Pritchard Receives 2015 Geodesy Section Award

Matthew Pritchard will receive the 2015 Geodesy Section Award at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given in recognition of major advances in geodesy.


Matt Pritchard is presented with the 2015 Geodesy Section Award for his transcendent work in volcano and earthquake science and selfless support of the community. Matt was among the first to use interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) to examine entire volcanic arcs instead of individual volcanoes. This broader approach led to the recognition of a number of deforming volcanoes that were previously unknown, stimulating several follow-on studies, and has elucidated linkages between arc volcanism and large earthquakes. Matt’s efforts also proved the viability of broad monitoring of volcanic arcs from space, establishing the basis for international efforts to develop a global volcano monitoring strategy. In addition to volcanology, Matt has lent his considerable expertise to seismology, tectonics, planetary geology, glaciology, and climate change. Although InSAR remains Matt’s primary observational tool, he has shown exceptional vision by combining InSAR with other remote sensing, seismic, and geologic data to attain a more synergistic view of volcanic and earthquake processes.

Although Matt’s research alone is ample justification for the Geodesy Section Award, his record is impressively supported by a strong commitment to the community through his teaching excellence and service on numerous committees and initiatives, including WInSAR (Western North America Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar Consortium), UNAVCO (University NAVSTAR Consortium), NISAR (NASA-ISRO SAR Mission), GeoPRISMS (Geodynamic Processes at Rifting and Subducting Margins), the Global Volcano Model, and the CEOS (Committee on Earth Observation Satellites) Volcano Pilot. In each of these areas Matt has promoted data sharing and collaboration as means to maximize science return. Matt is also an exceptional colleague, generous with his time and expertise, providing assistance to international scientists and volcano observatories in the use of InSAR to respond to volcano and earthquake crises.

The field of geodesy is better for having Matt as a colleague. Not only has his research moved several fields forward, Matt has also advanced the community through his unselfish service. We are pleased that Matt Pritchard’s dedication and research excellence are being recognized with the 2015 Geodesy Section Award.

—Michael P. Poland, Cascades Volcano Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, Vancouver, Wash.; and Paul R. Lundgren, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.



I am humbled and honored by the kind citation.  Although I find that the award process is inadequate—there are so many deserving who are overlooked—I appreciate everyone who helped with my nomination.

This is an exciting time in geodesy.  There is an explosion of new techniques and satellite missions that allow us to tackle important scientific and societal problems, but I only became aware of this field once I arrived in graduate school.  On the basis of this admittedly limited evidence, I suggest that we have to work harder as a community to communicate the opportunities to younger students—in particular at the middle and high school levels.  My interest in geology and planetary science was nurtured during those grades by numerous volunteers who aided and judged science fair and 4-H projects, gave public lectures, and answered my questions about careers in the field.  In particular, I want to thank Robert H. Brown of the University of Arizona—he answered many questions from a high school student thousands of miles away that resulted in a Westinghouse Science Talent Search project and set me on the path to graduate school at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).  Whenever I feel too busy to respond to help random students, I try to remember his example.

One great perk of being a geodesist is the supportive community of scientists.  I thank my students, postdocs, mentors, advisers, and collaborators for teaching me so many interesting things and making this such a fun career.  Of course, there are always bumps in the road, and I owe a lot to my wife and collaborator on projects big and small, who makes the journey worth it, Rowena Lohman, the 2013 recipient of this award.

—Matthew E. Pritchard, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.