Second win for Downs' Earth science research at the 2020 AGU Conference

Posted: February 17, 2021

A graduate student at The Ohio State University’s ElectroScience Laboratory continues to earn accolades for her work studying Earth wetlands from space.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Fellow Brandi Downs won the Outstanding Student Presentation Award at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2020 Fall meeting, which was held throughout December. She is advised by ECE Research Scientist Andrew O’Brien.

AGU is a worldwide organization of Earth, atmospheric, ocean, hydrologic, space, and planetary scientists. During the Fall Meetings, typically more than 8,000 students attend and over 27,000 abstracts are submitted.


Downs was the lead author on the winning entry, "Using GNSS Reflectometry Measurements Over the Everglades to Identify Variations in Wetland Inundation Extent Beneath Vegetation," alongside co-authors from NASA.

Downs said she felt lucky to work with the other co-authors, who contributed material based on the group's CYGNSS research to observe inland water.

"The presentation was restricted to three minutes," she said. "It is difficult to communicate months' worth of research in that limited time. The feedback I received from the coauthors was crucial to helping me trim down the message into the clearest points."

Learn more about Ohio State's involvement with the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission with NASA.

O'Brien said standing out from the crowd is no easy feat at the AGU conference. In 2019, almost 30,000 people registered to watch more than 1,500 exhibitors, made up from thousands of K-12 to graduate school students from all over the world. Out of 27,047 abstracts submitted, only 974 are featured.  

He helped put Downs' achievements in perspective.

“This award is only given to the top 2 to 5 percent of student presenters,” he said. “It is quite an achievement for Brandi to be selected in the top percentile, and we are very proud of her.”

If this story sounds a bit familiar, it is because Downs was up for more than one award at the AGU Conference. She was previously named among the Grand Prize winners for her submission to the 2020 Michael H. Freilich Student Visualization Competition.

Story by Ryan Horns | Communications Specialist | @OhioStateECE |