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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey
numerous, more focused research projects supported by management agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service and their state equivalents, and primarily carried out in the Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) Science Centers.
All of these kinds of river science activities can be part of a coherent and successful USGS river science initiative. Furthermore, each approach presents opportunities for close coordination and interdisciplinary collaboration among the USGS disciplines as well as useful linkages with the work of other federal agencies. The challenge for a USGS river science initiative will be to engage all disciplines within its structure to do integrative multidisciplinary research.
Serious institutional obstacles within the USGS impede collaboration among disciplines. Perhaps the most fundamental of these is that the local or district offices of each discipline are usually not colocated. Most geology discipline scientists are in the three regional centers in Reston, Virginia, Denver, Colorado, and Menlo Park, California, and many geography discipline scientists are at the Earth Resources Observation Systems (EROS) Data Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or the Mid-Continent Geographic Science Center in Rolla, Missouri. Water resources discipline scientists, in contrast, are located at these regional centers but also in 54 water science centers throughout the country. Most of the biological resources scientists are located at 18 science and technology centers and to a lesser extent in cooperative research units at 40 universities around the country. Thus, despite goodwill and interest in collaborative work, the opportunities for the kinds of informal discussions that often lead to interdisciplinary projects are limited.
There are a few places in the USGS organization where several disciplines are colocated in a meaningful way. For example, the BRD’s Fort Collins, Colorado, Science Center and Columbia Environmental Research Center have five and three hydrologists, respectively. The Southwest Biological Science Center’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center has a staff that although modest in number, has nearly equal numbers of biologists, hydrologists, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialists/geographers. Other centers are not as well supplied, such as the Leetown, West Virginia, Biological Science Center, which lists no hydrologists on staff (http://www.lsc.usgs.gov/stafflist.asp) even though it has major research projects in and around rivers. Similarly, only geographers staff the Mid-Continent Geographic Science Center, even though it is working on hazards and land changes. Likewise, the Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center has no hydrologists on staff, although it does have four statisticians, four chemists, and three physiologists along with specialists in contaminants, limnology, sediments, and GIS (Barry Johnson, USGS, written communication, March 2006).
Of the approximately 4000 Water Resources Discipline (WRD) employees, there are about 24 whose title is ecologist, and slightly over 100 whose title