A brief history of UNAVCO and the NSF geodetic facility


In the early 1980s, the Global Positioning System (GPS) was a new, expensive, technology. Earth Science researchers were interested in using GPS to study plate motion, however, it was cost prohibitive to provide GPS technology to all researchers. The National Science Foundation (NSF) set up a cooperative environment to share GPS instrumentation and equipment with the growing research community. UNAVCO was created in 1984 in response to the challenge of applying the technology of GPS to geoscience research. For over 35 years, UNAVCO has facilitated geoscience research and education with geodesy using a community governance model. During that time the community has grown to include researchers and educators from over 200 countries and expanded to support disciplinary areas from geophysics and hydrology to climate change, hydrology and engineering.

Current Key Personnel

Dr. Ronni Grapenthin, Chair, Board of Directors
Dr. Becks Bendick, President 

Full Governance


1984: UNAVCO is created at the University of Colorado, Boulder, within the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). 
1992: UNAVCO moved under the umbrella of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), also in Boulder. 
1995: Major community purchase of GPS equipment under the NSF Academic Research Infrastructure  program.
2001: UNAVCO, Inc. incorporated as an independent, non-profit, [501(c)(3)] corporation. 
2003: UNAVCO is awarded the EarthScope Plate Boundary Observatory contract for construction, operations and maintenance. NSF MREFC (Major Research Equipment Facility Construction)
2004: An Education and Outreach (E&O) Program is initiated.
2013: Programs supporting the UNAVCO Facility and Plate Boundary Observatory become the GAGE Facility (Geodetic Facility for the Advancement of Geoscience).


2001 – present: UNAVCO Inc.

drone photo looking down at UNAVCO office
UNAVCO office in Boulder, CO (Photo by Keith Williams)


James Davis (2001-2002)
William Prescott (2002-2007)
Chuck Meertens, Interim President (2007-2008)
Meghan Miller (2008-2019)
Chuck Meertens, Interim President (2019-2020)
Rebecca Bendick (2020-present)

Board of Directors, Chair

Geoff Blewitt (2002-2003)
Paul Silver (2004-2005)
Eric Calais (2006-2007)
Sridhar Anandakrishnan (2008)
Susan Owen (2009-2010)
Bill Holt (2011-2012)
Carol Raymond (2012-2013)
Pete La Femina (2014-2015)
Rowena Lohman (2016)
Jeff Freymueller (2017-2018)
Lucy Flesch (2019-2020)
Ronni Grapenthin (2021-present)

Senior Management

Wayne Shiver, Executive Director (2002-2003)

Chuck Meertens, UNAVCO Facility Manager (2003-2011), Director of Geodetic Data Services (2011-2020)
David Mencin, Director of Geodetic Data Services (2021-present)

Mike Jackson, Director of the Plate Boundary Observatory (2003-2011) 
Glen Mattioli, Director of Geodetic Infrastructure (2012-present)

Gail Strobel, Director of Business Affairs (2009-2014)
Brandy Reinke, Director of Business Affairs (2014-2015)
Stephen Ettinger, Director of Business Affairs (2015-present)

Susan Eriksson, Director of Education & Outreach (2004-2010)
David Carlson, Director of Education & Outreach (2010-2011)
Shelley Olds, Interim Director of Education & Outreach (2011-2012)
Donna Charlevoix, Director of Education and Community Engagement and Managing Director of Communications (2012-present)

Linda Rowan, Director of External Affairs (2012-2020)

1991 – 2003: UNAVCO/UCAR

Facility Managers

James Stowell (1991 – 1993)
Wayne Shriver (1994 – 2002)
Chuck Meertens (2002-2003)

Steering Committee Chair

Robin Bell (1995-1998)
Jeffrey Freymueller (1998-1999)
James Davis (1999-2000)
Geoff Blewitt (2000-2001)

Science Director

Seth Stein (1998-1999)
Tom Herring (1999-2000)

1984 – 1991: UNAVCO at University of Colorado

Original facility Principal Investigators for UNAVCO were Drs. Roger Bilham and Randolph Ware.

Founding Universities included:

  • University of Colorado
  • Columbia University, Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Harvard
  • Princeton
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Associated Investigators: Clarence Allen, Don Anderson, John Beavan, Peter Bender, Adam Dziewonski, James Faller, Brad Hager, Tracy Johnson, Hiroo Kanamori, Judah Levine, Peter Molnar, Jason Morgan, Richard O’Connell, Barry Raleigh, Robert Reilinger, Chris Scholz, Kerry Sieh, Larry Slater, Lynn Sykes, Byron Tapley, Nafi Toksoz, James Whitcomb, Max Wyss

Program & Facility Director: Randolph Ware (1991 – 1984)

Acting Facility Manager: Myron McCallum (1991)

Steering Committee (1988): Duncan Agnew, Brad Hager, David Jackson, Richard O’Connell, Rob Reilinger, Bob Schutz, Randolph Ware

Steering Committee (1991): Duncan Agnew, John Beavan, David Jackson, Richard O’Connell, Rob Reilinger, Randolph Ware