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Eleven USGS scientists promoted to Senior Scientist (ST)

Every two years, USGS reviews scientists for promotions to Senior Scientist (ST), the highest level that a federal research scientist can achieve. USGS recommendations for promotion to ST are subject to availability of ST slots and Department of the Interior approval. The process is very rigorous and the USGS currently has only 47 ST scientists. The latest review cycle for ST candidates resulted in the addition of the following 11 STs:

Dr. John A. Barron, https://profile.usgs.gov/jbarron/

Dr. John Barron is a Research Geologist in Menlo Park, California, and is a world authority on the Cenozoic (last 65 million years) fossil record of diatoms. He has applied this expertise to world-wide paleoceanographic reconstructions and paleoclimate studies of the Pacific coast of North America. Since 1995, Dr. Barron has led USGS efforts to collect and evaluate high-resolution climate records along the Pacific coast of North America between the Gulf of Alaska and the Gulf of California (Mexico). Currently, as chief of the USGS Holocene Climates of the Pacific Coasts Project, he is responsible for coordinating efforts of USGS and academic researchers from the University of Alaska, University of California at Santa Barbara, University of Michigan, and University of Southern California. This project is documenting millennial to yearly climate and paleoceanographic variability of the past 15,000 years (post glacial period), determining its causes, and comparing those records with modern climate cycles and processes in order to model and assess the impacts of future climate change.

Dr. Jayne Belnap, https://profile.usgs.gov/jayne_belnap/

Dr. Jayne Belnap is a Research Ecologist in Moab, Utah, and is both an international leader in the ecological processes associated with the arid areas of the earth and an authority on biological soil crusts. She is an extraordinarily productive scientist with a strong publication record, numerous examples of scientific leadership within the U.S. Geological Survey, professional societies, the academic community, and perhaps most telling, within land and resource management organizations, nationally and internationally. Her leadership of multidisciplinary research teams has led to prolific scientific output, as well as to numerous popular texts and interviews with Jane and team members that have changed the public's and decision-makers view of the value and appropriate uses of desert and arid regions of the world. Starting with the description of biological soil crust entities in arid areas with differing physical characteristics and moisture regimes, she has defined their role in maintaining and restoring the ecological integrity of these systems, identifying key processes and relationships to nutrients, moisture, and plant stabilization. Her body of work, starting in the American Southwest and spreading to all continents but Antarctica, has led to major changes in land use, recreational policies and agricultural development. As one example, the evaluation of biological soil crusts have become a routine part of environmental assessments in the thirty-five percent of terrestrial systems on earth considered "drylands." Because she has developed standardized techniques for evaluating crusts in different ecological systems, their assessment is a part of Bureau of Land Management's Rangeland Health Assessments, Natural Resource Conservation Service soil surveys, and US Forest Service Forest Inventory Analysis.

Dr. Richard J. Blakely

Dr. Richard Blakely is a Research Geophysicist in Menlo Park, California, and is one of the U.S. Geological Survey’s pre-eminent potential-field geophysicists. He uses geophysical methods to solve complex geologic problems of diverse scientific and societal interest, and his work has had significant impact on the scientific community and on society. During his 34-year career at the USGS, he has contributed to nearly all programs of the Geology Discipline, most prominently the National Geologic Mapping, Earthquake Hazards Reduction, Volcano Hazards, Mineral Resources, and Geothermal Research Programs, as well as numerous outside-funded projects related to ground-water resources. The scope of Dr. Blakely’s research is demonstrated by his recent work on the tectonic framework and earthquake hazards of the Pacific Northwest. The heavily urbanized Puget Sound is crisscrossed with a network of major crustal faults known to have produced earthquakes as recently as 1,000 years ago, yet these faults are largely concealed by young glacial deposits, thick vegetation, and urban development. Dr. Blakely uses the full range of geophysical methodologies to map and characterize these faults, often in heavily populated areas. His work is having major influence on public policy and urban planning.

Dr. John K. Bohlke, https://profile.usgs.gov/jkbohlke

Dr. J.K. Böhlke is a Research Hydrologist in the National Research Program (NRP) in Reston, Virginia, and is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the field of geochemistry. He began his USGS career in Mineral Resources, where he led a comprehensive study of the origin of hydrothermal gold mineralization in the California Mother Lode, followed by laboratory and modeling studies of mid-ocean ridge hot springs. In the NRP, his research has focused on hydrogeology, chronology, and biogeochemistry of water-rock interactions and contaminant migration in aquifers and streams. His contributions include new isotopic analytical methods and field applications for isotopes in hydrogeology, including development of isotopic techniques for distinguishing sources and documenting natural attenuation of inorganic contaminants such as nitrate, ammonium, and perchlorate. His work with nitrate and perchlorate confirmed deposition of atmospheric photochemical compounds as a major source of solutes in arid regions. Dr. Böhlke is recognized for his diverse efforts to understand and reconstruct the history and fate of groundwater nitrogen contamination from agriculture and wastewater disposal through integration of groundwater dating, geochemical, and isotopic approaches. He has explored tracer techniques for measuring and modeling transport of biogeochemically active solutes in groundwater and surface water; for example, providing new insights about system-wide metabolism effects on nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen in streams. He has served as advisor to the International Atomic Energy Agency and commission member in the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry for developing and calibrating isotopic reference materials and determining isotope effects on standard atomic weights of the elements.

Dr. Roger N. Clark

Dr. Roger Clark is a Research Physical Scientist in Lakewood, Colorado, and is one of the leading earth and planetary spectroscopists in the world today. His research on reflectance spectroscopy is highly innovative and has led to numerous pioneering discoveries as applied to earth and planetary surficial studies. His approach to processing spectroscopy measurements of minerals is unique and highly complex, arrived at after 30 years of analysis. Dr. Clark and his group developed software resulting in an advanced, state-of-the-art tool that resulted in his group being highly sought after for critical programs. He has used his methods to remotely detect minerals and other compounds in a wide variety of applications, ranging from leading the USGS environmental assessment of the World Trade Center disaster, to mapping surficial geology and ecosystems on the Earth, to mapping other planets and their moons. Discoveries have been far reaching, ranging from potentially saving lives in the World Trade Center aftermath to the discovery of numerous minerals on other planets and satellites, to interesting mineralogy that influenced where the Mars Landers were directed, and most recently, the discovery of vast areas of water adsorbed on minerals on the lunar surface in direct sunlight. In recent years, the rate of discoveries by Dr. Clark and his team has accelerated owing to increased use of a combination of imaging spectrometers, and the methodologies in spectral theory and analysis, and the spectral databases developed by Dr. Clark.

Dr. Tyler B. Coplen

Dr. Tyler Coplen is a Research Chemist with the National Research Program (NRP) in Reston, Virginia. After working as a Research Geochemist with the University of California in Riverside, Dr. Coplen joined the USGS in Reston, where he founded the Reston Stable Isotope Laboratory and its associated NRP project. Dr. Coplen and his team of scientists are internationally renowned for their multi-disciplinary research on the use of isotope-ratio measurements in studies of water resources, environmental quality, forensic science, geochemistry, and biology. Dr. Coplen’s work establishing the variability of atomic weights, and thereby changing the way that chemistry is taught throughout the educational system, was recently highlighted in multiple news articles and interviews, including National Public Radio, MSNBC, Scientific American, Science News, and other outlets. More generally, Dr. Coplen has provided an impressive body of work in the use of stable isotopes to understand the basic processes affecting the movement of groundwater and surface water, and the transport of substances in these waters. Dr. Coplen’s research has proved essential in water resource assessments, such as those conducted for the Kabul Basin (Afghanistan) and the Middle Rio Grande Basin (New Mexico). He is also widely known for his study of oxygen and carbon isotopes in calcite veins from Devils Hole, Nevada, which have provided a paleoclimatic record from 4,000 to 560,000 years ago, and more recently, for his isotopic studies of the often devastating “atmospheric river” events on the U.S. Pacific Coast (for which he developed a sequential precipitation collector that was awarded a patent in 2010). Dr. Coplen and his team have also been at the forefront of the use of isotopic techniques in forensic analyses of biota, their provenance, their migration, and their food-web dependencies.

Dr. Thomas Cronin, https://profile.usgs.gov/tcronin

Dr. Thomas Cronin is a Research Geologist in Reston, Virginia, and is an internationally acknowledged expert in the areas of paleoclimatology, biostratigraphy, micropaleontology, aquatic ecosystem functioning, and global change. He has made numerous ground-breaking contributions to the fields of Cenozoic paleoclimatology, paleoecology, and estuarine and marine science. His professional leadership and his initiative as a researcher, both within and outside the USGS, is seen in his scientific presentations, publications, editorships, and his interactions with the non-technical client community, the media and the public. Dr. Cronin conducts research on a broad range of topics including: paleoclimatology, sea-level change, biostratigraphy, geochemistry and ecosystem history in the United States, its adjacent continental shelf, bays, and estuaries, and the Arctic Ocean and deep-sea environments. His focus is on patterns and causes of climate variability, rates of sea-level rise, and the impact of human activities on critical ecosystems. His work entails planning, conducting, and coordinating multidisciplinary projects that integrate stratigraphic, geochronological, micropaleontological, hydrological, geochemical, oceanographic, ecological, and climatic methods and data. He develops new sampling and analytical methods and modifies existing techniques and strategies to develop and interpret records of past climates and environments from sedimentary and other records. He develops and applies new methods for dating and correlating coastal, marine and lake sediments with other paleoclimate records. Using chronological data, he also coordinates multidisciplinary research designed to evaluate the impact of past human activities and future ecosystem restoration and management efforts.

Dr. Thomas C. Hanks

Dr. Thomas Hanks is a Research Geophysicist in Menlo Park, California, and is one of the top geophysicists in the USGS. His research has moved earthquake seismology and geomorphology in new directions; his policy-related contributions similarly have had significant impact. The scope of Dr. Hanks’s research is primarily and very broadly directed to the causes and effects of earthquakes, as they are revealed by geologic, geomorphic, geophysical, and/or seismological observations. He has made fundamental contributions to earthquake quantification through his finding that earthquake stress drops do not depend on earthquake size and his recognition of the far-reaching consequences of this conclusion, his development of the moment magnitude scale used to measure all earthquake magnitude, and his development of the Hanks/McGuire “stochastic” model for the estimation of high-frequency strong ground motion. He has made significant contributions to quantitative geomorphology through his development of the diffusion-equation representation of landform evolution. The moment magnitude scale is now the national and international standard for reporting earthquake magnitudes. Similarly, moment magnitude is now universally used by the research community involved in the earthquake sciences, whether they are geologists, geomorphologists, or geophysicists. The “stochastic” model is the only ground-motion model considered to be verified and validated by the earthquake engineering community. The diffusion-equation analysis developed by Dr. Hanks is now the basis for geomorphic dating studies nationally and internationally. All of these papers have had a huge influence on new research directions.

Dr. Marith Reheis, https://profile.usgs.gov/mreheis

Dr. Marith Reheis is one of the U. S. Geological Survey’s top researchers and leaders in Quaternary geology, specializing in eolian dust and its influence on soils and ecosystems and in paleoclimatic studies. Her early recognition of the importance of dust in arid climates led her to develop dust-sampling equipment and sampling techniques that have been widely adopted by others, and to establish a monitoring network that has now been operating for 25 years. She conceived, developed, and currently is chief of a paleoclimate project that is redefining the Quaternary paleohydrology of the Mojave Desert. The work requires a multidisciplinary approach to the study of climate change and surficial processes, both for reconstruction of past climates using the geologic record, and for evaluation of geologic impacts on society from future climate change. In addition, she leads and participates in projects examining regional eolian processes and effects on soils, vegetation, and human infrastructure, geochemical composition of eolian dust with respect to source area and activity and effects on human health. Other projects include the regional reconstruction of past climates, such as the pluvial-lake history of the Great Basin throughout the Quaternary and atmospheric controls on pluvial lakes in the Mojave Desert. These studies require coordination of efforts in field mapping of surficial deposits, detailed stratigraphic descriptions for paleoclimatic inferences, dating of critical samples using various methods, and detailed geochemical analysis of soils and sediments.

Dr. John R. Sauer, https://profile.usgs.gov/jrsauer

Dr. Sauer’s record, influence, and productivity make him one of the USGS’s most respected wildlife population ecologists. Moreover, he is now engaged in collaborations that merge his strong quantitative skills assessing wildlife population trends with landscape and ecosystem functions data that increases our ability to predict important wildlife response to future environmental change.

Dr. Sauer is the acknowledged expert on the Breeding Bird Survey, the nation's only quantitatively-based national assessment of migratory bird numbers and trends. He has spent much of his career strengthening this national survey, analyzing results at the national, regional, and state level, and explaining trends in migratory bird populations to managers, decision-makers and other wildlife researchers. He attracts both national and international collaborators and supporters because of the innovation, complexity and outcomes possible using the techniques he has developed and published. His strong publication record and unique applications of data

attract many graduate and post-graduate students extending his influence in the field. Dr. Sauer has also pioneered web-based data-sharing techniques, standardization of data for flexibility of analysis, and metadata in all his work with migratory birds. Because he works with a nationally consistent, comprehensive occurrence database, his ability to "publish" web-based tools and data for the use of both researchers and resource managers has extended his science influence and the use of his techniques science-based conservation planning for migratory birds. He is the primary source of technical assistance and methodology development as both policymakers and land managers make decisions for migratory bird habitat and conservation actions.

Dr. Uri Ten Brink

Dr. Uri ten Brink’s 19-year career with the USGS has been notable for his significant contributions to fundamental problems in plate tectonics, sedimentary processes, and understanding earthquake and tsunami generation. His numerous studies include the interaction between “hot spot” volcanism (for example, Hawaii) and the buildup of volcanoes, the pop-up of the Transantarctic Mountains (the 3500-km long 5000 m high mountain range that bisects Antarctica and profoundly influences its climate), the record of glacial growth and demise in sediment pattern of the continental margin, the development of transform faults (the San Andreas in California and the Dead Sea in the Middle East) and the processes that generate deep sedimentary basins along them. His investigations into hazards include deciphering the processes of tectonic plate subduction in the Caribbean and the Pacific Northwest and the earthquake hazards that accompany them, understanding the generation of and predicting the size of submarine and subaerial landslides, and assessment and modeling of tsunami sources generated by submarine earthquakes and landslides. The work carried out by and led by Dr. ten Brink has directly impacted the development of tsunami hazard warning and mitigation efforts by USGS, NOAA and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (US-NRC) along the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico coasts. He is recognized internationally for his leadership in establishing the program of tectonic and hazard research in the Caribbean, obtaining time on research vessels, and collaborating with other national and international organizations that has resulted in ground-breaking scientific advances in the Caribbean. His leadership in developing the program of USGS research in tsunami assessment, obtaining the funding, and collaborating with other national and international organizations, put USGS in the forefront of hazard assessments for the eastern half of the U.S. and has resulted in significant advances in understanding landslide and tsunami hazards.


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