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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Transport Phenomena in Fractured Rock

    Transport Phenomena in Fractured Rock: Allen Shapiro studies the complex environment of fractured rock aquifers in order to characterize water supplies and understand the fate and transport of groundwater contaminants. Areas that benefit from his research include groundwater remediation, as well as the design of roads, tunnels, dams, and other engineered structures.

  • Hydroecology of Flowing Waters

    Hydroecology of Flowing Waters: Jud Harvey is shown sampling the Six-Mile Brook streambed for mercury contamination in Adirondack State Park, New York.

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,

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]

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Featured Science and Activities

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

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.

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 - June 2013
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 - April 2013
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 - 2013
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