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John Wahr Early Career Award

Information on the Award

The John Wahr Early Career Award, formerly the Geodesy Section Award, is presented annually and recognizes significant advances in geodetic science, technology, applications, observations, or theory. The award is given to early or mid-career scientists who demonstrate the potential to be elected AGU Fellows in the future through outstanding contributions to geodesy. This award is presented during the AGU Fall Meeting.

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Award Benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our section honorees. Recipients of the John Wahr Early Career Award will receive the following benefits with the honor:

  • 1

    Award plaque

  • 2

    Recognition in Eos

  • 3

    Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year

  • 4

    Complimentary ticket to the Geodesy section event that occurs at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year


To better understand eligibility for nominators, supporters and committee members, review AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.

  • The nominee is required to be an active AGU member.
  • The nominee must be primarily or secondarily affiliated with the Geodesy section.
  • The nominee must be within ten (10) years of receiving their Ph.D. or the highest equivalent terminal degree. Exceptions to this requirement for unusual circumstances may be considered on a case-by-case basis by the committee.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be candidates for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Geodesy Section Award Committee members;
    • All full-time AGU staff; and
    • AGU Fellows.

  • Nominators are not required to hold an active AGU membership.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be nominators for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Geodesy Section Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

  • Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to be active AGU members.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be supporters for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Geodesy Section Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

The following relationships need to be identified and communicated to the Award Committee but will not disqualify individuals from participating in the nomination or committee review process. These apply to committee members, nominators, and supporters:

  • Current dean, departmental chair, supervisor, supervisee, laboratory director, an individual with whom one has a current business or financial relationship (e.g., business partner, employer, employee);
  • Research collaborator or co-author within the last three years; and/or
  • An individual working at the same institution or having accepted a position at the same institution.

Individuals with the following relationships are disqualified from participating in the award nomination process as a nominator or supporter:

  • Family member, spouse, or partner.
  • A previous graduate (Master’s or Ph.D.) and/or postdoctoral advisor, or postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.
  • A former doctoral or graduate student, or a former postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter for a former advisor but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.

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Nomination Package

Watch our tutorial on successfully submitting a nomination package or read our guide. Your nomination package must contain all of the following files, which should be no more than two pages in length per document.

  • A nomination letter that states how the nominee meets the selection criteria. The letter should include details about major advances in geodetic science, technology, applications, observations, or theory. Nominator’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number, the types of publications and the number published by AGU.
  • One additional letter of support. Supporter’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred. We encourage letters from individuals not currently or recently associated with the candidate’s graduate institution or employer.

Submission Process

Submissions are reviewed by the Geodesy Awards Committee. Nominations should be submitted online.

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Past recipients


Year of honor

John R. Elliott
Raphaël Grandin 2019

Thomas Hobiger


Juliet Biggs


Emma Hill


Matt Pritchard


Tim Wright


Rowena B. Lohman


Matt A. King


Sean C. Swenson


Corné Kreemer


Shin-Chan Han


Don P. Chambers


Mark E. Tamisiea


R. Steven Nerem


Kristine Larson



John R Elliott


Raphael Grandin


Raphaël Grandin received the 2019 John Wahr Early Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given “in recognition of major advances in geodesy.”



Raphaël Grandin obtained a master of science degree in executive engineering at École des Mines de Paris and a Ph.D. at Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP). He held a position of teaching assistant at University of Paris, was a postdoctoral fellow at École Normale Supérieure de Paris, and is now an associate professor at University of Paris and IPGP.

Raphaël studied a variety of geophysical problems related to seismology, rifting and magmatic processes, and earthquake source models using space-based geodesy. It is with innovative advances in the methods and applications of interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) that his scientific contributions stand out.

His early work on the Ethiopian rifting episode of 2005–2009 provided an unprecedented account of the entire sequence of events, placing constraints on tectonic stress, magmatic pressure, and the time-dependent migration of magma between deep and shallow reservoirs. In the Himalaya, he used innovative data correction methods to extract the uplift velocity profile across the range, highlighting the stepwise migration of crustal ramps to the mountain front.

What characterizes Raphaël’s work is a combination of fine observations and the development of innovative physical interpretations of the processes behind those observations. This is exemplified in the study of recent earthquakes, from both tectonic (Nepal, 2015; Chile, 2012) and man-made (Oklahoma, 2016) origins.

Raphaël is also a dedicated mentor and teacher. He contributed to the development of community InSAR software and serves as scientific advisor for the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) Solid Earth Data Center in France. He received citations for excellence in refereeing from the editors of two AGU journals in 2013 and 2014 and of Earth, Planets and Space in 2015.

We are thrilled to see Raphaël’s achievements recognized by the 2019 John Wahr Early Career Award.

—Marie-Pierre Doin, Institut des Sciences de la Terre, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France; and Gilles Peltzer, University of California, Los Angeles


Receiving the 2019 John Wahr Early Career Award is a great honor for me. I knew nearly nothing about geology until the age of 20, as I was entering the French grandes écoles system. Just as I was about to embrace an engineering career in industry, joining the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris as an intern totally changed my perspectives about scientific research. I owe a lot to my professor, Pascal Podvin, and to my mentor, Geoffrey C. P. King, who encouraged me to pursue this direction, recognizing that I had suddenly become passionate about earthquakes and volcanoes.

This nomination also rewards collaborative efforts to expand the development and application of InSAR. I am extremely grateful to Jean-Bernard de Chabalier and Anne Socquet for introducing me to InSAR in 2007. I have been lucky to benefit from data generously provided by space agencies (in particular, the European Space Agency) and from open-source software developed by pioneers in the field (especially ROI_PAC and its expansion through NSBAS). I am thankful to Marie-Pierre Doin and Gilles Peltzer for sharing their deep understanding of InSAR ever since.

Space geodesy is about to enter a new stage of development, with the launch of next-generation SAR systems and swarms of small SAR satellites. The free and open data policy adopted by international space agencies will continue to boost the development of nascent research directions. Easy access to imagery is equally important to facilitate collaboration with local authorities in charge of volcano surveillance and earthquake hazard mitigation and, eventually, to benefit threatened populations.

Just as others did for me, I wish to be able to take my share in supporting and inspiring the next generation of young researchers, to make the best of these new opportunities.

—Raphaël Grandin, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, Université de Paris, Paris, France

Thomas Hobiger


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.

Emma M. Hill will receive the 2016 Geodesy Section Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given in recognition of major advances in geodesy.



Throughout her career, Emma Hill has endeavored to develop the breadth of research interests and geodetic expertise that are now her hallmark, addressing an array of multidisciplinary problems that includes sea level, glacial isostatic adjustment, atmospheric turbulence, hydrology, GNSS accuracy, and tectonics.
As a student and postdoc, Emma focused on GNSS studies of the Basin and Range. This work included the tectonics of the region and also characterization of atmospheric turbulence. She also has the distinction of publishing a GPS time series having an RMS residual of 50 microns! Emma later pioneered Bayesian combination of data from GRACE, tide gauges, and GNSS that enabled inversion for Fennoscandian glacial isostatic adjustment without estimation of parameters from a simplified Earth model.

Her recent research has focused on Southeast Asia, studying deformation associated with the Sunda megathrust using GNSS, InSAR, and coral uplift histories. These studies have led to an improved understanding of the tectonics of this region, and to discovery of a 15-year-long slow-slip event.

Emma has a strong commitment to the Earth science community. She has served as judge for the Outstanding Student Paper Award and organized a student poster competition for EarthScope. She served as Chair of the UNAVCO E&O Advisory Committee. Her activities in AGU governance include the AGU International Participation Committee and AGU Council. She is currently serving as an associate editor for Journal of Geophysical Research.

Emma is a devoted mentor and has attracted an outstanding assembly of students and postdocs to her group. She is highly valued as a mentor, group leader, and as a collaborator.

We are very pleased that the AGU Geodesy section has recognized Emma’s scientific achievements and leadership with the 2016 Geodesy Award.

—Kristine M. Larson, University of Colorado, Boulder; and James L. Davis, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, N.Y.


I feel honored to receive this award, and am grateful to Jim and Kristine for their kind citation. The award is particularly special to me because the AGU Geodesy section has long felt like my academic family; I have always been grateful for the spirit of collaboration and friendship in our community.

I feel lucky to work in a field where we connect with many disciplines in Earth science, and one in which our research is directly applicable to the significant challenges facing our communities and environment. This has been particularly clear to me since working in Southeast Asia, where some of the highest population densities on Earth are faced with tectonic, volcanic, and climate hazards for which we are answering first-order questions using geodetic data.

To maximize scientific impact, we must build capacity in the areas in which we work. It has been deeply rewarding to work with and train young scientists from Southeast Asia; I am grateful for their hospitality, enthusiasm, and introductions to tasty food.

It is impossible to individually thank everyone who has helped me along the way, but I would here like to thank Geoff Blewitt and Jim Davis for their mentorship and encouragement; Kerry Sieh and Paul Tapponnier for giving me so many exciting opportunities in Singapore; my students and postdocs for making every day at work delightful—Lujia Feng, Eric Lindsey, Louisa Tsang, Qiu Qiang, Rino Salman, Paul Morgan, Rishav Mallick, and Dongju Peng—and a host of colleagues and collaborators who have shared their time and wisdom—Mark Tamisiea, Pedro Elosegui, Aron Meltzner, and Sylvain Barbot to name just a few. I would also like to give heartfelt thanks to all the generous souls who unselfishly collect data, maintain networks, release processing code, and thus make our science possible.

—Emma M. Hill, Earth Observatory of Singapore and Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

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.

Tim J Wright


Rowena B Lohman


Matt A King


Sean C Swenson


Corne Kreemer


Shin-Chan Han


Don P Chambers


Mark E Tamisiea


Kristine M Larson


R Steven Nerem


Honors Contacts

AGU Staff Headshot Moore

Artesha Moore

Vice President, Affiliation, Engagement & Membership

202-777-7530 | [email protected]

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Leah Bland

Program Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

AGU Staff Headshot Rosa Maymi

Rosa Maymi

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7322 | [email protected]

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Hannah Hoffman

Honors and Affiliation Program Coordinator

202-777-7515 | [email protected]