Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Miller Receives 2018 Waldo E. Smith Award

M. Meghan Miller received the Waldo E. Smith Award at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award honors an individual “for extraordinary service to geophysics.”



M. Meghan Miller, 2018 Smith Aware winner
M. Meghan Miller

Dr. Meghan Miller’s scientific contributions to geodesy and the growth of the geodetic community and her interest in education, diversity, and fostering the next generation have provided extraordinary service to geophysics. Under her technical and managerial leadership as the president of UNAVCO since 2008, the geodetic community has been transformed into a vibrant and growing organization. UNAVCO is home to the National Science Foundation’s geodetic capabilities that serve scientific advances on every continent. Geodesy, in support of geophysics, has flourished under Meghan’s leadership. Since Dr. Miller came to UNAVCO, the national and international geodesy community has published 1,653 peer-reviewed contributions supported by UNAVCO services.

Meghan Miller received her Ph.D. in geology from Stanford University in 1987 after receiving a B.S. in geology and geophysics from Yale in 1979. By the 1990s, Meghan had realized the value of geodetic measurements for addressing geologic and geophysical tectonic problems, publishing on GPS determination of Pacific–North American plate motion. In the late 1990s, Meghan transitioned to understanding coseismic motions using GPS with application to the Landers and Hector Mine earthquakes and the eastern California shear zone. In 1991, she joined the faculty of Central Washington University (CWU), taking her geodetic expertise with her and expanding into studying the Cascadia subduction zone. She participated in the first discoveries of slow-slip events along the subduction zone, publishing the results in Science (2002) and AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research (2004). Following these key scientific contributions and having demonstrated the value of geodetic data to understanding plate tectonics, crustal deformation, and fault and subduction zone processes, Meghan worked to establish the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array, which later became part of EarthScope’s Plate Boundary Observatory.

Throughout her 27 years of exceptional leadership, Dr. Miller’s interest in education and fostering the next generation has never flagged. In lockstep with carrying out scientific research and leading the geodesy community, Meghan has improved education and outreach. Dr. Miller transformed the geology program at CWU while advancing our scientific understanding of tectonic processes. She served as dean of the College of Sciences from 2002 to 2008. During this time, she established a master’s program at CWU, supervised eight master’s theses, held two editorships, and produced 11 field trip guides, geologic maps, book reviews, and invited papers! Meghan Miller has been truly exceptional in her scientific contributions and in serving the entire geodetic community ranging from early students to senior researchers.

—Andrea Donnellan, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena



I am humbled and honored to be recognized with the Waldo E. Smith Award for extraordinary service to geophysics. I am grateful to Dr. Andrea Donnellan for leading the nomination and to my colleagues who supported it, Roger Bilham, Jeff Freymueller, and Bill Holt. Thank you! I am thrilled to have found a career path that I love, one that has been rich in serendipity and opportunities to advance geophysics research and education for the benefit of science and society. Among my greatest pleasures is the community of talented geodesists I work with; collectively they have driven a geophysics renaissance by the creative application of the emerging GPS/Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), and lidar technologies that we collectively call geodesy.

My path has been circuitous. My early career focused on the geology of active tectonic plate margins, particularly the Klamath Mountains, the eastern California shear zone, and the Cascadia subduction zone. As a postdoc at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I got lucky with early GPS campaign observations in the Mojave Desert and Baja California (NASA) and was able to “capture” the Landers earthquake the year after an initial GPS campaign. Then Central Washington University took a chance on me…. Working with Canadian and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) colleagues, we built the first international Cascadia GPS network—PANGA (National Science Foundation, the Canadian Geological Survey, and USGS)—and established continuous GPS stations near historical tide gauges in coastal California and the U.S. portion of Cascadia (with NASA support).

But the work I love most is with students: running GPS campaigns and building networks, cultivating the next generation of scientists, building a student-centered geology faculty, initiating the CWU master’s program, and watching students fledge to advance their own dreams.

At UNAVCO, I am lucky to serve an international science community that studies the Earth and its fluid envelopes at a spectrum of temporal and spatial scales, from individual fault or volcano systems to continent-scale geodynamics, and the storage and cycling of water through solid Earth, surface reservoirs, and the atmosphere.

Little of this was the path I meant to follow; it was simply the path that presented! But serendipity has created so many opportunities to serve geophysics, in ways that didn’t even exist when I was a student! I am deeply honored to receive the Waldo E. Smith Award for extraordinary service to geophysics.

—M. Meghan Miller, UNAVCO, Boulder, Colo.

Citation: AGU (2019), Miller receives 2018 Waldo E. Smith Award, Eos, 100, Published on 10 January 2019.
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