Cathleen Jones

Cathleen Jones obtained a Ph.D. and M.S. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1991 and 1987, respectively, and a B.S. in Physics from Texas A&M in 1982.  She spent two decades working as an experimental nuclear physicist at Argonne National Laboratory and Caltech before joining the Radar Science and Engineering Section at JPL in 2004.  At JPL, her career interests turned to radar remote sensing using synthetic aperture radar (SAR), working first as a systems engineer during the design and building the UAVSAR radar system, then in development of SAR processing algorithms, and most recently in the use of SAR interferometry (InSAR) and polarimetry (PolSAR) for pioneering applications of Earth science techniques to real-world problems.  Major among these are work done with the California Dept. of Water Resources (Ca. DWR) to demonstrate and refine the use of InSAR for measuring land subsidence and more localized surface deformation impacting levees and aqueducts, and research in oil slick detection, tracking, and characterization.  Her work with the State of California was recognized with the Remote Sensing and Drought Science Service Award from Ca. DWR in 2015.  Most recently, she is involved in studies of land building in deltas as Deputy Principal Investigator for the Delta-X Earth Venture-Suborbital-3 study (2019-).  She was an Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Physics and Technology at The Arctic University of Norway in Tromso from 2016-2020.  She has been the NASA NISAR Science Team Applications lead since 2016, and is the Applications lead for the study team formed by NASA to evaluate science and technology needs to advance the 2017 Decadal Survey’s Surface Topography and Vegetation Targeted Observable (2020-).

  • Ph.D., Physics, Caltech, 1991
  • M.S., Physics, Caltech, 1987
  • B.S., Physics, Texas A&M Univ., 1982

Research Interests: 

Overview: Advancing the use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) polarimetry (PolSAR) and interferometry (InSAR) for the study of natural and anthropogenic hazards with an emphasis on critical infrastructure security and improved coastal resiliency. 

  • Oil slick characterization using PolSAR-based methods
  • Development of algorithms that enable use of low coherence SAR interferometry for detection of small-scale surface changes in areas subject to temporal decorrelation
  • Application of InSAR techniques to monitoring flood control and water conveyance infrastructure
  • Study of the processes driving subsidence and land building in deltas and low-lying coastal wetlands

Professional Experience: 

Work History

  • Senior Research Scientist, JPL (2021-)
  • Adjunct Professor, UiT The Arctic University of Norway (2016-)
  • Principal Signal Analysis Engineer, Radar Science and Engineering Section, JPL (2008-),
  • Senior Systems Engineer, JPL (2004-2008)
  • Senior Test and Applications Engineer, SiWave Inc. (2001-2002)
  • Senior Scientist, Tanner Research Inc. (2000-2001)
  • Senior Research Associate, Physics, Caltech (1997-2000)
  • Member Technical Staff, JPL (1996-1997)
  • Assistant Physicist, Physics Division, Argonne National Laboratory (1993-1996)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Physics Division, Argonne National Laboratory (1992-1993)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Nuclear Physics, Univ. of Wisconsin (1991-1992)
  • Electronics Systems Engineer, E-Systems (1982-1985)


Research Experience

  1. Applications Lead for the NASA NISAR Mission Science Team (2016-)
  2. Member, Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science & Engineering (JIFRESSE), UCLA-JPL (2017-)
  3. Deputy Principal Investigator for the Delta-X Earth Ventures-Suborbital mission (2019-)
  4. Applications Lead, Surface Topography and Vegetation Targeted Observable Study Team (2020-)
  5. Principle Investigator, Smart Tasking, a NASA Earth Science and Technology Office (ESTO) project to develop and implement an urgent response request system with multi-mission, multi-instrument tasking architecture. (2019-2021)
  6. Member, NASA ASAR Science Team (2019-)
  7. Principal Investigator or co-investigator on over 20 other studies funded by NASA, California Dept. of Water Resources, US Dept. of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and various university partners (2008-)


Professional Affiliation

  • American Geophysical Union
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society


Selected Community Service

  • Editor, AGU Earth and Space Sciences (2021-)
  • Associate Editor, IEEE Trans. on Geoscience and Remote Sensing (2019-)
  • Reviewer for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Agency, State of Louisiana, 2023 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, Subsidence section
  • Organizing committee member for the National Academies of Sciences’ Workshop on Groundwater Recharge and Flow, June 2019, Washington D.C.


Selected Awards: 
  • Remote Sensing and Drought Science Service Award, California Dept. of Water Resources (2015)
  • NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal (2014) – For groundbreaking contributions in the application of InSAR to the study of critical natural and manmade hazards
  • NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal (2015) – For creativity and leadership in streamlining the UAVSAR repeat pass interferometry processor.
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory Explorer Award for Scientific and Technical Excellence (2013)
  • Kevin J. Neese Award, Groundwater Resources Association of California, team award to the NASA-JPL Land Subsidence Monitoring Team (2019)
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory Voyager Awards (2020, 2016, 2015)
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory Ranger Award (2014)
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mariner Awards (2014, 2013, 2009)

Selected Publications: 

Over 100 published peer-reviewed book chapters and journal articles. Selected publications pertaining to Earth science and applications are listed below.


Books Chapters

  1. Jones, C.E., Farr, T., Liu, Z., Miller, M. (2021). Measuring subsidence in California and its impact on water conveyance infrastructure, in Advances in Remote Sensing for Infrastructure Monitoring, ed. V. Singhroy, Springer Books, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-59109-0.
  2. Brekke, C., C. E. Jones (2020). SAR oil spill imaging, interpretation and information retrieval techniques, in Maritime Surveillance with SAR Data, ed. G. Di Martino and A. Iodice, The Institute of Engineering and Technology Press, ISBN-13: 978-1-78561-601-3.
  3. Jones, C. E., Dudas, J., Bawden, G. W. (2016). Application of remote sensing to assessment of water conveyance infrastructure integrity. In R. L. Anderson and H. Ferriz (Eds.), Applied Geology in California, Special Publication 26. Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, Star Publishing Company.
  4. Jones, C. E. (2016). A practical guide to synthetic aperture radar for engineering and environmental geologists. In R. L. Anderson and H. Ferriz (Eds.), Applied Geology in California, Special Publication 26. Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, Star Publishing Company.
  5. Jones, C. E., Minchew, B., Holt, B., & Hensley, S. (2011). Studies of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with the UAVSAR radar. In Y. Liu et al. (Eds), Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record-Breaking Enterprise (Geophys. Monogr. Ser., Vol. 195, pp. 33-50). Washington D. C.: American Geophysical Union.


Peer-reviewed Journal Publications

  1. De Laurentiis, L., C. E. Jones, B. Holt, F. Del Frate, G. Sciavon (2020). Deep learning for mineral and biogenic oil slick classification with airborne synthetic aperture radar data. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Xplore Early Access, doi:10.1109/TGRS.2020.3034722.
  2. Pepe, A., P. Mastro, C. E. Jones (2020). Adaptive multi-looking for multi-temporal differential SAR interferometric data stack using directional statistics, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Xplore Early Access, doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2020.3030003.
  3. Miller, M., C. E. Jones, S. Sangha, D. Bekaert (2020). Rapid drought-induced land subsidence and its impact on the California Aqueduct. Remote Sensing of Environment, 251, 112063, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2020.112063.
  4. Espeseth, M., C. E. Jones, B. Holt, C. Brekke, S. Skrunes (2020). Oil spill response-oriented information products derived from a rapid repeat time-series of SAR images, IEEE JSTARS, 13, 3448-3461, doi: 10.1109/JSTARS.2020.3003686.
  5. Garcia-Pineda, O., G. Staples, C. E. Jones, C. Hu, B. Holt, V. Kourafalou, G. Graettinger, L. DiPinto, E. Ramirez, D. Streett, J. Cho, G. Swayze, S. Sun, D. Garcia, F. Haces-Garcia (2020). Classification of oil spill by thicknesses using multiple remote sensors, Remote Sensing of Environment, 236, 111421.
  6. Espeseth, M., C. Brekke, C. E. Jones, B. Holt, A. Freeman (2019). The impact of system noise in polarimetric SAR imagery on oil spill observations, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, doi:10.1109/TGRS.2019.2961684.
  7. Röhrs, J., K.-F. Dagestad, H. Asbjørnsen, T. Nordam, J. Skancke, C. E. Jones, C. Brekke (2018). The effect of vertical mixing on the horizontal drift of oil spills, Ocean Science, 14, 1581-1601, doi:10.5194/os-14-1581-2018.
  8. Bekaert, D. S. P., C. E. Jones, K. An, M.-H. Huang (2018). Exploiting UAVSAR for a comprehensive analysis of subsidence in the Sacramento Delta, Remote Sensing of Environment, 220, 124-134, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2018.10.023.
  9. Angelliaume, S., Dubois-Fernandez, P., Jones, C. E., Holt, B., Minchew, B., Amri, E., Miegebielle, V. (2018). SAR imagery for detecting sea surface slicks: Performance assessment of polarization-dependent parameters, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 56(8), 4237-4257, doi:10.1109/TGRS.2018.2803216.
  10. Ayoub, F., Jones, C. E., Lamb, M., Holt, B., Shaw, J., Mohrig, D., & Wagner, R. W. (2018). Inferring surface currents within submerged, vegetated deltaic islands and wetlands from multi-pass airborne SAR, Remote Sensing of Environment, 212, 148-160, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2018.04.035.
  11. Jones, C. E., B. Holt (2018). Experimental L-band airborne SAR for oil spill response at sea and in coastal waters, Sensors, 18(2), 641, doi:10.3390/s18020641.
  12. Rangoonwala, A., Jones, C. E., & Ramsey III, E. (2016). Wetland shoreline recession in the Mississippi River Delta from petroleum oiling and cyclonic storms, Geophysical Res. Lett., 43(22), 11652-11660, doi:10.1002/2016GL070624.
  13. Jones, C. E., K.-F. Dagestad, O. Breivik, B. Holt, J. Rohrs, K. H. Christensen, M. Espeseth, C. Brekke, S. Skrunes (2016).  Measurement and modeling of oil slick transport, J. Geophysical Res.-Oceans, 121, 7759-7775, doi:10.1002/2016JC012113.
  14. Shaw, J. B., Ayoub, F., Jones, C. E., Lamb, M., Holt, B. Wagner, R. W., Coffey, T., Chadwick, J. A., Mohrig, D. (2016). Airborne radar imaging of subaqueous channel evolution in Wax Lake Delta, Louisiana, USA, Geophysical Research Letters, 43, 5035-5042, doi:10.1002/2016GL068770.
  15. Deverel, S., S. Bachand, S. Brandenberg, C. E. Jones, J. Stewart, & P. Zimmaro (2016).  Factors and processes affecting Delta levee system vulnerability, San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science, 14(4), jmie_sfews_33460. Retrieved from:
  16. Jones, C. E., An, K., Blom, R. G., Kent, J. D., Ivins, E. R., Bekaert, D. (2016). Anthropogenic and geologic influences on subsidence in the vicinity of New Orleans, Louisiana, J. Geophysical Res.-Solid Earth, 121, 3867-3887, doi:10.1002/2015JB012636.
  17. Ramsey, E., Meyer, B. M., Rangoonwala, A., Overton, E., Jones, C. E., & Bannister, T. (2014). Oil source-fingerprinting in support of polarimetric radar mapping of Macondo-252 oil in Gulf Coast marshes. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 89(1), 85-95.
  18. Jones, C. E., & Blom, R. G. (2014). Bayou Corne, Louisiana, sinkhole: Precursory deformation measured by radar interferometry. Geology, 42(2), 111-114.
  19. Brekke, C., Holt, B., Jones, C., & Skrunes, S. (2014). Discrimination of oil spills from newly formed sea ice by synthetic aperture radar. Remote Sensing of Environment, 145, 1-14.
  20. Minchew, B., Jones, C. E., & Holt, B. (2012). Polarimetric analysis of backscatter from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill using L-band synthetic aperture radar. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 50(10), 3812-3830.
  21. Leifer, I., Lehr, W. J., Simecek-Beatty, D., Bradley, E., Clark, R., Dennison, P., Hu, Y., Matheson, S., Jones, C. E., Holt, B., Reif, M., Roberts, D., Svejkovsky, J., Swayze, G., & Wozencraft, J. (2012). State of the art satellite and airborne marine oil spill remote sensing: Application to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Remote Sensing of Environment, 124, 185-209.
  22. Ramsey III, E., Rangoonwala, A., Suzuoki, Y., & Jones, C. E. (2011). Oil detection in a coastal marsh with polarimetric Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). Remote Sens, 3(12), 2630-2662.



Cathleen Jones
4800 Oak Grove Dr.
Pasadena, CA 91109
Phone: 818.393.1048