MISSOULA – Rebecca Bendick, a University of Montana geosciences professor, has been selected to lead UNAVCO, a nonprofit, academic consortium that supports geophysics research and workforce development around the globe.
Established in 1984 to advance scientific research with GPS technology, the consortium now has 100 U.S. member institutions and 80 international partners. UNAVCO’s core facility is in Boulder, Colorado, and includes 72 full-time employees operating over 2,000 advanced scientific instruments with an annual budget of $15 million.
The organization’s primary sponsors are the National Science Foundation and NASA. Major activities include operating and managing instrumentation for research, developing and testing new instrumentation, data handling and archiving, workforce development, education and outreach, and development of applied products that support navigation, surveying, natural hazard mitigation, disaster warning and disaster response.
“I am honored to be selected to lead UNAVCO as president,” said Bendick, an internationally recognized expert on plate tectonics, topography and earthquakes. “The organization played a huge role in my own research career, and I think it is an amazing example of how people working together and sharing resources can enable transformative discoveries.
“For example, some of the things that we’ve learned with UNAVCO support include the details of tectonic motions of North America, the existence of subtle ways that faults move to dissipate some of their stored energy without major earthquakes – called episodic tremor and slip – and how the Earth deforms in response to the weight of storms and snowpack. There are dozens of other discoveries that have revolutionized our understanding of the Earth that came about with the help of UNAVCO people and equipment.”
Bendick’s leadership role with the consortium will last up to four years, and her affiliation with UM will continue.
“This is a great step forward for UNAVCO and Professor Bendick, and we look forward to seeing how the organization will thrive and change under her leadership,” UM Provost Jon Harbor said.
Bendick hopes to build upon the tremendous expertise and dedication of the staff and the supporting community to enable the next decades of discovery. This means adding technical capacity for interdisciplinary science and thinking creatively about how science can inform more resilient and sustainable human communities.
Among her goals is to support new technologies and techniques for early warning and response for natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Other initiatives include developing new data solutions for water management, precise positioning of autonomous vehicles and characterizing how the changing climate is changing Earth’s surface.
“I’m excited to explore innovative collaborations between UNAVCO and the University of Montana, too,” Bendick said. “UM’s goals of thinking broadly about global problems at the intersection of science and society align closely to the vision of UNAVCO, so I’m sure there will be many opportunities to work together going forward.”