Western Geographic Science Center

Western Geographic Science Center - News, Highlights (Archive: 2016 2015 2014 2013 2011  2010)


USGS Remote Sensing Studies Quantify Post-Fire Landscape Restoration:

Cynthia SA Wallace USGS researchers will be participating in the Southwest Wildfire Hydrology and Hazards workshop, April 2-5, near Tucson, AZ by presenting research on the contribution of natural vegetation dynamics and common seeding treatments to post-fire soil stability in rangelands of the Great Basin, which explores the effectiveness of post-fire seeding treatments, and fire and soil microtopography in a Chihuahuan Desert shrub-grass ecotone, which quantifies the microtopography of desert grass and shrub lands. Both studies demonstrate methods that use remotely sensed data to quantify distinct aspects of the restoration, recovery or degradation of post-fire landscapes. Such metrics can be used by land managers to demonstrate the effectiveness of post-fire restoration strategies. For more information, contact Cynthia Wallace at 520-670-5589.

March 23-March 30

USGS Hosts Pacific Coastal Fog Team Workshop:

Alicia Torregrosa Advective fog is a major modifier of the climactic condition along the California coast and has significant effects on human and ecological coastal communities. Although it is clear that many physical factors contribute to fog formation, relatively little is known about the factors that drive the patterns of fog along the coast. The USGS will be hosting an international team of scientists, April 3-5, in Menlo Park, CA for the first Pacific Coastal Fog Team workshop where participants will assess methods to provide San Francisco Bay Area natural resource managers with information for making decisions on issues of concern such as restoration of native habitats, natural hazard mitigation, and long-term survival of fog-dependent vegetation. Multidisciplinary discussion topics among representatives from federal agencies, national and international universities, public and private institutions and foundations, and other science organizations, will include ecosystem management needs, processes driving fog dynamics and variability, and defining a framework for monitoring fog response to climate change. For more information, contact Alicia Torregrosa at 650-329-4091.

March 23-March 30

Transport of Biological Nutrients by Wind in an Eroding Cold Desert:

Joel SankeyUSGS physical scientist Joel Sankey recently published a study titled "Transport of biologically important nutrients by wind in an eroding cold desert" in the journal Aeolian Research. Erosion and deposition of soil after large wildfires has become an increasingly important environmental issue throughout the western United States, as wildfires have increased in recent years. Findings in a northern Great Basin wildfire study area indicate that post-fire erosion resulted in an addition of biologically important nutrients to downwind rangelands. Wind transport of nutrients is likely very important in rangeland environments because it could contribute to pulses of resource availability that might, for example, affect plant species differently depending on their phenology, and nutrient-and water-use requirements. For more information, visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aeolia.2012.01.003 or contact Joel Sankey at 520-670-6671, x 232.

March 23-March 30

USGS Land-Use and Land Cover Change Workshop:

Ben SleeterUSGS scientists hosted a workshop, Jan. 23-25, in Reston, VA to discuss future scenarios of land-use and land-cover change in the Eastern United States. The goal of the meeting was to review "initial draft concept scenarios" and revise modeling parameters used to produce a comprehensive set of land use and land cover statistics for the USGS LandCarbon assessment. The productive and well attended meeting included participants from all USGS centers and invited experts from universities. For more information, visit or contact, Ben Sleeter at 650-329-4350.

January 27-February 3

Evaluating and Refining Alternative Futures for Puget Sound Ecosystem Management:

Kristen Byrd
The USGS has released Open-File Report 2011-1279: Tools and Methods for Evaluating and Refining Alternative Futures for Coastal Ecosystem Management--The Puget Sound Ecosystem Portfolio Model (PSEPM). The PSEPM is a decision-support tool that uses scenarios to evaluate where, when, and to what extent future population growth, urban growth, and shoreline development may threaten the Puget Sound nearshore environment. This report serves to document and supplement model results displayed on the PSEPM Web site. For more information, visit <http://geography.wr.usgs.gov/pugetSound/index.html> or contact Kristin Byrd at 650-329-4279.

January 13-20

USGS Geographer Named Editor-in-Chief of Remote Sensing Journal:

Prasad Thenkabail
USGS research geographer Prasad Thenkabail is nominated as the Editor-in-Chief of the Remote Sensing Open Access Journal. As Editor-In-Chief, Thenkabail is responsible for making final decisions on all submitted articles after each paper has completed 3-5 peer-reviews. Over a period of a year, Thenkabail will make decisions on about 400+ articles, of which about 150 are likely to be published, and will periodically be writing editorials in the journal For more information, visit or contact Prasad Thenkabail at 928-556-7221 or pthenkabail@usgs.gov.

January 13-20

Nathan Wood Quoted in National Geographic

Nathan Wood
USGS geographer Nathan Woodis quoted in a February National Geographic article about societal risk from tsunamis titled "The calm before the wave--where and when will the next tsunami hit?" http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/tsunami/folger-text

January 13-20


USGS Powell Fellow Wins AGU Chapman Water Conference Award:

USGS Powell Fellow and University of Arizona researcher Isabella Mariotto won a competitive American Geophysical Union Chapman Award from the NASA Terrestrial Hydrology Program to participate in the February 2012 Conference on Remote Sensing of the Terrestrial Water Cycle by presenting "Application of SEBAL Modified for Topographic Reflectance and Roughness to Map the Spatial Distribution of ET in a Heterogeneous Area". Mariotto is currently working on the NASA grant "Water Use and Water Productivity of Key World Crops using Hyperion-ASTER, and a Large Collection of in-situ Field Biological and Spectral Data in Central Asia", and also with the USGS Powell Center Working Group on Global Croplands. For more information, contact Isabella Mariotto at 575-635-5838.

December 9-16

USGS Value of Information Research:

USGS economist Ron Raunikar participated in the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Dec. 5-9, in San Francisco, CA by presenting "Revealed social preference for potable groundwater: An Eastern Iowa case study", describing the technique used to incorporate the value of groundwater protection afforded by Landsat imagery. This research is part of a larger case study of the use of remotely sensed Landsat information to inform regional land use management in 35 counties of Eastern Iowa. The USGS value of information method is based on the use value of the information for an improved integrated assessment. For more information, contact Ron Raunikar at 650-329-4261.

December 2-9

Phenology Research and Observations in Southwest Ecosystems:

bullfrog On Oct. 28, university students and professors, government researchers, and citizen scientists from Arizona, New Mexico, California and Colorado gathered in Tucson, AZ for the annual Phenology Research and Observations in Southwest Ecosystems (PROSE) symposium.  In addition to presentations on topics ranging from bird migration to remote sensing phenology of invasive vegetation, a competition was held for student poster presentations.  Jake Weltzin, Executive Director of the USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN), reported that over 600,000 observations have now been uploaded to the USA-NPN website, including live phenology data.  Sponsors and supporters of the symposium include the SW Region American Society for Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing (SW-ASPRS), USA-NPN, USGS, University of Arizona (UA) Office of Arid Land Studies, UA Institute of the Environment, and the UA Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis Graduate Interdisciplinary Program.  For more information, visit www.usanpn.org or contact Cynthia Wallace at 520-670-5589.  

New Imaging System Aids Understanding of Carbon Dynamics in Terrestrial Ecosystems:

USGS research geographer Dennis Dye will participate in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, Dec. 3- 7, in San Francisco, CA by presenting results from his recent field campaign to evaluate the performance of the High Dynamic Range All-Sky Imaging System, a new USGS instrument designed to support improved understanding and prediction of carbon dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems; Dye's research is sponsored by the USGS Geographic Analysis and Monitoring program. The AGU Fall Meeting is the largest worldwide conference in the geophysical sciences, attracting nearly 20,000 Earth and space scientists, educators, students, and policy makers.  For more information, visit sites.agu.org/fallmeeting or contact Dennis Dye at 928-556-7029.

USGS at the NASA Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Joint Science Workshop:

Nasa Logo USGS research geographer Dennis Dye participated in the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Joint Science Workshop, Oct. 3-7, in Alexandria, VA by presenting results from his research on the development and application of a High Dynamic Range All-Sky Imaging System, a new instrument to support improved understanding and prediction of carbon dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems.  The workshop was designed to share scientific research results and foster interdisciplinary interactions within NASA’s Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Focus Area, which includes research programs that are complementary to those of the USGS Climate Change and Land Use Change mission area.  For more information, visit http://cce.nasa.gov/meeting_2011/index.htm or contact Dennis Dye at 928-556-7029.

USGS Border Environmental Health Initiative Field Trip:

On Nov. 16, Principal Investigators of the USGS Border Environmental Health Initiative (BEHI) will lead a field trip for the Pacific Southwest Regional Executive Office and Center Directors.  The objective of BEHI research is to investigate the potential for bioaccumulation of contaminants in the food chain within the Santa Cruz watershed.  The tour will include stops along the river where samples of water, soils, invertebrates, and birds are being collected and analyzed.  These analyses are being used in surface and groundwater models to quantify land-use and climate change impacts on the health of humans and wildlife and to better understand the nexus among environment, wildlife, and human activities.  For more information, contact Laura Norman at 520-670-5510.

Binational Forum on Transborder Human Development in the Arizona-Sonora Region:

On Nov. 17, USGS research physical scientist Laura Norman will be participating as an invited panelist in the "Binational Forum on Transborder Human Development in the Arizona-Sonora Region" being held in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.  The objective of the Forum is to promote reflection on human development issues and to identify the challenges inherent in transborder collaboration on these issues through the exchange of ideas and experiences among the various social actors to strengthen the social dialog to the benefit of the region.  For more information, contact Laura Norman at 520-670-5510.

Modeling Pedestrian Evacuations from Near-Field Tsunamis:

On Oct. 16, an article written by geographers at the USGS and Sacramento State University summarizing new approaches to modeling pedestrian evacuations from near-field tsunamis was published online by the journal Natural Hazards.  The case study, testing the sensitivity of various modeling approaches and data inputs, focuses on pedestrian evacuation issues on the Long Beach Peninsula (WA) related to tsunamis associated with a potential Cascadia subduction zone earthquake.  Results indicate thousands of people are located in areas where evacuations to higher ground will be difficult before arrival of the first tsunami wave.  For more information, visit www.springerlink.com/content/c34732703471q565/ or contact Nathan Wood at 360-993-8951.

Phenology Research and Observations in Southwest Ecosystems Symposium:

On Oct. 28, the annual Phenology Research and Observations in Southwest Ecosystems symposium will be held in Tucson, AZ, bringing together scientists doing phenology research in the southwestern United States.  Phenology is the science of recurring biological stages, such as flowering of plants and migration of animals, and their timing and relationships with weather and climate.  Oral presentations by university and government researchers will address topics including interactions of bird migrations with weather and climate, and remote sensing of vegetation and water dynamics in desert ecosystems.  The symposium is being co-sponsored by the USA National Phenology Network and American Society for Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing, and is additionally supported by the USGS and the University of Arizona.   For more information, contact Cynthia Wallace at 520-670-5589 or Joel Sankey at 520-670-6671, x 232.

Advanced Hyperspectral Sensing of the Terrestrial Environment Workshop:

USGS research geographer Prasad Thenkabail is co-organizing a workshop on Advanced Hyperspectral Sensing of the Terrestrial Environment for the William T. Pecora Memorial Remote Sensing Symposium, Nov. 14-17, in Herndon, VA.  Hyperspectral sensing provides scientists with information to better understand continually changing environmental conditions and economic themes throughout the global terrestrial environment.  Scientists studying vegetation, croplands, geologic structure and mineral exploration, and coastal/wetland monitoring will benefit from the information provided by advanced remote sensing technology.  For more information visit http://pecora.asprs.org/ or contact Prasad Thenkabail at 928-556-7221 or pthenkabail@usgs.gov.

USGS Research on Land-Cover Change:

The USGS Western Geographic Science Center has released a new fact sheet detailing past and present land-cover change research at the USGS.  Over the last decade, geographic scientists have been working to produce estimates of nearly 30 years of dynamic land-cover and land-use change for the conterminous United States.  Results of this unprecedented, multi-center collaborative research effort indicate nearly 8.6% of land cover in the United States changed land-cover type at least once during the 1973 to 2000 study period, with developed lands increasing 33% and declines in both forest and agriculture (4%) and increases in grasslands/shrublands (2%).  Current research is focusing on determining the underlying drivers of land-use and land-cover change, as well as modeling future land-cover under different future socio-economic and environmental scenarios, based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "Special Report on Emissions Scenarios".  For more information, visit http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2011/3080/ or contact Benjamin Sleeter at 650-329-4350.

Great Basin Phreatophytic Land-Cover:

The USGS recently published Scientific Investigations Map 3169 entitled, Phreatophytic land-cover map of the northern and central Great Basin Ecoregion: California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Wyoming.  The report documents the GIS methods used in creating the map from preexisting data sets to delineate areas of the Great Basin that have the greatest potential to support phreatophytic vegetation.  Data sets used include Shrub Map (a land-cover data set derived from the Regional Gap Analysis Program) and Gap Analysis Program data sets for California and Wyoming.  In addition, the analysis used the surface landforms from the USGS Global Ecosystems Mapping Project.   For more information, visit http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3169/ or contact Amy Mathie at 360-993-7799.

Global Croplands Working Group to Study Water Use for Food Security:

USGS research geographer Prasad Thenkabail is organizing the initial meeting of a Working Group on Global Croplands (WGGC), Sept. 26-30, at the USGS John Wesley Powell Center in Fort Collins, CO.  The USGS Powell Center serves as a catalyst for innovative thinking in earth system science research, initiated as one means of implementing the USGS Science Strategy, to support scientist-driven interdisciplinary analysis and synthesis of complex natural science problems.  The WGGC, sponsored by the Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis, consists of renowned global experts and/or emerging scientists with expertise in this area.  The overarching goal of the WGGC will be to create a “knowledge warehouse? to facilitate global food security in the twenty-first century by identifying and making available an advanced geospatial information system on croplands and their water use; the WGGC is expected to produce peer-reviewed papers, models, maps, and other products.  For more information, visit http://powellcenter.usgs.gov/current_projects.php#GlobalCroplandsHighlights or contact Prasad Thenkabail at 928-556-7221.

Monitoring and Analysis of Sand Movement and Growth on the Navajo Nation:

A new USGS fact sheet "Monitoring and Analysis of Sand Dune Movement and Growth on the Navajo Nation" reports on the methodology and preliminary results of a recent study to record and understand the causes and impacts of highly mobile and rapidly growing sand dune fields of the Navajo Nation.  USGS Fact Sheet 2011-3085 has received bureau approval and is being processed for publication.  For more information, contact Margaret Redsteer at 928-556-7366 or Rian Bogle at 928-556-7212.

Puget Sound Scenarios Consortium:

USGS is co-leading an August 16 planning workshop on the UW Seattle campus as part of a process for creating a Puget Sound scenarios consortium.  The purpose of the Puget Sound scenarios consortium will be to coordinate the development of integrated scenarios that include the most important aspects of changes in land-use/land-cover, resource management practices, climate change, and sea level rise (among other drivers) that may impact Puget Sound ecosystem restoration efforts in the future.  A major part of this coordination is developing a strategic plan to leverage and synthesize the many existing relevant research efforts.  Other participants will include the Puget Sound Partnership, the University of Washington (UW) Urban Ecosystem Research Lab, the UW Climate Impacts Group, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, and the UW Puget Sound Institute, which is helping facilitate the planning process.  This meeting will create the basis for later regional workshops that will include the broad suite of necessary partners. For more information contact Bill Labiosa at 206-220-4563.

USGS at 5th Annual HAZUS Conference:

USGS Western Geographic Science Center (WGSC) operations research analyst Laura Dinitz will participate in the 5th annual HAZUS Conference, Aug. 10-12, in Seattle, WA by presenting information on using the Land Use Portfolio Model (LUPM), a risk analysis tool developed at the WGSC together with HAZUS-MH -- a loss-estimation tool developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The presentation will also describe the HAZUS Data Extractor, a tool for users to extract HAZUS damage and loss-estimate data from an earthquake or flood analysis.  Originally developed to help prepare HAZUS output data for input to the LUPM, this tool can be useful for a variety of purposes.  Dinitz will describe how WGSC researchers are applying these tools to analyze earthquake risk to mobile homes in southern California.  For more information, visit http://geography.wr.usgs.gov/science/hazusTool.html or contact Laura Dinitz at 650-329-4953.

New USGS Instrument Looks Upward to Improve Understanding of Ecosystem Carbon Dynamics:

USGS researcher Dennis Dye is evaluating the performance of a new instrument for image-based monitoring of sky conditions and solar irradiance.  Dye designed and constructed the High Dynamic Range All-Sky Imaging System to support his research on the effects of cloud-and aerosol-induced changes in diffuse solar radiation on photosynthesis and CO2 exchange in terrestrial ecosystems.  Data from the instrument will enable new insights about how clouds and air pollution affect photosynthesis in natural vegetation and crops.  The research, sponsored by the USGS Geographic Analysis and Monitoring program in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program, supports goals to improve understanding and prediction of the global carbon cycle.  For more information, contact Dennis Dye at 928-556-7029.

New USGS Video Documents Lake Tahoe Research:

On Aug. 16, the USGS will debut a new video product on science research in the Lake Tahoe Basin for attendees at the annual Lake Tahoe Summit meeting at Homewood, CA.  The ten minute movie produced by USGS videographer Stephen Wessells features USGS science activities beginning in 1895 and continuing through today's research by hydrologists, geologists, geographers, computer modelers, and biologists.  The video, which showcases a broad range of USGS science, features USGS Western Geographic Science Center work to create land use planning tools for future land use decisions, historical multi-temporal orthoimagery, and land-use/land-cover change maps.  For more information, contact Stephen Wessells at 702-564-4626, William Forney at 650-329-4237, or Christopher Soulard at 650-329-4317.

Nicky Wagner, Member of Parliament (MP) New Zealand

will be visiting the Bay Area to July 21 to July 30 to learn about recovery from the Loma Prieta earthquake and earthquake preparedness and mitigation in the Bay Area. Ms. Wagner hopes to learn ideas for rebuilding the devastated Christchurch Central Business District, to be stronger, greener, more vibrant, and more pedestrian friendlier than before.  Anne Wein, Western Region Geographic Science Center will meet with the MP and help to coordinate her visit with Daniel Homsey, San Francisco Mayor's office.   Anne Wein


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