Southeast Region (SER) Science Workshop: Identifying Science to Meet Administration Priorities and the Needs of Our Stakeholders

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The fourth annual SER Science Workshop, held virtually July 13-16, 2021, addressed four administration priorities – underserved communities, tribal engagement, conserving 30% of our lands and waters by 2030, and tackling the climate crisis. 

The workshop, attended by 150 USGS scientists and managers, utilized keynote presentations, roundtable discussions, lightning talks, poster sessions, and moderated break-out groups to promote scientific networking and facilitate discussions on how SER science addresses administration priorities today and in the future.

SER Workshop by the numbers

SER Science

The SER strives to continually improve its science program by fostering increased communication and collaboration across its centers and associated USGS mission areas. This enhanced networking has become particularly important as the region has grown to cover 14 states and Puerto Rico, with approximately 1,500 employees. Over the past four years, annual in-person or virtual science workshops have spread awareness of SER research activities and fostered interdisciplinary collaboration among the SER science centers. Past workshop topics have included EarthMAP and special topics such as land-use change, harmful algal blooms, sea-level rise, and subsidence. Following each workshop, teams have worked to synthesize knowledge on these topics and identify ways to advance SER science on these issues.

 

USGS SER Scientists

Workshop Presentations

Underserved Communities - presentations covered a range of topics such as virtual internships, strengthening partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), stakeholder engagement, user-centered design tools, and science communication using an environmental justice and equity dashboard.

Tribal Engagement - attendees described long-term engagements to provide Native Nations with environmental monitoring, environmental health assessments, flood inundation mapping, groundwater modeling, capacity- building for water quality and biological monitoring, and science communication on  groundwater storage, streamflows, and uranium mine contamination.

30 x 30 Conservation – participants discussed monitoring, modeling, and research efforts conducted in large rivers, wetlands, coastal bays, shorelines, nearshore Gulf of Mexico, coral reefs, inland watersheds, and urban environments, addressing endangered and threatened species, ecological flows, water use and availability, water quality, invasive species, contaminants and food webs, sedimentation, conservation, and restoration. A notable USGS strength is identification of priority locations for research and conservation.

Climate - presentations illustrated modeling of future impacts to coastal plain rivers, wetlands, inland watersheds, karst environments, and associated biota, and addressed issues such as sea level rise and variability, altered carbon and nitrogen cycling, groundwater recharge, and effects of intense storms, flooding, rising temperatures, and drought on landscapes and biota.

Measuring ecosystem-atmosphere carbon exchange

Measuring ecosystem-atmosphere carbon exchange at the leaf-level (left) using a porometer and at the ecosystem-level (right) using eddy covariance.

Workshop Identified Needs and Next Steps:

  • Increase the frequency of multimedia communications to the public about SER science, including products targeted toward underserved communities.
  • Expand collaborations with Tribes on conservation, restoration, and human dimensions/adaptive actions.
  • Implement goals, strategies, and recommendations provided by the SER Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.
  • Work to ensure SER staff reflects the diversity of the community it serves, and for SER science to benefit all communities equitably.
  • Prominently demonstrate the breadth of SER experience in climate science, especially observing change, modeling impacts, and mitigating impacts.
  • Connect conservation to other national priorities – such as food security; climate solutions; and water access, and quality.
  • Expand research and stakeholder engagement on habitat restoration and connectivity among the natural corridors of wetlands, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans.
  • Bolster mapping efforts that combine data from different disciplines: e.g., habitat and vegetation cover, water use and availability, water quality, animal health, species migrations, contaminants and nutrients, algal blooms, land use, urbanization, and socioeconomics.
  • Provide funding in FY21 to recruit, hire, and mentor 2-3 students from an HBCU and purchase education/outreach resources for student engagement.
  • Provide funding in FY22 to promote work on identified opportunities to advance Administrative Priorities and develop solutions for today and in the future.
Green sea turtle

Derek Burkholder and Kristen Hart release an adult male green sea turtle post satellite tagging near East Key. Image taken during a sampling event in Dry Tortugas National Park, FL.

Eddy covariance instrumentation

USGS WARC scientists operate two eddy covariance (EC) sites in coastal habitats of Louisiana’s Barataria Basin. EC is a method that uses high frequency measurements of wind speed and direction, and gas concentrations to estimate exchange between land surfaces and the atmosphere.

Coastwide Reference Monitoring Stations

Coastwide Reference Monitoring Stations in Barataria Bay. (Image courtesy of Louisiana State University Coastal Sustainability Studio in cooperation with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.)

two people with SCUBA gear in the water next to a scientific instrument on the surface

Scientific divers BJ Reynolds and Hunter Wilcox prepare to lower an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) into the water. The ADCP now sits on the bottom of the ocean off Madeira beach, Florida in 5m water depth. This instrument, along with another instrument further offshore and a camera on the beach, will be used to collect a transect of data to track how waves and water level transform as they travel towards the beach. This information is used to validate and refine the models used in the Total Water Level and Coastal Change Forecast viewer to inform coastal communities about potential coastal hazards.

Missouri University of Science and Technology graduate student Paul Manley prepares an unmanned aerial system (UAS) for flight.

Missouri University of Science and Technology graduate student Paul Manley prepares an unmanned aerial system (UAS) for flight. 

Two scientists operate a motorized cylindrical object as it penetrates a sandy marsh environment

Dan Ciarletta (right) working alongside Julie Bernier (left) to collect a sediment core on Mullet Key in Pinellas County, Florida. The core will be used to reconstruct the geologic history of the island.

A woman underwater in scuba gear near corals

Ilsa Kuffner is a Research Marine Biologist with the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center. Ilsa says, “The ocean covers 71% of Earth’s surface. While only 15% of Earth’s species live in the ocean, one out of four of them lives on a coral reef! But, like many ecosystems on land, coral reefs are an ecosystem in crisis—and they need our help. I study coral reefs to help provide knowledge humans need to make decisions on how best to manage and restore these critical natural resources. Coastal communities throughout the tropics are safer and more economically prosperous with healthy coral reefs than without them.”

Visit the USGS Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies (CREST) website for more information.