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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Bulletin Supplement (Summer 2009)
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STAFF NEWS

 

The FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by Congress and signed by the President contains an increase of $228,600 (NTL) for research conducted by the Southwest Watershed Research Center, Tucson, Arizona.  These new funds are to be used to support the goals of quantifying the natural and anthropogenic impacts, including climate change, that alter the water budget of the Upper San Pedro River basin in Southern Arizona and for developing decision support systems that will enable community led watershed management decision to reduce groundwater overdraft and restore sustainable yield of groundwater in semi-arid regions of the nation.

 

New Hires

 

Erin Conner and Andrea Schwander are joining the fun at the SWRC this summer as a part of the NSF's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).  They are jointly sponsored by the University of Arizona's B2-Earthscience and SAHRA.  Erin is a sophomore at Notre Dame studying Chemical Engineering and Andrea is a senior at Penn State in Geography.  They are receiving a crash course from scientists Erik Hamerlynck and Russell Scott in plant gas exchange, soil respiration, sap flow measurements, barbwire fencing, trench digging, heat acclimation, and snake identification. 

 

Michelle Cavanaugh, a recently minted Master of Science from the University's School of Natural Resources, is exercising her expertise in sap-flowology with scientists Erik Hamerlynck and Russell Scott for the summer.

 

Cyndy Bresloff is kickstarting her graduate studies by working at SWRC with Susan Moran this summer on a study of convergence of satellite-derived ANPP as a function of precipitation across the country.  She will be pursuing her MS in the SWES department at the UofA, drawing upon her optical engineering background while studying remote sensing of both tropical forests and arid lands.

 

Jamie Massart has joined the AGWA team and is working on validation of the newly coupled KINEROS and OPUS computer programs with Roger Smith (ARS Retired – Ft. Collins).  Jamie matriculated at the UA to start the Master’s degree program under Phil Guertin in the School of Natural Resources.  Her undergraduate degree was from Western Washington University in Environmental Science after which she moved to Virginia to work in environmental water quality.  

 

Graduations

 

Dr. Brendan Yuill defended his dissertation and received his PhD in Watershed Management. Brendan is working at the University of New Orleans. Congratulations!

 

Rae-Landa Gomez-Pond, a graduate student of Dr. Jeff Stone from ARS-SWRC, received her MS degree in Soil, Water and Environmental Science.  Rae-Landa moved to York, Nebraska in hopes to find her inner child, but instead accepted a position in corn research with Pioneer-Hi Bred as a Research Associate.  Congratulations to Rae-Landa, while we think of her each time we eat an ear of corn.

Grey Nearing earned an M.S in Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering in May.  His thesis is titled "Likelihood Parameter Estimation for Calibrating a Soil Moisture Model Using Radar Backscatter".  He will begin work in a PhD program in Hydrology starting this fall, funded through a NASA SMAP Science Definition Team grant.  Excellent work.

 

Important Reports and Visitors

 

The ARS Pacific West Area held a Remote Sensing Workshop in Albany California on 29-30 April 2009.  The report is available on the web at http://www.ars.usda.gov/Business/docs.htm?docid=18682

 

The SWRC sponsored and hosted a program for local teachers in the ARS/ Texas A&M program for training future scientists on June 9-10, 2009 in Tombstone, Arizona.  Using hands-on, inquiry-based activities and seminars from ARS scientists, the project helps introduce actual USDA research into local schools and communities as it helps to inspire the next generation of research scientists.

 

Mary Nichols led a field tour at the Cochise-Graham County Cattle Growers meeting in May. Mary is working in cooperation with 4 area ranchers and the Coronado RC&D on a project to reduce sediment loading in the Hay Mountain Watershed east of Tombstone draining into Whitewater Draw.

  

Mary Nichols is working to integrate high-resolution panoramic photography and conventional rangeland monitoring. She is collaborating with Dr. George Rule (UA Cooperative Extension) and the Ranching Heritage Alliance.

 

Dave Goodrich attended ARS Congressional Briefing Training in Washington D.C. during the first week of June.  This informative, and very well run class, does a great job explaining the inner workings of Congress and how the sausage is made.

 

A comprehensive compilation and review of the ecological and hydrological significance of ephemeral and intermittent streams in the arid and semi-arid American southwest was led by Lainie Levick (citation below).   This study and report was requested by EPA Region 9 to aid in its efforts for 404 permitting as related to the Clean Water Act (CWA).  This is especially important given the recent Rapanos Supreme Court decision which requires the EPA and Corps of Engineers to provide more guidance on the 404 permitting process. Ephemeral and intermittent streams are especially problematic as they typically fall outside, what are often, humid-watershed centric CWA definitions.

Reference:  Levick, L., J. Fonseca, D. Goodrich, M. Hernandez, D. Semmens, J. Stromberg, R. Leidy, M. Scianni, D. P. Guertin, M. Tluczek, and W. Kepner. 2008. The Ecological and Hydrological Significance of Ephemeral and Intermittent Streams in the Arid and Semi-arid American Southwest. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and USDA/ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center, EPA/600/R-08/134, ARS/233046, 116 pp.

 

Technology Transfer

 

Use of the AGWA (Automated Geospatial Watershed Assessment) Tool developed in cooperation with the US-EPA and the University of Arizona has continued to grow rapidly. AGWA provides a simple user interface for two well established watershed runoff and erosion models:  the Kinematic Runoff and Erosion Model (KINEROS) and the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT).  AGWA provides an analysis system for environmental managers, natural resource specialists, policy-makers, scientists, and the general public to evaluate watershed condition.  AGWA and the RHEM model were showcased in a briefing to NRCS Deputy Chief Wayne Maresch (March, 2009) for use in the Rangeland CEAP effort.  Since its release in Nov. 2007 (to Feb. 2009) 1317 users from 6 continents and 110 countries have registered and downloaded AGWA 2.0.  In addition the AGWA team was awarded an ARS Technology Transfer Award.

 

A specially designed forecasting version of the USDA-ARS KINEROS2 rainfall-runoff and erosion program was installed in the Binghamton, New York National Weather Service forecasting office and was evaluated for operational flash-flood forecasting in 2008 for a number of small watersheds.  Impact: The effort and the improved KINEROS2 model have the potential to improve flash-flood forecasting for rapidly responding humid watershed.  As a result of the promise of the system the UA, ARS, Penn St., NWS team was awarded a second COMET grant entitled “NWS Flash Flood Forecasting in Two Hydrologically Distinct Regions Using an Improved Distributed Hydrologic Model” for ~$84,000 to incorporate snow and lateral subsurface modules into the system.

 

FUTURE SCIENCE EVENTS

 

SWRC will co-host a meeting early next year on "Science Priorities for Mitigating the impacts of Buffelgrass Invasion and Novel Fire Regimes in the Sonoran Desert".  The meeting is intended to bring in regional, national, and international experts on Buffelgrass and its spread into the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona to identify and prioritize research needs.

 

The 6th Annual Research Insights in Semiarid Environments (RISE) conference is scheduled for Saturday 3 October 2009 at University of Arizona.  Nearly 100 people attended the 5th Annual RISE in 2008 and the discussions at the poster session were lively.  Check out the agenda and register at http://www.tucson.ars.ag.gov/rise/ .

 

The NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Applications Workshop is planned for 9-10 September 2009 in Silver Spring, MD.  The goal of the SMAP Applications Workshop is to provide a formal face-to-face mechanism to share information about SMAP applications, and to inform the SMAP Mission about the challenges facing SMAP users.  Please see the agenda and register for the workshop at http://smap.jpl.nasa.gov/events/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=12 .

 

AWARDS

 

Mark Nearing received the 2009 Journal of Soil and Water Conservation's Research Paper Award for Impact and Quality for: Nearing, M.A., F.F. Pruski, and M.R. O'Neal. 2004. Expected Climate Change Impacts on Soil Erosion Rates: A Review. J. Soil and Water Conservation.  59(1):43-50.  This work showed that significant changes in soil erosion are expected in the United States, Europe, and China over the coming century.  It focused the attention of climate change experts on the global importance of the issue of erosion relative to climate change.  Great work, Mark.  This paper is on the SWRC publication list http://www.tucson.ars.ag.gov/unit/Publications/PDFfiles/1542.pdf

 

Together with the consulting firm Applied Geosolutions, Michigan State University, and the NRCS in Arizona and New Mexico, the SWRC was awarded a 3 year NASA funded project, with a budget of $833,000. The project will apply remotely sensed information to meet the increased workload from, and evaluate the effectiveness of, NRCS administered conservation programs on rangelands. These conservation programs result in about $25 million in spending annually across both states.  

 

Susan Moran was selected as a member of the Science Definition Team (SDT) for the NASA Soil Moisture Active and Passive Mission (SMAP) with funding for a 3-year research project.  The SDT mission is to ensure that SMAP yields the best results possible, within mission constraints, for the science and applications community.  Susan is the Chairman of the SMAP Applications Working Group (http://smap.jpl.nasa.gov/team/).


Last Modified: 8/5/2009
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