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.

  • Ecohydrology of Arid Lands

    Ecohydrology of Arid Lands: Julio Betancourt studies how climate variability affects terrestrial ecosystems. Here Julio is sampling and analyzing fossil rodent middens preserved in caves and rock shelters along remote cliffsides to reconstruct vegetation dynamics over the past 50,000 years in arid North and South America.

  • Plankton Dynamics in Tidal Estuaries

    Plankton Dynamics in Tidal Estuaries: Jim Cloern gives a tutorial on scientific writing and publishing for graduate students at the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India.

  • Synoptic Scale Hydroclimatic Processes and Hazards

    Synoptic Scale Hydroclimatic Processes and Hazards: Gregory McCabe identifies climate factors that result in extended and severe droughts, which is important for the management of water resources in the western United States. These photos of Lake Powell and the confluence of the Colorado and Dirty Devil rivers show a 17-meter drop in the reservoir pool elevation from June 29, 2002 to December 23, 2003 (photos by John Dohrenwend).

  • Benthic Fluxes of Metals and Nutrients

    Benthic Fluxes of Metals and Nutrients: Jim Kuwabara and his colleagues use a USGS-patented device to quantify changes in the benthic (internal) sources of nutrients and toxic substances to various aquatic systems. This research supports the development of long-term management strategies for water quality in these ecosystems.

Recent NRP Publications

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.

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]

Lowenstern, J.B., W. C. Evans, D. Bergfeld and A. G. Hunt, 2014, Prodigious degassing of a billion years of accumulated radiogenic helium at Yellowstone:  Nature 506: 355–358. doi:10.1038/nature12992

Perkins, K.S., Nimmo, J.R., Medeiros, A.C., Szutu, D.J., and von Allmen, E., 2014, Assessing effects of native forest restoration on soils moisture dynamics and potential aquifer recharge, Auwahi, Maui, Ecohydrology, DOI:10.1002/eco1469.

[View All NRP Publications]

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Featured Science and Activities

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.

John Karl Bohlke Elected as GSA Fellow

USGS NRP Scientist John Karl Bohlke

USGS NRP scientist John Karl Bohlke has been elected as a GSA Fellow for his outstanding publications that have advanced the state of the science of geologic research. GSA Fellowship is an honor bestowed on the most outstanding scientists in recognition of distinguished contributions to the geosciences.

Jim Kuwabara, Brent Topping and Jim Carter honored by ET&C

The editors of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry nominate 24 of the 350 papers they publish each year for an annual "Best Paper Award" on the basis of scientific impact, public and professional interest, comprehension, and experimental design and quality. A paper by NRP scientists Jim Kuwabara, Brent Topping, and Jim Carter is among the top five papers selected for the 2012 Award. The paper is: Kuwabara, J.S., Topping, B.R., Carter, J.L., Wood, T.M., Cameron, J.M., Asbill-Case, J.R., and Carlson, R.A. 2012. Changes in benthic nutrient scources within a wetland after hydrologic reconnection, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 31 (9): 1995-2013

Chris Green Recognized as Outstanding Associate Editor

USGS NRP Scientist Chris Green.

Chris Green (USGS-NRP) was recognized as "Outstanding Associate Editor" by the editorial board of the Journal of Environmental Quality (CSA News, April 2013).

Rick Healy and Hedeff Essaid Receive the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Superior Paper Award

NRP scientists Rick Healy and Hedeff Essaid were selected to receive a 2013 ASABE Superior Paper Award for their paper: Healy, R.W., and Essaid, H.I., 2012, VS2DI: Model use, Calibration, and Validation: Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, vol. 55(3), 1249-1260. The ASABE Paper Awards are selected annually from papers of engineering merit published during the prior calendar year in ASABE publications of Applied Engineering in Agriculture, Transactions of the ASABE, Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health or Biological Engineering Transactions.

Paul Hsieh Honored with Prestigious Federal Employee of the Year Medal - September 2011
Dr. Paul Hsieh, NRP research hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has earned the Federal Employee of the Year Medal for providing critical scientific information during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Dr. Hsieh’s calculations were key in helping senior federal officials and scientists conclude that the containment cap on the ruptured well was working and did not need to be removed, thus ensuring no additional oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. Read the full press release