National Research Program (NRP)

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The USGS National Research Program (NRP), part of the USGS Water Mission Area, conducts research to develop and disseminate science-based information and tools needed for a fundamental understanding of the processes that affect the availability, movement, and quality of the Nation’s water resources. Our science supports a wide range of policies and activities, including:

Science Topics

  • Hydrologic Studies of Heat and Mass Transport

    Hydrologic Studies of Heat and Mass Transport: Steve Ingebritsen’s research focuses on hydrothermal systems in volcanic terranes. Changes in the hydrothermal system can signal intrusive events and otherwise reveal some of the physical processes surrounding volcanic unrest.

  • Wetland Ecosystem Ecology and Biogeochemistry

    Wetland Ecosystem Ecology and Biogeochemistry: Greg Noe's research seeks to understand the fundamental controls on how wetlands influence water quality by quantifying the interactive influences of hydrology, geomorphology, climate, and biology on nitrogen and phosphorus biogeochemistry in fluvial ecosystems.

  • Geochemistry of Hydrothermal Systems

    Geochemistry of Hydrothermal Systems: Bill Evans demonstrates proper use of a ring stand and graduated cylinder to collect gas from an Alaskan mud volcano. This feature was dormant for decades before "erupting" carbon dioxide gas in the late 1990s.

  • Aqueous Crystal Growth and Dissolution Kinetics

    Aqueous Crystal Growth and Dissolution Kinetics: Mike Reddy uses techniques of low-temperature geochemistry to interpret and characterize chemical processes occurring in surface water and ground water. In this image, Hot Springs at the Needles Area of Pyramid Lake, NV shows active calcium carbonate precipitation.

  • Stable Isotope Tracing of Metals in Aquatic Ecosystems

    Stable Isotope Tracing of Metals in Aquatic Ecosystems: Marie Croteau studies the linkages between contaminant bioavailability and toxicity in aquatic organisms exposed to metals, including colloidal metals and engineered nanoparticles. This is a SEM image of benthic diatoms (Nitzschia palea) and zinc oxide nanoparticles.

Recent NRP Publications

Nilsen, E.B., Rosenbauer, R.J., Fuller, C.C.,  Jaffe, B.J., 2015. Sedimentary organic biomarkers suggest detrimental effects of PAHs on estuarine microbial biomass during the 20th century in San Francisco Bay, CA, USA.  Chemosphere v. 119, p. 961-970 (doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.08.053)

Révész, K. M., Sherwood Lollar, Kirshtein, J.D., Tiedeman, C. R.., Imbrigiotta, T. E., Goode, D. J., Shapiro, A. M., Voytek, M. A., Lacombe, P. J. and Busenberg, E., 2014: Integration of stable carbon isotope, microbial community, dissolved hydrogen gas, and 2H2O tracer data to assess bioaugmentation for chlorinated ethene degradation in fractured rock: Journal of Contaminant Hydrology 156 (2014) 62-77.

Cozzarelli, I.M., Mckelvie, J.R. and Baehr, A.L., 2014. 11.12 - Volatile Hydrocarbons and Fuel Oxygenates Treatise on Geochemistry (Second Edition). In: H.D. Holland and K.K. Turekian (Editors). Elsevier, Oxford, pp. 439-480.

Busenberg, Eurybiades, and Plummer, L. Niel, 2014, A 17-year record of environmental tracers in spring discharge, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA—Use of climatic data and environmental conditions to interpret discharges, dissolved solutes, and tracer concentrations.  Aquatic Geochemistry, v. 20, p. 267–290, DOI 10.1007/s10498-013-9202-y.

Kharaka Y.K., and Hanor J.S., 2014. Deep Fluids in Sedimentary Basins. In: Holland H.D. and Turekian K.K. (eds.) Treatise on Geochemistry, Second Edition, vol. 7, pp. 472-515. Oxford: Elsevier.

Qi, Haiping., Lorenz, Jennifer. M., Coplen, Tyler. B., Tarbox, Lauren., Mayer, Bernhard., and Taylor, Steve., 2014, Lake Louise Water (USGS47): A new isotopic reference water for stable hydrogen and oxygen isotope measurements: Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, v. 28, p. 351-354 doi:10.1002/rcm.6789

Khan, F. R., Kennaway., G. M., Croteau, M-N., Dybowska, A., Smith, B. D, Nogueira, A. J. A., Rainbow, P. S., Luoma, S. N., Valsami-Jones, E., 2014, In vivo retention of ingested Au NPs by Daphnia magna—No evidence for trans-epithelial alimentary uptake: Chemosphere, in press, doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2013.12.051

Kulp, T.R., Laurence G. Miller, Franco Braiotta, Samuel M. Webb, Benjamin D. Kocar, Jodi S. Blum, and Ronald S. Oremland, 2014, Microbiological Reduction of S(V) in Anoxic Freshwater Sediments Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 48, 218−226,dx.doi.org/10.1021/es403312j.

Bodí, M.B., Martin, D.A., Balfour, V.N., Santín, C., Doerr, S.H., Pereira, P., Cerdá, A., Mataix-Solera, J., 2014,  Wildland fire ash—Production, composition and eco-hydro-geomorphic effects: Earth-Science Reviews 130, p. 103–127.

Griffin, E.R., Perignon, M.C., Friedman, J.M., and Tucker, G.E., 2014, Effects of woody vegetation on overbank sand transport during a large flood, Rio Puerco, New Mexico: Geomorphology, v. 207, p. 30–50. doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.10.025

Dettinger, M., 2014, Climate change—Impacts in the third dimension.  Nature Geoscience News and Views, 7, 2 p., doi:10.1038/ngeo2096.

Fuller, C.C. and Bargar, J.R., 2014, Processes of zinc attenuation by biogenic manganese oxides forming in the hyporheic zone of Pinal Creek, Arizona. Environmental Science & Technology, published on line January 24, 2014. (DOI: 10.1021/es402576f) [get publication]

Knightes, C.D., Golden, H.E., Journey, C.A., Davis, G.M., Conrads, P.A., Marvin-DiPasquale, M., Brigham, M.E., and Bradley, P.M., 2014, Mercury and Methylmercury Stream Concentrations in a Coastal Plain Watershed: A Multi-Scale Simulation Analysis: Environmental Pollution, v. 187, p. 182-192.

Kimmerer W and J K Thompson. 2014. Phytoplankton growth balanced by clam and zooplankton grazing and net transport into the low-salinity zone of the San Francisco Estuary. Estuaries and Coasts. Electronic pub in Jan 2014; 17pp. [get publication]

Lewicki, J.L., G.E. Hilley, D.R. Shelly, J.C. King, J.P. McGeehin, M. Mangan, and W.C. Evans, 2014, Crustal migration of CO2-rich magmatic fluids recorded by tree-ring radiocarbon and seismicity at Mammoth Mountain, CA, USA. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 390: 52-58. [get publication]

[View All NRP Publications]

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Featured Science and Activities

Elizabeth Jones Receives 2014 Dalway J. Swaine Award

NRP Scientist Emeritus Elizabeth Jones received the 2014 Dalway J. Swaine Award for best refereed paper in coal and hydrocarbon source rock geochemistry. You can acces the paper, The effect of coal bed dewatering and partial oxidation on biogenic methane potential, at ScienceDirect.com.

Clifford I. Voss Selected as 2015 Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer

USGS NRP Scientist Clifford I. Voss

Clifford I. Voss has been selected as the 2015 Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer by GSA's Hydrogeology Division. Cliff, an internationally recognized expert in groundwater modeling, is a senior scientist with the National Research Program. For more information or to schedule a presentation, please visit http://water.usgs.gov/nrp/2015-Birdsall-Dreiss-Lecture-Voss/.

NRP Scientist Carol Kendall Selected as AGU 2014 Walter Langbein Lecturer

USGS NRP Scientist Carol Kendall

The Walter B. Langbein Lecture is awarded by the AGU Hydrology Section "for lifetime contributions to the basic science of hydrology and/or unselfish service promoting cooperation in hydrologic research. Additional considerations may be the candidate's renown as a lecturer and/or as an educator." Carol will receive this award at her lecture at the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting on December 16.

Arctic Methane Emissions "Certain to Trigger Warming"

Coastal erosion reveals permafrost underlying the Arctic Coastal Plain in Alaska.

As climate change melts Arctic permafrost and releases large amounts of methane into the atmosphere, it is creating a feedback loop that is "certain to trigger additional warming," according to the lead scientist of a new study investigating Arctic methane emissions. Read the full press release or access the original article

The Connected Consequences of River Dams

Conceptual model of how two dams in a sequence may interact.

In a case study of dams on the upper Missouri River, USGS researchers have demonstrated that an upstream dam is still a major control of river dynamics where the backwater effects of a downstream reservoir begin. In light of this finding, the conventional understanding of how a dam can influence a river may have to be adjusted to account for the fact that effects of river dams can interact with one another. Read the full press release

Thin Skin Beneath Streams Can Power Large Improvements in Water Quality

Diagram of hyporheic zone beneath a stream.

Recent U.S. Geological Survey research has found that natural biochemical processes in water moving back and forth between a stream and its underlying sediment were significant in removing nitrate from streams in the Illinois River basin, one of the world’s most intensively farmed regions. Read the full press release

Oldest Large Body of Ancient Seawater Identified under Chesapeake Bay

Areal view of Chesapeake Bay area.

USGS scientists have determined that high-salinity groundwater found more than 1,000 meters (0.6 mi.) deep under the Chesapeake Bay is actually remnant water from the Early Cretaceous North Atlantic Sea and is probably 100-145 million years old. This is the oldest sizeable body of seawater to be identified worldwide. Read the full press release

David Parkhurst Elected as GSA Fellow –

USGS NRP Scientist David Parkhurst

USGS NRP scientist David Parkhurst was elected as a GSA Fellow following receipt of the 2012 O.E. Meinzer Award, the highest award of the Hydrogeology Division of GSA. The award and Fellowship was in recognition of his contribution to the field of hydrogeology, specifically the development of geochemical models that describe the chemical reactions that occur in water in the subsurface environment.