Lohman Receives 2013 Geodesy Section Award

Rowena B. Lohman received the 2013 Geodesy Section Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given in recognition of major advances in geodesy.


lohman_rowena-dRowena received her Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology under the direction of Mark Simons, one of the pioneers in the relatively new field of satellite deformation imaging. In her own work, she has broken new ground by exploring the boundaries between geodesy and seismology. She has shown how the apparent disagreement between these two data types can provide novel insight into subsurface processes. For example, a discrepancy in seismic moment may indicate aseismic slip. Discrepancies in event locations can ferret out seismic mislocation biases with resulting improvement in global velocity models.

Another focus of Rowena’s activities has been the development of more rigorous techniques for placing geodetic constraints on the distribution of deformation sources (e.g., coseismic slip and volcanic inflation). Such techniques are crucial to exploiting the richness of interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data. In addition to the issue of model regularization, Rowena has undertaken a rigorous consideration of the error budget in InSAR data, addressing the use of both the variances and, more importantly, the covariances intrinsic to the data.

Rowena is certainly not reluctant to venture into new realms, as shown by her exploration of the potential of InSAR to address problems as diverse as the distribution of vegetation canopy height, monitoring of subsurface carbon dioxide sequestration, and scrutiny of hydraulic fracking.

Rowena’s service to the geodetic community is as noteworthy as her research contributions. She has been remarkably generous with her time and effort, spending a great deal of energy on the activities of numerous organizations (UNAVCO, Western North American InSAR (WInSAR), Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), Earthscope, associate editor for Journal of Geophysical Research, and the initial science study group for the current L band synthetic aperture radar formulation).

The geodesy award is intended to recognize young scientists for important advances “in geodetic science, technology, applications, observations, or theory.” By any measure, professional or personal, Rowena is an exemplary recipient of the AGU Geodesy Section Award.

—LARRY D. BROWN, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.


I am very honored to be this year’s recipient of the AGU Geodesy Section Award. I was fortunate to begin my academic career at a time when there was an explosion of new data types and computational resources. I have been very pleased to watch this trend continue, with the ongoing support of new InSAR missions worldwide and renewed interest in the democratization of access to this data.

When I began my graduate research, it still took several months to order individual SAR acquisitions; the advent of community-driven data archives such as WInSAR, GeoEarthscope, and the Supersites and their support by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, and their international partners has simply revolutionized the field and has facilitated an explosion of techniques for ingesting InSAR time series and the extraction of progressively smaller signals from the data sets. This improved ease of access and the processing tutorials hosted by groups such as UNAVCO will hopefully encourage participation in the InSAR community by new users.

We live in a time when we are bearing witness to rapid changes in land use on an unprecedented scale, including increases in resource extraction worldwide and growth of populations exposed to hazards (including landslides, volcanoes, earthquakes, and sea level rise). Geodesy will play a key role in the monitoring of these changes and can guide society’s response into the most fruitful avenues.

I benefitted greatly from the guidance of my graduate thesis advisor, Mark Simons, who encouraged me to think both about tectonic problems and the challenges (and opportunities) facing society today. I also thank my postdoctoral sponsors, including Jeff McGuire, Paul Lundgren, and Eric Fielding. My sincere hope is that I will have the opportunity to repay their efforts by supporting other early-career researchers in my turn.

—ROWENA B. LOHMAN, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.