Student wins award at American Geophysical Union meeting

Catie Finkenbiner with her award-winning poster at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting. (Photo courtesy Catie Finkenbiner)
Catie Finkenbiner with her award-winning poster at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting. (Photo courtesy Catie Finkenbiner)

Catie Finkenbiner, a senior water science major from Omaha, won an Outstanding Student Poster Award at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting.

"I was shocked and very excited when I won the OSPA," Finkenbiner said. "I couldn't believe my poster was chosen out of all the posters that competed."

The meeting, which took place in December, drew more than 22,000 participants from across the world.

OSPAs are awarded to promote, recognize and reward undergraduate, master's and Ph.D. students for quality research in the geophysical sciences. The awards are given to the top three to five percent of entrees in each section.

The complete list of winners is available at

"It was awesome to receive positive feedback on my presentation at AGU because it is such a large global conference," Finkenbiner said. "Winning this award gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride in my work."

Finkenbiner's poster was titled "Improving the Operability of the Cosmic-ray Neutron Soil Moisture Method: Estimation of Soil Calibration Parameters Using Global Datasets." Her research focuses on using available global datasets to calibrate the cosmic-ray probe to estimate field-scale soil moisture.

"I compared field soil sample data with data from the global dataset for sites we have information for across the globe," she said. "The incorporation of this technique for soil moisture management has the potential to increase the efficiency of irrigation water use."

Finkenbiner spent two weeks preparing the poster and working on the design. Finally getting to present the poster and research was her favorite part of the conference, Finkenbiner said.

"My poster had constant foot traffic, and I received a lot of positive feedback and questions regarding my work," she said.

Trenton Franz, assistant professor of hydrogeophysics in UNL's School of Natural Resources, is Finkenbiner's UCARE adviser.

"Catie's research will contribute directly to a journal publication that we are currently working on," Franz said. "It was great that the larger hydrologic community at AGU recognized her efforts."

After graduating in May, Finkenbiner said she would like to continue her education at UNL. She is currently applying to SNR's graduate program in natural resources.

In the long-term, Finkenbiner aspires for a career centered on the management of water resources and their services.

"The education I have received from SNR gave me a well-rounded outlook on natural resource management and conservation," she said. "Even though my main focus is on water, I see the importance of having an understanding of soil and geological processes. I appreciate that SNR requires me to take a broad range of classes to give me a very well-rounded education."

— Mekita Rivas, Natural Resources