfast supporter of uniting our worldwide geophysical community, particularly as it enhances opportunities for member collaborations.

Larry Lines, SEG’s president in 2009–10, set out a goal of capturing key scientific contributions being presented during workshops in the form of books published by SEG within two years of the workshop—a timeframe Larry considered very optimistic but doable. John is one of three editors of an SEG book unveiled at the 2010 Annual Meeting on near-surface seismology and ground penetrating radar that went from workshop in 2009 to SEG Book Mart in one year.

John’s volunteer work on behalf of SEG has been and continues to be both extensive and exemplary. His vision and goals for the SEG are ambitious, with continuity well into the next decade. John has clearly distinguished himself by taking those visions and goals and acting on them. His accomplishments and his commitment of time to the SEG qualify him among the elite members of our Society who have received the honor of Life Membership. Without a doubt, John’s combined scholarship and professional service have been unequaled in the near-surface community over the last 15 years. John’s work and accomplishments are significant and will be lasting contributions to the entire SEG community.


  2. Board of Directors Nominations THE LEADING EDGE Jul 2014, Vol. 33, No. 7, pp. 806.
  3. Thomsen, L. (2012) Honors and awards citations THE LEADING EDGE Vol. 31, No. 10, pp. 1238.

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