Geology professors rock with ‘Down to Earth’

Two professors from Skyline College’s geology department have had noteable success recently in promoting geological awareness and commemorating the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

Professors Melvin Zucker and Richard Lambert are the creative duo behind “Down to Earth,” a television show, dedicated to the geosciences, seen on public access television stations around the Bay Area. The two men submitted a recent episode of the show, chronicling the events of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, to the annual Western Access Video Excellence (WAVE) Awards. It won the 2003 WAVE Award for best amateur show in the Documentary Events category.

“I’m surprised and proud,” said Zucker. “We thought it’d be really great if we got an honorable mention, but when we got this, it was really surprising.”

“Now we’re going for an Emmy,” added Lambert, whimsically.

The WAVE Awards, instituted by the Western States Region of the Alliance for Community Media, are given annually to the best programming in locally produced media. Lambert and Zucker’s competition included various television programs produced in the states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

According to Lambert, the local station that broadcasts “Down to Earth,” Pacifica Community Television, prompted the geologists to submit the episode to be considered for an award. He said it was their first time entering the competition.

The winning episode was produced and edited by Lambert with Zucker as the executive producer. The “Down to Earth” shows are the joint effort of both men. Lambert attributes the success of the program to the fact that it takes a hands-on approach to geology.

“Our show is one of the few that goes outside,” he said, referring to their affinity to take the show on location out in the field.

Lambert also said that Skyline College has helped cover some of the costs through the President’s Innovation Fund. From this fund, Lambert and Zucker have acquired tools like Adobe After Effects software, which they often use to enhance the visuals of the show. Lambert said this also helped the “Down to Earth” San Francisco Earthquake episode’s success in the competition.

1906 Earthquake plaque

Lambert and Zucker are also part of the 1906 Earthquake Centennial Alliance, an organization set up to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great 1906 Earthquake and to celebrate the advances made in understanding earthquakes and reducing the risks associated with them.

A plaque that was originally intended to be placed near where geologists think the epicenter of the 1906 earthquake is located, was recently manufactured. Lambert said he and Zucker first learned of the plaque through the Centennial Alliance. According to Zucker, the intent was to erect the plaque in Daly City. However, The City of Daly City rejected the idea.

Zucker then proposed to Skyline College that they approve the placement of the plaque on school property. However, the president’s office decided that Skyline wouldn’t host the plaque.

“The problem is that nobody knows exactly where the epicenter was,” Lambert said. He went on to say that geology experts have debated the exact location over the last 97 years. Zucker said that it is now believed to be just north of Skyline off the coast of Daly City.

Lambert said that it would have been fitting to have the plaque on campus because, “Skyline is virtually on the [San Andreas] Fault.” He said that the plaque may have been a useful teaching tool, but also conceded that Skyline might not be the best place for it.

In an e-mail from Skyline’s public relations director, Gerald Peel stated, “A decision has been reached that it would be inappropriate for Skyline to display [the plaque] here. The primary reason is that geographically the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (off Thornton Beach) is closer to Daly City and to San Francisco than it is to San Bruno. Perhaps, a more appropriate location would be one of those.”

Zucker and Lambert said the plaque is currently being stored in a garage and is still without a proper home. Lambert said that it may end up being placed near the Cliff House or Fort Funston.