Chambers Receives 2008 Geodesy Section Award

Don P. Chambers received the 2008 Geodesy Section Award at the 2008 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 17 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given in recognition of major advances in geodesy.


chambers_donDon P. Chambers is a highly respected member of the satellite altimetry, satellite gravity, and oceanographic communities and has made many original contributions on the El Niño phenomenon, ocean heat storage, ocean circulation, and long-term sea level change. Since receiving his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, in 1996, he has worked there as a research scientist at the Center for Space Research. He has published on a wide array of topics related to geodesy, oceanography, hydrology, and glaciology. Don can more than hold his own in scientific conversations with leaders in any of these fields, which is really important in the field of geodesy today, because it has changed so much over the past decade. One of the reasons I felt so strongly that Don should receive this award is because I view him as one of the “new breed” of geodesists who works on multidisciplinary problems using all different types of satellite and in situ measurements. Don’s work on data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission exemplifies this—he has moved beyond the narrow geodetic interests of geopotential coefficients and orbit determination to become an expert on the applications of these data to critical problems in Earth system science. He has a keen mind for science but also possesses the geodetic and data analysis skills to extract the science from complex geodetic data sets. He is a member of the NASA science teams for the Jason 1, Jason 2, and GRACE missions—a significant accomplishment. One of the reasons for this success is Don’s innovative approach to problem solving; he always seems to have a clever solution for the complex problems we face in geodesy today. This, coupled with his ability to understand multiple scientific disciplines, has allowed him to make many important contributions to our field. Don has quickly developed into one of the leaders of the “new” geodesy era we are currently experiencing as technologies such as Global Positioning System, satellite gravity, and satellite altimetry have transformed the field. As Don embarks on a new academic career at the University of South Florida, I am confident he will continue to make important advances in our field.

R. Steven Nerem, Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences and Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado, Boulder


I am honored to receive the Geodesy Section Award. When I started my graduate studies at the University of Texas Center for Space Research (CSR) under Byron Tapley, I did not have any appreciation of what geodesy was. One of my undergraduate friends told me that CSR “measured the Earth’s gravity,” which did not seem all that exciting at the time. I figured I would accept the graduate research assistant position, do the work asked of me, and study what I was really interested in: satellite missions to asteroids. One look at my publications will show that never happened. Instead, I have worked on precise orbit determination, determination of the Earth’s gravity, sea level change, ocean circulation, ocean heat storage, Rossby wave dynamics, El Niño, ocean bottom pressure, and the global water cycle. I have learned that geodesy is a lot more than just measuring gravity. I feel lucky now that I was offered that first position and that I accepted it. It gave me the unique opportunity to be involved early in two groundbreaking satellite geodesy missions: TOPEX/POSEIDON and the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment. Working with the early data from both of these missions has given me keen insight into the mixture of engineering and science necessary to measure sea level and gravity from space.

Geodesy is perhaps the most interdisciplinary of all the sciences, and I am fortunate to have worked with numerous colleagues over the years. There are too many to name, but I would like especially to thank Steve Nerem for our long-term partnership on measuring sea level change, and Bob Stewart and Victor Zlotnicki for early support and guidance in my efforts to use geodetic measurements and techniques to study the ocean.

Don P. Chambers, University of Texas at Austin