Celebrating North Coast Geomorphologist Mary Ann Madej

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Research Geologist Mary Ann Madej retired from the USGS Western Ecological Research Center in 2013, concluding a federal service career spanning 35 years.

Editor's Note: As we stride into 2014, we highlight some of the center news of the calendar year past.

An expert on ecological and geomorphological processes of California North Coast rivers, Research Geologist Mary Ann Madej retired from the USGS Western Ecological Research Center in 2013, concluding a federal service career spanning 35 years.

Madej’s federal service began at Redwood National Park in February of 1978, just as Congress was expanding the park to include 37,000 acres of recently logged lands. She worked with a team of scientists to identify landslide and gully problems, and designed and implemented some of the first road restoration projects in the nation on these new park lands. Madej continued and expanded a sediment monitoring study of Redwood Creek first started by Dick Janda of the USGS. 

“Using the Redwood Creek watershed as an anchoring geography, Mary Ann Madej (“MA”) has made significant contributions in the field of fluvial geomorphic processes in forested mid-latitude watersheds,” says Harvey Kelsey, Research Associate at Humboldt State University and a colleague of Madej. “Over the course of several decades, MA was responsible for designing and coordinating investigations of the physical and related biological processes that underlie erosion and landscape evolution of the Redwood Creek basin. She started with work on sediment budgets, and then moved into the realm of fluvial/biologic processes while working in conjunction with aquatic biologists.”

geologist Mary Ann Madej

Photo of USGS geologist Mary Ann Madej. (Public domain.)

This work resulted in what is now one of longest channel-monitoring data sets in the U.S., documenting the persistence of sediment problems in various parts of Redwood Creek over several decades. Madej’s service to the Humboldt region would go on to include erosion and deposition experiments at Humboldt State, as well as erosion inventories, aquatic biota and water quality surveys, and restoration strategy design with Humboldt State students.  

In 1993, Madej was among the scientists transferred to the new National Biological Survey — the precursor to the USGS Ecosystems Mission Area. Her Arcata post was eventually renamed the Redwood Field Station of the Western Ecological Research Center, but Madej’s scientific expertise continued to advise Redwood National and State Parks and many other state and national parks, especially Yosemite, Golden Gate, and Pt. Reyes. 

“Dr. Mary Ann Madej has been a pioneer in advocating and implementing science based monitoring of fluvial and hydrologic processes. Her research at Redwood National Park has generated a substantial body of scientific work that has influenced and improved restoration of impaired ecosystems both in the parks and throughout northwestern California,” says Dave Roemer, Chief of Resource Management and Science at Redwood National and State Parks. “Dr. Madej’s work has been adaptive to the changing needs of park managers and has greatly improved our understanding of geomorphic processes and complex resource issues in the redwood ecosystem.”

In recent years, Mary Ann worked on Klamath and Trinity River issues, Pacific coastal fog studies, stream temperature modeling, and determining the carbon flux from redwood-dominated watersheds. “[MA] was one of several pioneering fluvial geomorphologists to incorporate studies of the role of carbon transport in watersheds — both the sequestration of carbon by watersheds and carbon release to the biosphere,” explains Harvey Kelsey.

Beyond USGS, Madej has been an active member of various professional scientific societies. At the Geological Society of America, she served as an elected panel member for its Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division, evaluating nominations for its Kirk Bryan Award and the Distinguished Career Award. “Mary Ann has been a constant contributor with creative ideas for enhancing our public outreach initiatives during our QG&G board meetings at our national GSA conferences,” says Sarah Lewis, Division Secretary for the GSA Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division. 

Since her retirement, Madej has continued to lend her expertise and experience as a Researcher Emeritus with USGS. We wish her well!