Biggs Receives 2017 Geodesy Section Award

Juliet Biggs will receive the 2017 Geodesy Section Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award is given “in recognition of major advances in geodesy.”


Juliet Biggs has made outstanding contributions to the field of satellite geodesy for understanding both active volcanism and faulting.

As a student, Juliet developed an innovative method for making interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) observations where the ground cover was nonideal. This allowed her to make unique observations of how strain was distributed in space and time before and after the 2002 Denali earthquake in Alaska.

During her postdoc, Juliet shifted her main focus to volcanic processes. Through systematic surveying of the world’s volcanoes, she discovered that several volcanoes in Kenya and Ethiopia, previously thought to be dormant, were actually undergoing episodes of deformation.

Juliet went on to examine the link between eruption and deformation from a global compilation of volcanoes, showing that very few eruptions occur without observable deformation. This work won her the Lloyd’s Science of Risk Prize in 2014 and led to the formation of the Global Deformation Database Task Force.

Juliet’s contributions to the field of geodesy go beyond measuring deformation with InSAR. She has developed methods for measuring rapid topographic changes at erupting volcanoes using radar, and methods to integrate a wide variety of other geodetic observations. She also recognizes that major advances require input from different disciplines and is currently co-leading a major project to understand volcanism in the Main Ethiopian Rift through the integration of geophysical, geological, and geochemical observations.

Juliet’s work has been, and continues to be, extremely influential internationally. Her research pushes the boundaries of our understanding of volcanic systems and delivers real-world benefits. I am thrilled that her achievements are being recognized with the 2017 AGU Geodesy Section Award.

—Andy Hooper, University of Leeds, Leeds, U.K.


Many of the previous AGU Geodesy Section Award winners have been role models for me personally, and seeing my name among them is truly humbling. I am honored to receive this award and am especially grateful to Andy Hooper for his citation.

It is a privilege to work in a field that has applications across a broad spectrum of the Earth sciences yet retains its own identity and sense of society. The AGU Geodesy community has nurtured my career in many ways over the years; from invaluable feedback at poster sessions, to a student award in 2005, and to my first invited talk in 2008. From my early work on faults in the United States, to current projects on volcanoes in Africa and Latin America, geodesy has given me the opportunity to explore the world, a highlight of which is collaborating with scientists from a wide range of backgrounds and specialties.

In reality, this award is not an individual honor but a tribute to a number of colleagues, supervisors, and students who have inspired, advised, and supported me over the years. In particular, Tim Wright and Barry Parsons set me on a path of scientific curiosity, rigor, and integrity that I endeavor to follow to this day. At an early stage, Bramley Murton and Mark Simons somehow found time in their busy academic schedules to provide summer undergraduate research opportunities and opened my eyes to a whole new field. These days, I am enormously proud to work alongside some inspirational scientists—students, postdocs, and colleagues—who each bring their individual ideas, challenges, and rewards and ensure that no day is ever dull. My thanks go to all of you and to the countless others whose hard work behind the scenes makes all this possible.

—Juliet Biggs, University of Bristol, Bristol, U.K.