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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey
integrated reach-scale monitoring sites and developing a comprehensive national sediment monitoring program. It also encourages the USGS to be at the forefront of new technology application, including airborne lidar and embedded, networked wireless sensors.
The answers to most elements of the third (which asks the committee to balance temporal and spatial scales, local intense studies vs. broad regional or national studies, and work on small, pristine streams vs. large, heavily impacted rivers) are topic specific. Thus, they are different for each individual recommendation. Establishment of the recommended reach-scale monitoring sites, and increased work in groundwater and surface-water interactions, imply local intense study of processes. In contrast, recommended river surveying and sediment monitoring programs would be national in scale and might last for many decades or even centuries. Overall, most of the recommended research areas, such as stream restoration, environmental flows, and models that predict ecological change, imply considerable work in highly altered rivers. However, most of these would benefit from and may require comparative sites in more pristine environments. Thus, the committee defers the details of this task to the USGS pending how it chooses to organize its scientific disciplines to most effectively address river science issues (see Chapter 6).
The overall organization of the report is as follows. Chapter 2 first frames the broad societal issues that provide purpose for river science questions. That is, what are current challenges that make learning more about the science of rivers important? Chapter 3 describes the range of entities involved in river science, from the USGS and other federal agencies to state governments and nonprofit agencies, and details the unique role of the USGS in river science research. Then, with society’s needs, existing activities, and the USGS’s unique qualifications as a context, Chapter 4 outlines five important science priority areas the USGS should investigate to best be able to address key river science questions. Chapter 5 looks at the river monitoring and data management infrastructure that supports existing activities in river science and management and recommends an approach to handling the diversity of information and data needed to support the science priorities. Chapter 6 addresses how interdisciplinary river research might be augmented and coordinated at the USGS. Finally, Chapter 7 presents the committee’s conclusions and recommendations.